Alleged Daesh fighter faces Dutch war crimes charges

Judge Jantien Holleman at the courtroom in Schiphol. (Reuters)
Updated 09 July 2019

Alleged Daesh fighter faces Dutch war crimes charges

  • Oussama Achraf Akhlafa, 24, faces allegations of violating international law, after allegedly joining Daesh militants in Mosul in Iraq, and Raqqa in Syria, between 2014 and 2016

AMSTERDAM: An alleged Dutch-born Daesh militant went on trial in the Netherlands on Monday for war crimes in Iraq and Syria, including breaches of the Geneva Conventions, after posing with a crucified body and sharing images of dead victims online.

It is the first trial in the Netherlands dealing with war crimes by an alleged Daesh militant.

There is no international tribunal to prosecute widespread atrocities during Syria’s civil war which began in 2011, but prosecutors in several European countries have put on trial nationals who joined militant groups in the Middle East.

According to European police agency Europol, some 5,000 Europeans — most from Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands — went to fight in Syria and Iraq, of whom some 1,500 have returned.

Oussama Achraf Akhlafa, 24, faces allegations of violating international law, after allegedly joining Daesh militants in Mosul in Iraq, and Raqqa in Syria, between 2014 and 2016.

He is being tried under so-called universal jurisdiction, which enables war crimes to be prosecuted regardless of where they were committed.

Akhlafa is charged with breaking international law on the rules of armed conflict by violating the personal dignity of war victims, as well as membership in a terrorist organization.

Prosecutors said Akhlafa posed next to the crucified body of a man on a wooden cross and distributed pictures of an IS militant holding the head of a dead Kurdish fighter and the body of a dead woman with a foot on her.

In a statement, Akhlafa said he joined Daesh after becoming homeless in the Netherlands, but never hurt anyone.

“If I didn’t get in the photo I would be seen as disloyal” by Daesh, he told the court. 

“I posed in the photo. I take all responsibility for that. I am sorry and it was not my intent to humiliate this man.”

“I understand it creates an image, but madame, I didn’t kill anyone ... IS (Daesh) wouldn’t even give me a weapon.”

The judge read out witness testimony and quotes from online chats with the defendant in which he bragged about killings and said he was a sniper.


UN warns of severe aid cuts in Yemen without new funds soon

Updated 22 August 2019

UN warns of severe aid cuts in Yemen without new funds soon

  • Donors have pledged $2.6 billion to meet the urgent needs of more than 20 million Yemenis
  • But UN humanitarian chief Lise Grande says less than half the amount has been received so far
UNITED NATIONS: The UN humanitarian chief in Yemen warned Wednesday that unless significant new funding is received in the coming weeks, food rations for 12 million people in the war-torn country will be reduced and at least 2.5 million malnourished children will be cut off from life-saving services.
Lise Grande said the UN was forced to suspend most vaccination campaigns in May, and without new money a “staggering” 22 life-saving programs in Yemen will close in the next two months.
At a UN pledging conference in February, donors pledged $2.6 billion to meet the urgent needs of more than 20 million Yemenis, but Grande said that to date, less than half the amount has been received.
“When money doesn’t come, people die,” she said in a statement Wednesday.
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by Iran-backed Houthi Shiite rebels who control much of the country’s north. A Saudi-led coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates allied with Yemen’s internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
The fighting in the Arab world’s poorest country has left thousands of civilians and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical care shortages and pushing the country to the brink of famine.
UN deputy humanitarian chief Ursula Mueller told the Security Council on Tuesday that 12 million Yemenis have been assisted every month, “but much of this is about to stop” because only 34% of the UN’s $4.2 billion appeal for 2019 has been funded.
At this time last year, she said, 65% of the appeal was funded, including generous contributions from Yemen’s neighbors Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The UN humanitarian office in New York said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia and the UAE each pledged $750 million to its Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019.
Grande said the UN is grateful to donors who have lived up to their promises, and in half the districts where people were facing famine “conditions have improved to the point where families are no longer at risk of starvation.”
But she said of the 34 major UN humanitarian programs in Yemen, only three are funded for the entire year. Several have been forced to close in recent weeks, Grande said, and many large-scale projects designed to help destitute, hungry families have been unable to start.
Without new funds in the coming weeks, she said, 19 million people will also lose access to health care, including 1 million women who depend on the UN for reproductive health services. In addition, Grande said, clean water programs for 5 million people will have to shut down at the end of October and tens of thousands of displaced families may find themselves homeless.
“Millions of people in Yemen, who through no fault of their own are the victims of this conflict, depend on us to survive,” she said. “All of us are ashamed by the situation. It’s heart-breaking to look a family in the eye and say we have no money to help.”