Syrian government uses personal lawsuits to arrest its opponents, Northern Homs
Russia and the civil and military committees in Northern Homs, Central Syria, reached an agreement to displace people who refuse to reconcile with the Syrian government to Northern Syria. At the same time, Russia undertook to preserve the lives of people, who decided to remain in the area and prevent the Syrian government forces from arresting them. However, the Syrian government used all pretexts to arrest its opponents.
As it is difficult to contact sources in areas controlled by the Syrian government or to obtain documents and statistics from the Syrian government security branches, courts, and prisons, it is impossible to know the accurate numbers of people arrested after or even before the reconciliation agreement in Northern Homs,It is especially difficult to determine accurate numbers because of coercive disappearances and random arrest campaigns.
Man dies and his sons pay his murderer money in Northern Homs,
Ziad al-Ruz, also known as Ziad al-Ba’iou, from the city of al-Rastan, is a Syrian government supporter. Al-Ba’iou was a spy before the Syrian government seized al-Rastan. On March 18, 2012, al-Ba’iou assassinated Captain Amjad Muhammad al-Hameed, commander of the Rijal Allah brigade belonging to the Free Syrian Army. Local sources, who preferred to remain unknown for security reasons, reported that al-Hameed had a significant role in expelling the Syrian government forces who are from al-Rastan.
The sources added that after the al-Hameed assassination al-Hameed’s brothers blew up al-Ba’iou’s house in the village of al-Zaafarana. Abu Sarhan Tlas also blew up al-Ba’iou’s house in al-Rastan. Six years after, al-Ba’iou got the chance to get revenge on all the residents of the Northern Homs countryside, not only those who blew off his houses.
Al-Ba’iou filled personal lawsuits against dozens of residents after the Syrian government seized the Northern Homs countryside. Since most of the people responsible for blowing up al-Ba’iou’s houses are either killed or displaced, he submitted lawsuits against people, who have nothing to do with the incident. The lawsuits resulted in the arrest of 67 people and threatened 300 others, according to the sources.
After the threats, al-Ba’iou blackmailed dozens of families, demanding money in return for sparing their sons from arrest."
Al-Ba’iou received 11 million Syrian pounds (SYP) (20 thousand American dollars) from a family member of a person called Mustafa al-Habib, who was a battalion commander in the Rijal Allah brigade and killed in battles against the Syrian government forces. Al-Ba’iou also forced al-Habib’s wife to give up land that is worth millions of Syrian pounds, in return for not arresting members of al-Habib ’s family.
The sources added that al-Ba’iou also forced the wife of Habib Habib, who was also a battalion commander in the Rijal Allah brigade, to give up stores. Al-Ba’iou reiterated the same threats for the families of most of the Rijal Allah brigade fighters, as he forced the families to pay "millions of Syrian pounds.
Although al-Ba’iou assassinated the Rijal Allah brigade commander in 2012, he also was the culprit of the arresting the commander’s father after reconciliation with the Syrian government.
As blackmail and lawsuits increased against the residents of al-Rastan, the residents started to complain about al-Ba’iou ’s leverage. However, the Syrian government forces arrested al-Ba’iou after the intervention of a Shabiha member, who is close to Suhail al-Hassan, commander of the al-Nimr Forces belonging to the Syrian government.
Sons of FSA fighter accuse their stepmother on spying of terrorists
According to the reconciliation agreement, thousands of civilians and fighters left the Northern Homs countryside and headed to the Idlib and Aleppo governorates, several of them accompanying their families.
Local sources told SMART that an FSA fighter from the city of al-Rastan married two women, one of them loyal to the Syrian government and residing in the city of Homs, as her son volunteered in the Syrian government’s National Defense militia in the city, while the other wife stayed with her husband in al-Rastan, but did not accompany him to Northern Syria after the agreement.
The sources added that weeks after the agreement, the first wife and her children returned to al-Rastan, while the Syrian government forces stormed the second wife’s house and arrested her for charges on spying for her husband. The reason for the arrest turned out to be a complaint filed by one of the first wife’s children, accusing his stepmother of spying for terrorists.
The wife was detained for about a month in Homs and finally released after bribing Syrian government lawyers and judges with about one million Syrian pounds (about 2 thousand dollars).
The Syrian government relies on personal charges to detain judges in Northern Homs
Courts in the areas out of the Syrian government forces’ control have evolved during the past years, taking different forms and responsibilities according to the different areas on which they operated in and to the different opposition factions that controlled them. The factions affected the courts’ ability to remain independent in their decisions and verdicts.
The Sharia Court of the city of Tallbisah was one of the courts formed during the Syrian Revolution out of the Syrian government forces-controlled areas. Most of the court’s judges and clerks moved to Northern Syria after the displacement agreement, but several of them preferred to stay in the city and sign reconciliations with the Syrian government, "hoping the latter would commit the guarantees Russia gave the people during the negotiations.
Local sources told SMART that last September, Syrian government security members requested the Sharia Court judges from Tallbisah, Shaykh Ahmad Jomaa and Shaykh Abdul Rahman al-Dohayik, to visit the Syrian government security services in Homs due to personal charges against them.
Earlier, the Syrian government forces tried to detain Shaykh Ahmad Jomaa but did not succeed in charging him with any violations committed after he signed a reconciliation agreement, as dignitaries from the area prevented his detention without clear charges, according to sources.
The Syrian government tried to get benefits from personal charges filed against judges to detain them. The Syrian government forces honored the wife of Ayman Hadid, who was executed by a Sharia Court decision in Northern Homs for spying for the Syrian government and giving information that harmed the civilians. Also, they honored him and named a military rank after him. Hadid’s wife received two million SYP (4 thousand dollars) as compensation from the Syrian government and pressed charges against Jomaa afterward, leading to his detention.
The Syrian government took advantage of people in dispute with the court, including Abdul Ghawad al-Masri
The Sharia court has issued an executive decision against Abdul Jawad al-Masri for establishing a relationship with a woman spying for the Syrian government, but they revoked the court's judgment after al-Masri paid large amounts of money, according to sources.
currently, the sources said that al-Masri pressed charges against Shaykh Ahmad Jomaa and Shaykh Abdul Rahman al-Dohayik, but al-Dohayik managed to escape to Lebanon before being detained, while Joma did not manage to escape and was detained.
Stories of other detentions in Northern Homs
A local source told SMART that last September, the Syrian government military security service stormed a house in the al-Makramiyah village near the city of Tallbisah, assaulting the owner while searching the house for weapons, after a member of the Syrian government forces filed a complaint against the owner as a retaliation for the latter’s attempt to steal the Syrian government forces member’s house recently.
Detentions also included members of the Civil Defense, as on Sept. 10, 2018, Syrian government forces patrols, backed by vehicles with heavy machine guns, stormed the houses of 11 former members of the Civil Defense, who signed reconciliation documents in the city of al-Rastan and nearby villages. People estimate that the Syrian government is trying to force the detainees to say that the FSA was responsible for the chemical weapon attack on the perimeter of al-Rastan in 2015.
Last August, the Syrian government forces summoned the officers who defected from their ranks in Northern Homs for investigations in the Syrian government military security branch 293, also known as the Officers Club, in Damascus; seven of these officers never returned. The other officers feared detention and did not submit to the investigation, as dozens of workers from the Northern Homs countryside refrained from leaving the area for fear of detention due to the expiring of their reconciliation documents signed after the Syrian government forces seized control of the area.
Russian guarantees do not prevent the Syrian government from detaining its opposers
The Russian-imposed agreement, which resulted in displacing thousands of civilians who refused to sign it, states that the Syrian government forces will not enter the Northern Homs countryside as long as the Russian Military Police is present in the area, and adjusting the status of students and employees to return to their posts. The Russian Military Police is supposed to stay in the area for six months, with the possibility of extension.
Despite the Russian guarantees, the Syrian government did not commit to the agreement and installed several checkpoints with personnel and tanks at the entrances of the cities of Tallbisah and al-Rastan, and the villages of Deirfoul, al-Makramiyah, and al-Zaafaranah. They even arrested several young men who were visiting the Syrian government’s Compulsory Military Recruiting Division.
A member of the negotiation committee regarding the agreement with Russia, Mohamed Kanj Ayyoub, told SMART that Russia promised not to allow the Syrian government forces and security services to enter the area, confirming that the Syrian government representation in the area will be limited to civil police only. The Syrian government forces entered the area directly after the fighters of the opposition factions were deported.
Ayyoub added that Russia promised that young men would not be obligated to do the compulsory service in the Syrian government forces’ ranks before six months, but the Syrian government forces arrested and recruited young men before the six months ended. Ayyoub also said that Russia and the Syrian government are lying to the civilians.
Another member of the committee, Mustafa Hussain, said that Russia pledged not to allow the Syrian government forces to perform “mass detentions,” adding that the Syrian government forces committed to that pledge and started to detain young people individually.
The Northern Homs countryside is not the only place where Syrian government revokes the settlement agreements and relies on personal allegations to arrest its opponents, and this is not the first time that Russia hasn't fulfill its promises, and it seems that it won't be the last.