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Mass execution in Syria is assessed to be a serious crime against the law of nations and results in life imprisonment

[2017-02-16] Stockholms tingsrätt

Stockholm District Court has today sentenced a 46 year old Syrian citizen for participation in a mass execution of seven people that took place in the Idlib province in Northwestern Syria in May 2012. The Defendant has been a member of the Islamist armed group the Suleiman Company (Firqat Suleiman el-Muqatila) and has shot a person with an assault rifle. The Defendant's objection, that the execution was carried out by order and related to the enforcement of an adjudicated death sentence by a legitimate court following a fair trial, has not been accepted. The actions that have been taken in violation of international humanitarian law have been assessed as constituting a serious crime against the law of nations. The Defendant has been sentenced to life imprisonment.

In the ongoing non-international armed conflict in Syria, the Defendant joined the Islamist armed group the Suleiman Company in the beginning of May 2012. He shortly thereafter participated in an attack where seven soldiers from the Syrian regime were captured. Less than two days later the soldiers were shot to death in a mass execution. It has not been possible to identify the victims. The Defendant participated in the execution and shot one of the captured soldiers with an assault rifle. The event was recorded on video. The New York Times published the video on their website in 2013. The Defendant had then made his way to Sweden where he later received a permanent residence permit and refugee status.

The Defendant has objected stating that he was ordered to enforce an adjudicated death sentence by a legitimate court following a fair trial. Due to the objection, the District Court has examined a point of law within international humanitarian law that has never before been examined by a court.

“A big question in the judicial process has been whether a non-governmental actor can establish their own courts to maintain law and order within the framework of a non-international armed conflict,” says the presiding judge Tomas Zander. The Court has reached the conclusion that it may be possible during certain given circumstances. However, in this case it has been proven that less than two days passed between the capturing of the soldiers and the execution. This is one of the reasons why the Court can exclude the assertion that the execution was preceded by a fair trial where a legitimate court sentenced the soldiers to death by execution.

The connection between the mass execution and the non-international armed conflict in Syria means that the actions entail serious violations of the regulations of international humanitarian law. Seven people have been executed under particularly cruel circumstances where the victims have been forced to kneel, several with their hands tied behind their backs. The victims had substantial injuries after having been subjected to grievous bodily harm and entirely lacked the ability to defend themselves. The Defendant is therefore sentenced for serious crime against the law of nations.

The penal value for this crime is so high that the punishment has been ruled to be life imprisonment.

The Defendant will also be deported from Sweden and prohibited from returning.

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Senast ändrad: 2017-02-16

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Tomas Zander
+46(0)8-561 653 61