Syrian Kurds call on foreign countries to take back IS fighters

"Every country should repatriate their citizens and prosecute them on their soil."

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Abdulkarim Omer, the head of the Foreign Relations Commission in the Jazeera region on Sunday called on foreign countries to take back imprisoned foreign fighters, warning that the captured Islamic State (IS) extremists could flee.

“We confirm that we will not prosecute [IS] fighters in our region [Rojava, Northeastern Syria]. Every country should repatriate their citizens and prosecute them on their soil,” Omer said on his official Twitter account.

“Our region is unstable; any chaos may enable IS fighters to flee. Some of those fighters are dangerous and may pose serious threats [to] Europe and the international community,” he added.

The foreign affairs chief said there are nearly 900 foreign IS fighters in their custody, with 400 to 500 IS wives and 1,000 children from 44 foreign countries.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are expected to capture more foreign fighters and their families in the ongoing campaign to clear out the last IS-pockets in the Deir al-Zor province.

The SDF says they are holding them temporarily until their countries take them back. So far, only Russia, Indonesia, Lebanon, Sudan, and the US are publicly known to have taken back some of their nationals from these camps.

The New York Times reports that the US military has helped the SDF upgrade prison facilities – spending about $1.6 million – after some IS prisoners escaped.

“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,” US Army Spokesperson Colonel Thomas Veale said in June.

“We know from past experience that detention centers are a breeding ground for radicalism. We cannot afford to allow this issue to go unresolved. It’s a global issue that requires a global solution.”

Nadim Houry, Human Rights Watch’s terrorism and counterterrorism director, told Kurdistan 24 there is a need for Europeans and other countries to take back foreign IS fighters and families with non-Syrian nationalities.

“Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any movement to do it,” he said. “We need a European country to do it for there to be [a] real precedent.”

According to a Human Rights Watch report, foreign governments have expressed reluctance to take back IS suspects, citing fears they represent a security threat.

Some countries have also indicated concern about evidentiary and legal challenges that would prevent them from prosecuting these extremists.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany