Dozens of individuals who were allegedly involved in torture under President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria are currently residing freely in the Netherlands, Trouw reported on Saturday. The newspaper conducted this investigation in collaboration with Argos, based on consultations with experts, organizations, and Syrian residents in the Netherlands.
It remains unclear how many people from Assad’s regime who may have committed acts of torture are now living in the Netherlands. Syrian victims conducting their own investigations said they found evidence regarding at least 13 individuals. Ugur Üngör, a professor from the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies told the newspaper he believes the number could be anywhere between 50 and 100.
At least 50 such people were refused residency by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) over the past decade. This was largely due to their possible involvement in war crimes, the newspaper reported.
IND said that the potential presence of Assad regime criminals in the Netherlands was concerning. However, they also noted that it remains difficult to formally label someone a war criminal.
Although no one involved with the Assad regime has yet been convicted for their actions in the Netherlands, a case is currently pending with the Public Prosecution Service (OM). The defendant, a former member of a Syrian government-affiliated militia Liwa al-Quds, is accused of arresting and torturing two civilians. He is now being prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
He was arrested in May 2022 in Kerkrade and had been living in the Netherlands since 2020.
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