Trial Begins in Stockholm for Ex-Syrian General Accused of War Crimes

The trial of a former Syrian army general over his alleged role in war crimes committed in 2012 in his home country started at a Stockholm court Monday, a first according to a human rights organization. Syria has been ravaged by civil war for over 13 years.

Brig. Gen Mohammed Hamo, who is currently residing in Sweden, is charged with aiding and abetting crimes violating international law, described by the prosecution as “a serious crime” when he was charged in February.

The Associated Press got a hold of Hamo’s accusation sheet in which the prosecutor claims the 65-year-old — who was a brigadier general in the Syrian army between January 2012 and July 2012 — has participated in the warfare that “systematically included attacks carried out in violation of the principle of distinction, caution and proportionality,” adding that the attacks were “indiscriminate.”

The prosecutor also said Hamo worked in the Syrian army’s 11th division and he was vital in making “strategic decisions and (implementing) military operations.”

“This trial is important because it’s the first time that anyone from the Syrian government or the Syrian army is actually put on trial for the attacks that took place,” said Aida Samani of the Stockholm-based Civil Rights Defenders, a politically and religiously independent human rights organization.

The former general risks up to 18 years in jail and even life imprisonment, Samani said. A life sentence in Sweden is generally between 20 to 25 years in prison.

Eight plaintiffs filed the case against Hamo, including a man whose brother was killed in the attacks on the Syrian city of Homs, as well as a British photographer and a French journalist who were both injured in the attack on the city’s media center, the Swedish news agency TT said.

Little is known about Hamo. He defected from the Syrian army in July 2012 and joined those fighting to remove President Bashar Assad from power. Syrian opposition activists say he was involved in the fighting in the once rebel-held neighborhood of Baba Amr in Homs city, Syria’s third largest.

He lived in central Sweden until he was arrested over his supposed participation in war crimes on December 7, 2021. A court at the time released him two days later, saying there wasn’t enough evidence to keep him incarcerated. He has since been free.

Hamo’s defense lawyer, Mari Kilman, said her client maintained his innocence.

The unrest in Syria between Assad’s regime and opposition groups began in March 2011 and later exploded into a civil war that killed nearly half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.

The trial at the Stockholm District Court is planned to last 18 days with the last court session on May 21. No date for a verdict was announced.