Syrian refugees in Denmark are being investigated for their possible involvement in war crimes committed in the ongoing conflict between the Syrian government and rebel forces.
The investigations are being headed by the state attorney’s department for special economic and international crime, SØIK, which cannot release any details while the investigations are underway.
“There is a focus on Syria at the moment,” SØIK's deputy state attorney, Lars Plum, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “There may come a time when legal proceedings start in Syria and some of these people may flee. There is no doubt that some of these refugees have participated in and committed rather awful crimes including torture and massacres.”
People who seek asylum in Denmark are currently screened by the immigration authorities to see if they are suspected of participating in war crimes. The authorities refer to information provided by the domestic and foreign intelligence agencies as well as lists of potential war criminals provided by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
The government tries to return suspected foreign criminals residing in Denmark to their home country for prosecution, but won’t deport them if doing so poses a risk to their safety. In these cases, the suspected criminals are kept in a form of house arrest called ‘tålt ophold’ and the SØIK can pursue prosecuting them in Denmark.
Both government and rebel forces are suspected of committing war crimes in Syria, though Plum argues that the dust will have to settle before any cases are raised.
“It’s too early to say what the cases will lead to,” Plum said. “It’s incredibly difficult to investigate the situation in Syria at the moment. On the other hand, there is no doubt that in the future we will be investigating people from Syria.”
Magnus Ranstorp, the head researcher at the Swedish National Defence College, thinks that social media will play a role in the evidence-gathering stage.
“But at the moment, no-one is absolutely sure about what is actually going in Syria,” Ranstorp told Jyllands-Posten. “In addition to the intelligence agencies from countries such as Germany, the US, Turkey and Jordan, other organisations who have some idea of the situation include the International Crisis Group and refugee organisations. But these will be long lasting and difficult investigations.”