ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Although it would be difficult to set up an international court in the region, other nations can ask the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) for support to prosecute foreign Islamic State fighters, the Dutch government’s external advisor said in a report.
Dr. André Nollkaemper, Professor of Public International Law at the Faculty of Law at the University of Amsterdam, underlined that it would be difficult to set up an international court absent of United Nations support or without consent from Iraq or Syria in semi-autonomous regions such as northeast Syria.
Nevertheless, he noted that the US-backed SDF has de-facto control over Syria’s northeast, and has a legal system “under Kurdish rule.”
Although it is not legally possible for the SDF to reach an agreement with a state to create an international tribunal, Nollkaemper said the SDF could be involved in an agreement between two or more countries to set up such a court.
“To the extent that the SDF has members of ISIS in custody and has evidence and/or can facilitate access to witnesses, this could make an important contribution to the effective trial of members of ISIS,” he stated in the report, adding it could happen without permission from Damascus.
The SDF, which holds thousands of foreign Islamic State fighters and their families, refuses to put them on trial in Syria because it lacks the capabilities to hold foreign Islamic State fighters indefinitely.
According to an International Crisis Group report, the SDF set up an anti-terrorism court run by five judges in 2015 for Syrians accused of being implicated in Islamic State crimes.
One of the judges said the court had handled 800 local cases in 2017 and 1,200 in 2018; it has 7,000 pending.
According to Professor Nollkaemper, the creation of a new body in the region, close to the group’s victims, would help solve the problem of Islamic State detainees and assist in the collection of evidence.
Many nations in the European Union fear that due to the lack of evidence, Islamic State supporters could be quickly released once they appear in court after they return home.
As such, the notion of an international criminal court to try them either in Iraq or Syria appears to be an attractive solution for them. The Dutch government has also supported the idea of creating such a court.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany