Lawyers are practical people. Most would consider the laws of war an obscure field far removed from daily practice. A recent Swedish case suggests familiarity with that area could be useful in countries with high refugee intakes from recent conflicts.

Aleppo, Syria, 2012 (Image from Voice of America)

Mohammad Abdullah entered Sweden as a refugee from Syria in 2014. Other Syrians in Sweden noticed a photograph on his Facebook page showing him posing in army fatigues with his boot on the body of a dead man.


Sweden invoked “universal jurisdiction” over the matter.  Proceedings were commenced in Stockholm District Court. Abdullah was charged with breaching Art. 3(1)(c) of the Third Geneva Convention

In … armed conflict not of an international character … members of armed forces … placed hors de combat by … any … cause, shall … be treated humanely …. [T]he following acts are … prohibited: … outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.

Abdullah was convicted. Larsson J sentenced him to eight months imprisonment.

Attorps v Abdullah (2017), New York Times, 5 October 2017, p.A10