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Former Syrian General Acquitted of War Crimes Charges in Stockholm

Stockholm, June 20, 2024, The Europe Today: A court in Stockholm on Thursday acquitted Brigadier General Mohammed Hamo, a former high-ranking Syrian military official, who had been charged with war crimes during Syria’s civil war. Hamo, accused of “aiding and abetting” war crimes in the first half of 2012, faced allegations related to attacks on towns in and around Hama and Homs.

Hamo, who held the highest rank of any Syrian military official to be tried in Europe, saw charges relating to the period from January 1 to July 20, 2012. The Stockholm district court, however, concluded that the prosecution had not provided sufficient evidence to prove his division’s involvement in the attacks or his role in arming the division for such attacks.

Judge Katarina Fabian stated, “The main issues in the case are whether the 11th Division of the Syrian Army participated in indiscriminate attacks in certain areas and whether the defendant participated in arming the division in those attacks. According to the District Court, there is no evidence to clarify these issues. The evidence presented by the prosecution has therefore not been deemed sufficient to convict the defendant of a criminal offense.”

Chief prosecutor Karolina Wieslander acknowledged the challenges in investigating the case, noting the difficulty of gathering evidence in a country still at war. She remarked, “It is positive that a court of law has ruled that what the Syrian government did was war crimes,” but mentioned that a decision on whether to appeal had not been made.

Aida Samani, senior legal advisor at Civil Rights Defenders, emphasized the significance of the trial. “What is noteworthy about this case is that this is the first trial concerning the Syrian military’s warfare — that is, how the warfare was carried out,” Samani stated, highlighting that no European court had previously addressed the impact of the Syrian military’s actions on civilian lives and infrastructure. She acknowledged the disappointment likely felt by victims and those affected by the war crimes following the verdict.

In June 2012, Hamo was transferred to northern Syria and subsequently fled to Turkey in July, where he joined forces opposing the Syrian regime. He traveled to Sweden in 2015 and was granted asylum. Sweden’s Migration Board later informed the government of Hamo’s past as a senior military officer involved in an army accused of systematic human rights violations. He was living in central Sweden when arrested on December 7, 2021.

Syria’s civil war, which began with peaceful protests in 2011 met with violent repression by Bashar al-Assad’s regime, has resulted in over half a million deaths and displaced millions. The conflict also saw regime forces in intense battles with the so-called Islamic State, which had established a stronghold in Raqqa.

The acquittal of Brigadier General Mohammed Hamo marks a significant development in international legal proceedings related to the Syrian civil war, reflecting the complexities and challenges in prosecuting war crimes amid ongoing conflict.