HELSINKI (AP) — A 49-year-old woman from Sweden has been charged with war crimes and breaching international law for allegedly assisting in getting her son to fight in Syria as a child soldier, Swedish public prosecutors said on Tuesday.
The woman, who has been in custody in Sweden since September, is suspected of helping recruit one of her sons – born in 2001 – to fight as a child soldier while they lived between 2013-2016 in Syrian territory once controlled by the Islamic State group.
The Swedish Prosecution Authority said in a statement this is the first time that the country has brought war crimes charges against an individual for abetting in recruiting child soldiers.
Prosecutors said there is “an absolute ban” on allowing children under 15 to directly take part in hostilities during an armed conflict.
Prosecutor Reena Devgun said an investigation showed that the son, aged 12 when he first arrived in Syria, was provided with military equipment and weapons and that “he was used in combat and for propaganda purposes and for other missions that formed part of warfare.”
She said the woman’s actions were considered extreme because the boy “was recruited and used as a child soldier by a terrorist organization in warfare that was extremely ruthless and brutal.”
The woman has denied all charges, prosecutors said.
According to Swedish public broadcaster SVT, the woman grew up in western Sweden, converted to Islam and traveled to war-torn Syria with her five children in 2013. Her husband died in Syria in 2013, while two of her other sons – aged 14 and 18 – were also killed at a later stage, SVT said.