The last week news broke in Sweden that a 28-year-old Syrian man residing here since 2013, is now being charged with a crime committed in Syria in 2012. When I first heard the news, I thought the man had been a part of the Assad regime or the military and committed a crime against civilian people or opposition members. But no, according to the news the man previously belonged to the Free Syrian Army, and had participated in beating and torturing a man from the military, who are operating for Assad. The information didn’t reveal whether the victim had been a higher ranking officer or not.
Swedish media are usually quite mum about details, but from the news reports that the man is the first one in Sweden to be prosecuted for crimes against international law in Syria. The reason for the prosecution is a video that the young man supposedly had uploaded to his own Facebook page, where he is seen to beat and torture a man who is tied to a chair with his hands behind his back, dressed in only underwear and a t-shirt. The video is awful to see. The man who is tied up is trying to comply with his tormentors, who are beating him with tools (sticks and/or belts, it’s hard to see), assaulting him and screaming that the man shall say that Assad is a “motherfucker” and an “animal” (“Say it! What is he? What is Assad?”). It’s not known to the Swedish legal system whether the victim survived the abuse and torture or not.
As surprised as I initially was that the man did not belong to the regime – that he was one of the freedom fighters, fighting against decades of brutal oppression – as satisfied am I that the man now is prosecuted in Sweden. No, I don’t agree with the Syrian regime. I believe everyone have the right to their own opinions without fearing the kind of oppression that has been significant for the Assad regime, sr and jr. But all crimes are crimes, and no previous or current crimes justifies later ones. The one that the young man had recorded and added to his Facebook page is a horrible crime: physical and verbal abuse and torture of an unarmed person.
If convicted for the crime, the young man should under normal circumstances be deported to his home country and his permanent residency would be withdrawn. But Sweden don’t deport anyone to Syria during the circumstances of civil war, why the man most likely would serve time in a prison and then remain in a status quo in Sweden until the situation in Syria has calmed down, which might be, well… who knows? Despite this, I still agree with the trial.
We need to remain our values even in times of conflict. There are many freedom fighters in Syria who are making use of non-violent resistance; publishing news about the crimes committed against humanity; mobilising groups for peaceful protests; caring for the orphaned children and setting up schools in war zones. The young man who was fighting with the Free Syrian Army could have chosen this path instead of tying up and torturing an unarmed man, no matter what the victim had done, and then boldly put up the video on his Facebook page, bragging about what he had done for the world to see. I’m happy that I live in a country where these actions don’t go unpunished. No matter where they were committed and by who. If the Syrian opposition wants to snap out of the vicious cycle of violence their country is in, they need to rise above the methods used by the regime. Revenge will not get the Syrian people anywhere, it will not get anyone of us anywhere, no matter where we might live. Honouring our values of humanity will.