Possibility to prosecute controversial commander “Abu Amsha” in EU, US?
Enab Baladi – Hassan Ibrahim
The isolated commander Mohammed al-Jassem might be prosecuted in the US and EU courts as a group of Kurdish and Yazidi activists seek to hold the former leader of the Sultan Suleiman Shah Division and fellow commanders accountable for committing human rights violations in the northern region of Afrin.
The news circulated on social media platforms said investigations and testimonies collected by Kurdish and Yazidi activists condemning al-Jassem, known as Abu Amsha, former leader of the “al-Amshat” faction and many commanders involved in the abuses against the civilians of Afrin, was once a Kurdish majority region before Turkish army and allied Syrian factions took full control of the region in March 2018.
This probe also came after the opposition’s judicial and executive authorities operating in the countryside of Aleppo failed to prosecute Abu Amsha and fellow commanders affiliated with the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA).
The EU-based activists will head to European and American courts with the aim of imposing sanctions on the “al-Amshat” faction and prosecuting its leaders on charges of committing violations against the local residents.
The activists stressed the need to try corrupt people and criminals before fair courts, away from favoritism and authoritarianism, which led to the absence of accountability for evidence-based violations.
The human rights violations are linked to killing innocent women, the elderly, and children, intimidating civilians, and forcing them to leave their homes and migrate in search of safety.
In addition to the confiscation and sale of homes and lands, cutting down thousands of old trees, converting some civilian homes into military headquarters, and imposing royalties.
Enab Baladi searched for a local or international European judicial authority in which cases were filed against al-Jassem or his former faction, but it did not find any case.
Prosecuting “al-Amshat” faction in Europe, is it a realistic move?
Bassam al-Ahmad, director of Syrians for Truth and Justice (STJ), told Enab Baladi that the trial of “Abu Amsha” in European courts requires several things:
– The national law of the European country in which the complaint will be submitted allows the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes even if the crime did not occur on its territory.
– Victims of the violations and the accused person must be present in the territory in which the case is being filed.
Al-Ahmad assumes that the main problem with the violations that occur in the northern countryside of Aleppo is that they are not linked to a specific person, as they are part of a larger criminal system.
The situation of “Abu Amsha” is similar to the commander of a battalion or an officer in the Syrian regime army or some leaders and opposition factions. He is not the key person to be accused of committing violations, there is a whole group, al-Ahmad added.
Sources close to the National Army told Enab Baladi that one of the reasons why “Abu Amsha” and his faction have not been held accountable so far is the Turkish support for him.
This was evident in the appearance of Turkish military leaders in video recordings, seen by Enab Baladi, praising Abu Amsha’s combative actions and attributing to him the reasons for the stability of the region.
Al-Ahmad hinted at the possibility of filing a case against the Turkish government and authorities before the European Court of Human Rights, but a link and tangible support must be proven between and “Abu Amsha” and on other conditions related to the depletion of domestic litigation in Turkey before going to the European Court.
The director of Syrians for Truth and Justice noted that those interested in the trial of “Abu Amsha,” who are far from any media goal, should focus efforts on documenting violations and international mechanisms, as the perpetrators of these accusations “will be tried one day.”
Accountability not exist
A “tripartite committee” was formed to investigate the violations of “Abu Amsha” several months ago, after many accusations were leveled against him and members of his division in the Sheikh al-Hadid district of the Afrin region related to imposing royalties, seizing olive oil from farmers and sharing their crops, and land grab.
In addition to cases of rape and false litigation against local residents to pay sums in exchange for obtaining innocence.
The committee issued a statement that included several rulings against the faction and its leading figures, including the exile of “Abu Amsha” and his two brothers, Walid al-Jassem (Saif), and Malik al-Jassem (Abu Siraj), outside the “Olive Branch” area of operations (Afrin and its countryside) for two Hijri years.
It also included the incrimination of “Abu Amsha” and five leaders of the faction for the crime of corruption, the payment of compensation amounts to some of those affected financially, and the dismissal of “Abu Amsha” from all duties entrusted to him, and the failure to hand him any of the “positions of the revolution” later.
The Unified Command Room (Azm), which is made up of several military formations and is affiliated with the National Army, vowed to implement the committee’s decisions, transfer complaints to the judiciary, and pledged to work to “support the oppressed and establish justice.”
But Azm’s promises at the time were the result of the pressures that the investigation committee was subjected to, the military and security alerts conducted by the Suleiman Shah Division in the Sheikh al-Hadid area, and the reluctance of some people to give testimony condemning “Abu Amsha,” for fear of revenge from the leaders loyal to him.
“Abu Amsha” reveals factions discords
“Abu Amsha” appeared on 8 March along with senior commanders of the Syrian National Army in a meeting of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG). Also, on the 11th anniversary of the Syrian revolution on 15 March, he managed to draw attention by assuming a military position in the Revolutionaries Commission for Liberation faction despite his dismissal over accusations of corruption and numerous violations.
His appearance also highlighted the inability of the armed opposition to achieve justice and hold accountable the perpetrators of violations by the elements and leaders in its ranks, despite promises to transfer the files to the judiciary.
Local observers say the appearance of “Abu Amsha” in a public gathering was a clear defiance that deepens the divisions between the opposition’s military factions.
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