Syrian council welcomes Belgian support of international trials for foreign ISIS fighters
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A top official from a governing council in Syria told Kurdistan 24 on Friday that he applauded recent Belgian support for a proposition to put foreign fighters for the Islamic State now held in Syria on trial in an international court.
“Those who joined are criminals and they committed crimes against Syrian people. They have killed and beheaded people and because of them the country was destroyed, people's property was stolen,” said Abdul Hamid al-Muhabash, the co-chair of the Democratic Autonomous Administration (DAA) in northeastern Syria.
“The Belgian decision is totally right and other countries should also take the same decision as Belgium and should receive and retrieve their own ISIS members.”
On Thursday, a spokesperson for Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said, “The preference goes to international justice in consultation with other countries who are confronted with the same problem.”
As part of the plan, he added, those accused would be held in detention camps in the region. Children of Islamic State members would receive assistance to return to Belgium if they are under ten years old. The fate of children ten and older would be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Officials from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have previously suggested the idea of trying the foreign fighters internationally 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 have been trying to find a way to return the fighters to their countries of origin.
“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.”
According to De Standaard newspaper, there are two male Belgian suspects currently held in Iraqi prisons on charges of fighting for the jihadist group. In Syria, it reports that there are six Belgian and two French fighters detained by the SDF.
It added that there are also 17 women – 16 of them Belgian and one who is Dutch but is married to a Belgian citizen – and 32 children in SDF camps.
Belgian Prime Minister Michel told his nation’s parliament on Thursday that he wants Belgian Islamic State fighters to not return home for prosecution, but instead to remain in Syria to be put on trial there, wrote De Standaard.
Therefore, Michel argued, the Belgian fighters should stand before an international court that would be set up in cooperation with other European countries. The possibility of setting up such a court is currently being discussed, according to media reports.
Despite earlier statements to the contrary, a Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) official told The Guardian on Tuesday that they would be willing to put the foreign fighters on trial if they were to receive major international support for the proceedings.
Council Co-head Ilham Ahmed added, though, that “it would be better if they were tried in their own countries.”
“It is a big problem because many prisoners and their families are also ISIS supporters,” she said on BBC news night on Thursday.
“Their kids have grown up with this influence as well as their wives. So we have to deal with the radicalization they've been through and to rehabilitate them. We need a lot of support from the outside in order to do this.”
Editing by John J. Catherine