Belgian state not obliged to take back IS children: Court

The local Kurdish-led authorities in northern Syria have called on foreign states to take back IS women and children.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Belgian state is not obliged to take back the six children of two Belgian Islamic state (IS) fighters currently in Syria, according to a court ruling published on Thursday. 

Two IS widows, Bouchra Abouallal (25), and Tatiana Wielandt (25), along with their children, were earlier evacuated from Syria in 2013.

After giving birth in Belgium, however, both returned with their children to Syria. In March 2018, they were sentenced in absentia up to five years in prison. 

The women gave birth again this year, bringing the total of children born to IS members up to six.

The two families are currently living in Kurdish-run refugee camps in northern Syria. Many women, children, and IS fighters were captured while trying to escape IS-territory and battles against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The local Kurdish-led authorities in northern Syria have called on foreign states to take back IS women and children. But so far, the majority of them have not responded to their calls.

A Belgian judge, as reported by news website Het Laatste Nieuws on Thursday, said the court still recognized the moral duty to pay attention to the fate of foreign jihadist minors.

However, the judge ruled there was no legal impetus to take back the children as the Belgian government has no jurisdiction over refugee camps.

Brussels had already announced that IS children under five years old should be repatriated if their parents are Belgian.

Belgian jihad expert Montasser AlDe'emeh told Kurdistan 24 the Belgian government has no legal basis to use to bring back the children.

“There are practical problems with repatriation,” he said. “Belgium has no jurisdiction in these camps. Moreover, one cannot invoke the European Convention on Human Rights to demand repatriation,” he explained. 

AlDe'emeh also noted the war against the jihadist group is not yet over and that this could create security risks for Belgium.  

“Radicalization can also be related to early traumatization. An example of that is young jihadists of Chechen origin who never properly processed traumatizing experiences in their homeland and who have joined IS in recent years. The perpetrator of the stabbing in Paris a few months ago was born in 1997 in Chechnya," he said.

The expert warned against returning children to Europe.

“Four children were reportedly involved in recent attacks in Indonesia. Traumatized children of (killed) jihadists might look for revenge. That is why we should not run the risk,” he concluded.

The US has called on Western countries to take responsibility and take foreign fighters back.

“Foreign terrorist fighters are a third area of growing interest among the international community.  Among the past few months, officials of several governments have spoken openly of hundreds of foreign terrorist fighters under SDF detention in Syria,” US army spokesperson Colonel Thomas Veale told reporters in June.

“We have repeatedly called on the nations of the world to come forward, claim their citizens and bring them to justice in their home countries,” he concluded.

Editing by Nadia Riva