Belgian government supports international prosecution for ISIS fighters

The government of Belgium on Thursday decided that it wants an international court to prosecute adult Islamic State fighters with Belgian nationality.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The government of Belgium on Thursday decided that it wants an international court to prosecute adult Islamic State fighters with Belgian nationality.

According to a report by Metro, the National Security Council in Belgium said an international court should bring to justice all European fighters that the Iraqi government or the US-backed Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) captured.

“The preference goes to international justice in consultation with other countries who are confronted with the same problem,” a spokesperson for Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said. The terrorists would then be held in detention camps in the region, the spokesperson added.

However, children who belong to Islamic State fighters under 10 years old would receive assistance to return to Belgium. Children older than 10 would be analyzed case-by-case.

The SDF is also in favor of an international court to prosecute Islamic State members.

Mustafa Bali, the director of the SDF Media Center, told ANF last week that an international court and prison should be established in Syria to prosecute “ISIS mercenaries and their families.”

Officials from the US-backed SDF forces have previously proposed the idea of putting foreign Islamic State fighters on trial in an international court to break the impasse with foreign governments who refuse to repatriate them.

SDF spokesperson Kino Gabriel said in an earlier interview that the Kurdish-led forces are trying to find a solution to return foreign Islamic State fighters to their countries.

“We do not have the legitimacy to convict them and lack logistical support to hold them for a long time,” he told Kurdistan 24. “I think one of the solutions would be to have an international court and to convict them for their crimes.”

Pieter van Ostaeyen, one of Belgium’s most well-known experts on jihadi groups, is “convinced that the idea of the National Security Council to establish an international court for ISIS members is the best we can do.”

However, he said there are a few problems with the idea. “Firstly, it could take years to have such a tribunal in place. Secondly, we need appropriate laws to deal with ISIS members in coordination with other nations involved,” he added.

Furthermore, van Ostaeyen said that “a lot of Belgian ISIS members have been tried in absentia, and most of these have been sentenced to prison.”

“Those that already have been tried cannot be tried again for the same facts.”

The Belgian expert also argued that Islamic State fighters should be locked up in “their respective countries because we do not have the means to establish ISIS super-prisons in Syria or Iraq, which could be even more dangerous in the long run.”

He pointed to the US prison Camp Bucca in Iraq which he claimed radicalized the next generation of extremists that led to the establishment of the Islamic State.

“What worries me more at this point is that around 150 Belgian fighters are unaccounted for,” he said. “We do not know where they are if they are still alive or maybe even left ISIS.”

“The total number of ISIS fighters still out there somewhere is likely a multitude of the numbers now being held by the SDF and the international coalition.”

According to the Belgian intelligence service, there are at least four Belgian Islamic State fighters in SDF prisons.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany