ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday said that the possibility of a Turkish invasion in northern Syria underscores the need for countries to immediately bring back their citizens.
“The heightened possibility of a Turkish invasion of northeast Syria underscores the urgent need for countries to immediately ensure that their imprisoned citizens can return home for rehabilitation, reintegration, and appropriate prosecution in line with international standards,” HRW said in a statement.
“Thousands of people, including children, are stuck in what amounts to shockingly overcrowded prisons on suspicion of being ISIS, but no one is accepting responsibility for them,” argued Letta Tayler, HRW's senior crisis and conflict researcher.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) hold thousands of foreign Islamic State fighters and their families, who may take advantage of a possible Turkish incursion to launch Islamic State attacks and regroup, senior SDF officials warned.
Many nations, notably European Union member states, have shown great reluctance to repatriate their nationals now in camps because of fears they pose a security threat.
According to the rights group, the SDF hold 12,000 prisoners, including 4,000 foreigners, in seven detention centers in northeast Syria.
General Mazlum Kobani, the SDF commander–in-chief, told NBC news on Monday that guarding the prisoners is now a second priority, after the US “cleared the way for Turkey to attack the Kurds.”
“This is a very big problem, ” Mazlum said. “Nobody has helped in this regard.”
The SDF has already mobilized fighters who were tasked with guarding prisons to the border to “defend their families,” the commander said.
One female Islamic State member of European background held in one of the refugee camps protected by SDF told Kurdistan 24 that they were also worried about Turkey’s incursion.
The Kurdish-led autonomous administration controlling northern Syria warned the lack of resources to properly detain prisoners requires countries repatriate their citizens for investigation and potential prosecution. Most countries have failed to do so.
Late on Sunday, the White House announced that Turkey would move ahead with its incursion into northern Syria and that US forces would withdraw from the immediate area where the Turkish military operation is to take place.
US President Donald Trump also complained that Europe was treating America like a “sucker” by not taking responsibility for captured Islamic State fighters and that Syrian Kurds were paid “massive amounts of money and equipment” to hold the terrorists.
“That those detained are ISIS suspects is no excuse for home countries to look the other way,” HRW’s Tayler argued. “If conditions in these prisons don’t improve, then home countries’ fears of radicalization and ISIS resurgence could become a reality.”
Many nations, notably European Union member states, have shown great reluctance to take back their nationals.
Editing by Nadia Riva