Alleged Daesh fighter faces Dutch war crimes charges

Judge Jantien Holleman at the courtroom in Schiphol. (Reuters)
Updated 09 July 2019

Alleged Daesh fighter faces Dutch war crimes charges

  • 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

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.


Erdogan issues new terror warning to Europe over conflict in Libya

Updated 19 January 2020

Erdogan issues new terror warning to Europe over conflict in Libya

  • Support government in Tripoli or Daesh will be unleashed again, Turkish president says

JEDDAH: Europe will face a new terrorist threat unless it steps up its support for the beleaguered Libyan government in Tripoli, Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Saturday.

The Turkish president spoke on the eve of a UN-sponsored summit of world leaders in Berlin aimed at resolving the conflict between Tripoli’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libya National Army (LNA) led by eastern military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

“Europe will encounter a fresh set of problems and threats if Libya’s legitimate government were to fall,” Erdogan said.

“Terrorist organizations such as Daesh and Al-Qaeda, which suffered a military defeat in Syria and Iraq, will find fertile ground to get back on their feet. “To leave Libya at the mercy of a warlord would be a mistake of historic proportions.”

Europe is unlikely to be impressed by Erdogan’s threats, analysts told Arab News. 

“Erdogan bets on military support for the government whereas Germany, in line with the UN, wants to implement the previously agreed arms embargo. This is where Europe and Turkey need to find a common line on Sunday,” said Mercator-IPC senior fellow Michael Thumann.

BACKGROUND

In a veiled rebuke to Erdogan, the UN special envoy for Libya said the involvement of foreign forces was making matters worse.

The GNA, led by Fayez Al-Sarraj, has been under siege by Haftar’s forces since April. Erdogan has sent Turkish military advisers and trainers to help Al-Sarraj’s forces, and has also redeployed up to 2,000 Turkish-backed mercenary fighters from the conflict in Syria.

In a veiled rebuke to Erdogan, the UN special envoy for Libya said the involvement of foreign forces was making matters worse.

“All foreign interference can provide some aspirin effect in the short term, but Libya needs all foreign interference to stop. That’s one of the objectives of this conference,” Ghassan Salame said.

The UN envoy also said he hoped but “could not predict” whether closed eastern oil ports would be reopened soon. 

Terminals across eastern and central Libya were shut on Friday by tribesmen allied to Haftar, in an attempt to choke off revenue to the government in Tripoli.

The closures are likely to be discussed at the summit. “If the thing is not solved between today and tomorrow I expect the issue to be raised, yes,” Salame said.

He said he hoped Haftar would consider extending a truce that has largely held for a week, despite the two sides failing to sign a deal at talks last week in Moscow.

The aims of Sunday’s summit are a permanent cease-fire, enforcement of a widely ignored UN arms embargo and a return to political efforts for peace.