A suspected Syrian war criminal, member of a militia affiliated with the Al-Assad regime and associated with heinous crimes, has been living a comfortable life in Montreal since his arrival two years ago, according to regime critics.
George Youssef Al-Sheikh, himself a Christian, allegedly used a religious sponsorship program by presenting himself as a victim of the civil war. He would have refugee status in Canada.
These claims were made in the online newspaper “Zaman Al-Wasl”, a platform of the Syrian opposition which investigates in particular the war criminals who fled the country in the period following the civil war.
The information obtained by “Zaman” has already been used for credible journalistic investigations in Europe.
George Youssef Al-Sheikh is on a list of members of an armed militia affiliated with the National Defense Forces which was among the first to participate in the bloody crackdown on the protests that rocked the country in 2011. “Zaman” gained access to this database, which the QMI Agency was able to consult.
According to various testimonies collected by “Zaman” and unpacked in an investigative document transferred to the QMI Agency, George Al-Sheikh would also be a key ex-member of an armed criminal group called Al-Hout, linked to numerous crimes. odious in the cities of Douma, but especially of Saidnaya, a Christian city in the south-west of the country located not far from Damascus, the Syrian capital.
In a recent article published in English and Arabic, the Syrian newspaper alleges that Al-Hout’s gang is behind kidnappings, rapes, and murders, in addition to trafficking in arms and drugs.
Together, its members are said to have looted more than 20 villas in Saidnaya alone, as the townspeople fled in disaster. They are said to have chased displaced people from Douma there.
Al-Sheikh would live an “extravagant” life with a heritage he would have amassed during his crimes, according to a source of “Zaman”.
On his Facebook profile, Georges Yousef Al-Sheikh has indeed listed Montreal as the city of residence in 2019, and Seidnaya as the city of origin. He responded with a greeting emoji to interview requests from the QMI Agency, without offering further comment.
The “Zaman Al-Wasl” investigative team member with whom the QMI Agency corresponded insisted on anonymity, explaining that the publication of his name could put his life in danger.
Immigration Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP refused to answer questions from the QMI Agency, citing privacy laws. Consequently, it has been impossible to confirm beyond any doubt the status or even the presence of George Youssef Al-Sheikh in the country for the moment.
According to lawyer Hugues Langlais, who specializes in immigration law, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to prosecute George Youssef Al-Sheikh criminally on the basis of the war crimes alleged to him.
“We don’t attack them [les présumés criminels de guerre] from the point of view of war crimes, but they are attacked from the angle that they lied in their declarations of immigration application: either of not having declared a fact, a name, an address, a situation, or a job which, had it been known [au moment de la demande d’asile], the government would never have accepted, ”explained Me Langlais.
“This is how we attack war criminals, because bringing them to trial in criminal law, often proof, is almost impossible to do,” added the lawyer.
Putting together a case of evidence would require collaboration between Canada, the Syrian government and their respective police forces, which is unlikely in the current context.
The newspaper “Zaman Al-Wasl” is a source of information considered credible, consulted especially by the circles of the Syrian opposition, according to Sami Aoun, political scientist of the University of Sherbrooke and expert on the questions of the Middle East.
The credibility of the opposition media was also validated in a report dated 2019, written by OSAR, the Swiss Refugee Aid Organization, which detailed the fruitful collaborations of “Zaman Al-Wasl” with European media. in the last decade.
In 2016, for example, “Zaman Al-Wasl” had published, in collaboration with the British “Sky News”, a list containing the names of thousands of soldiers of the Islamic State in more than 40 countries.
The newspaper “The Independent” then cited experts who considered this information to be of paramount importance.
“Zaman Al-Wasl” has access to valuable Syrian government sources and continues to investigate war criminals who participated in the descent into the country’s underworld since the 2011 uprising, several of whom are now in Europe.