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Sweden District Court of Stockholm, criminal case against Haisam Omar Sakhanh





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In the absence of an English language transcript or decision for this case, this New York Times article describes the crime and the circumstances that led to the arrest, trial and conviction of Haisam Omar Sakhanh by a Swedish court in February 2017. Sakhanh was sentenced to life imprisonment for the execution of seven unarmed men, bound and showing signs of having been tortured.

In respect of Universal Jurisdiction, this case represents a small forward step: universal jurisdiction is supposed to be triggered by the egregious nature of the crime committed, as recognized by the international community, and is not strictly dependent upon a national connection between the accused or the victim/s and the State that hosts the prosecution. Nevertheless, for both political and practical reasons, states are extremely reluctant to make use of universal jurisdiction where neither the accused nor any victim is resident in its territory. But in this case, unlike Mohannad Droubi, convicted of torture as a war crime by a Swedish court in 2015, Haisam Omar Sakhanh was not a resident of Sweden but had travelled there as an applicant for asylum.

This article briefly discusses some of the difficulties that face both the prosecutor and the defence team, in a case involving actions committed on remote foreign soil by foreign actors, while the conflict is still ongoing.

The Court of Appeal confirmed the life sentence of Sakhanh on 31 Mays 2017. On 20 July 2017, the Swedish Supreme Court denied Haisam Omar Sakhanh’s leave to appeal.

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