The District Court of The Hague convicted Friday Ahmad al Kehdr, a Syrian refugee and former member of the Syrian military, of war crimes and sentenced him to 20 years in prison.
The court possessed video evidence of Al Khedr participating in the execution of a Syrian government official in 2012. Presiding Judge Jan van Steen noted that the execution took place in a country where a “non-international armed conflict” was in progress, deserving careful scrutiny.
Al Khedr was prosecuted under universal jurisdiction law, which authorizes the Netherlands to pursue charges against people for genocide, war crimes, and human rights violations even if the crime took place elsewhere in the world.
Many videos of the shooting were shown to the court during hearings held last month. In one of these videos, Syrian Lieutenant Colonel Qussai Mahmoud al Ali can be seen handcuffed, bruised, and pleading for his life. Investigators determined that 26 shots were fired and that six of the shots came from Al Khedr’s revolver. Al Khedr denied the allegations stating that he only fired three times and intentionally missed at one point as shown in the video, in an effort to spare Al Ali’s life.
Al Khedr served in the Syrian army for 20 years and allegedly deserted at the outbreak of the civil war, enlisting with a series of groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Al Khedr’s case is only one of many brought against political asylum seekers from Syria who settled down in the Netherlands. Al Khedr settled in the town of Kapelle before his arrest in 2019 when his crimes were discovered by German investigators, who subsequently informed their counterparts in the Netherlands.
While the prosecutors asked for a 27-year prison sentence, the court imposed 20. Al Khedr plans to appeal the conviction.