Suleiman Al-Yusuf is a colonel in the Syrian army. He was one of the nine high-level Syrian members of the security and intelligence forces in a Spanish case for alleged international crimes committed in in Syria since 2011.
On 17 February 2013, Abdulmuemen Alhaj Hamdo, a Syrian national born in Idleb, disappeared while delivering goods between the municipality Mashta el Helou and the city of Homs, in the west of Syria. In 2015, the oldest son of Abdulmuemen Alhaj Hando recognised his father’s corpse on multiple photographs taken by a forensic photographer going by the name of Caesar, a deserter from the Syrian army. Caesar published more than 50’000 photographs exhibiting the multitude of crimes committed in detention centres of the Syrian government since 2013.
More generally, war crimes and crimes against humanity were allegedly committed in detention centres controlled by the Syrian intelligence services, in particular in Security Branches 215, 235, and 227. High-ranking individuals, including Suleiman Al-Yusuf, are suspected of being responsible as superiors, indirect perpetrators, or accomplices in conducting illegal arrests, detentions, torture, sexual violence, and other inhumane acts in the detention centres of these branches between May 2011 and July 2015.
On 1 February 2017, Amal Hag Hamdo Anfalis, a Spanish national of Syrian origin, filed a complaint before the Spanish National Court (Audiencia Nacional) against nine high-ranking individuals, soldiers, and top officials of the Syrian Arab Republic for alleged acts of terrorism and the enforced disappearance of her brother, Abdulmuemen Alhaj Hamdo. Mamluk is one of the persons targeted by the complaint.
On 27 March 2017, Amal Hag Hamdo Anfalis’ complaint was found admissible and an investigation was opened. As a result, Eurojust was asked to verify whether other countries in the European Union were investigating international crimes committed by the Syrian administration. Further, it was ordered for testimonies to be taken from the plaintiff and other witnesses and that further evidence had to be collected.
On 30 May 2017, the Spanish public prosecutor appealed the decision.
On 27 July 2017, the Spanish National Court decided to dismiss the case after the prosecutor declared that the Spanish courts do not have jurisdiction to judge the crimes. The NGO ‘Guernica 37’ appealed this decision before the appellate chamber of the Spanish National Court. On 15 December 2017, the appeal was rejected.
In February 2018, Guernica 37 requested the Spanish Supreme Court to admit their complaint and to order the reopening of the investigation.
They also asked the Constitutional Court to examine the constitutionality of the current law on universal jurisdiction in Spain.
In parallel, they seized the Court of Justice of the European Union to know if the current definition of a victim under the Spanish legislation is in accordance with European regulations and if the European directives equate the concepts of direct and indirect victim in order to hold legitimacy to exercise jurisdiction and give competence to the Spanish courts.
On 13 March 2019, the Spanish Supreme Court dismissed the appeal lodged by the law firm Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers, deciding that Spanish Courts lacked jurisdiction over the crimes and adopting a narrow interpretation of the concept of victim.
This decision was appealed before the Constitutional Court on 30 April 2019. The Court could not find any prima facie infringement of the victim’s fundamental rights and, consequently, dismissed the appeal.