Syrian former general cleared of war crimes in Swedish court News
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Syrian former general cleared of war crimes in Swedish court

A Swedish court on Thursday acquitted former Syrian general Mohammed Hamo of charges related to his alleged involvement in war crimes committed in Syria in 2012. Hamo had been accused of aiding and abetting a gross violation of international law.

Hamo deserted from the Syrian army in June 2012 and joined opposition forces fighting against the Syrian government. He was granted asylum in Sweden in 2015. Hamo was charged in January 2024, as prosecutors alleged he was responsible for attacks carried out by the Syrian army in the cities of Homs and Hama, which resulted in civilian casualties and damage to civilian property, constituting war crimes. Prosecutors claimed that as head of the Ordnance Department of the Syrian Army’s 11th Division, Hamo was responsible for supplying the weapons used in these alleged war crimes.

Sweden is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Swedish law stipulates the enforceability of these conventions, providing for the prosecution of individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The court acknowledged the existence of a non-international armed conflict in Syria and recognized that indiscriminate attacks occurred in areas like Baba Amr in Homs and Al Rastan. However, the court held there was insufficient evidence to link the 11th Division to the specific attacks. Moreover, the evidence failed to prove Hamo had a direct role in arming the military units involved in the violations. The court highlighted the lack of clear evidence connecting Hamo to the alleged indiscriminate attacks, leading to his acquittal.

ECCHR Berlin, a human rights advocacy group, described the verdict as “disappointing” for the survivors of the attacks.

Similar proceedings have taken place in the Netherlands for Syrian militia leaders and in France for high-ranking political and military leaders. These proceedings are possible under universal jurisdiction — the legal principle that allows a nation to prosecute individuals for serious crimes like genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, regardless of where the crime was committed or the nationality of the perpetrators or victims.

The Syrian conflict began in 2011 as protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime escalated into a full-scale civil war. The Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, fought against various rebel groups supported by the United States and its allies. The conflict has involved multiple factions, including Kurdish forces and Islamist militants, and has seen significant international intervention. Despite efforts for a diplomatic resolution, violence continues, leaving over 600,000 dead and millions displaced, with the humanitarian situation remaining dire.