Alleged Daesh fighter faces Dutch war crimes charges


AMSTERDAM: An alleged Dutch-born Daesh militant went on trial in the Netherlands on Monday for war crimes in Iraq and Syria, including breaches of the Geneva Conventions, after posing with a crucified body and sharing images of dead victims online.

It is the first trial in the Netherlands dealing with war crimes by an alleged Daesh militant.

There is no international tribunal to prosecute widespread atrocities during Syria’s civil war which began in 2011, but prosecutors in several European countries have put on trial nationals who joined militant groups in the Middle East.

According to European police agency Europol, some 5,000 Europeans — most from Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands — went to fight in Syria and Iraq, of whom some 1,500 have returned.

Oussama Achraf Akhlafa, 24, faces allegations of violating international law, after allegedly joining Daesh militants in Mosul in Iraq, and Raqqa in Syria, between 2014 and 2016.

He is being tried under so-called universal jurisdiction, which enables war crimes to be prosecuted regardless of where they were committed.

Akhlafa is charged with breaking international law on the rules of armed conflict by violating the personal dignity of war victims, as well as membership in a terrorist organization.

Prosecutors said Akhlafa posed next to the crucified body of a man on a wooden cross and distributed pictures of an IS militant holding the head of a dead Kurdish fighter and the body of a dead woman with a foot on her.

In a statement, Akhlafa said he joined Daesh after becoming homeless in the Netherlands, but never hurt anyone.

“If I didn’t get in the photo I would be seen as disloyal” by Daesh, he told the court.

“I posed in the photo. I take all responsibility for that. I am sorry and it was not my intent to humiliate this man.”

“I understand it creates an image, but madame, I didn’t kill anyone … IS (Daesh) wouldn’t even give me a weapon.”

The judge read out witness testimony and quotes from online chats with the defendant in which he bragged about killings and said he was a sniper.

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