Netherlands repatriates women and children from Syria
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Twelve women and 28 children were repatriated to the Netherlands from displacement camps in northern Syria on Tuesday, the Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria (AANES) announced.
In May, a Dutch court ruled that if the women are not returned to the Netherlands, criminal proceedings in the case against the women would risk being closed and they can never be prosecuted in the Netherlands.
As a result, the Dutch government was forced to repatriate the women and children despite of domestic opposition.
"With the transfer to the Netherlands, the cabinet aims to prevent these twelve suspects from going unpunished," Minister of Justice and Security Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra wrote in a letter to the Dutch parliament on Tuesday.
Lawyer André Seebregts, who represents ISIS suspects in the Netherlands, told Kurdistan 24 on Thursday that “we are very happy that the 28th children and their 12 mothers have finally been repatriated. It should’ve happened a lot sooner.”
“The only thing the Dutch authorities “gained” by waiting so long is three extra years of trauma for the children. They now, finally, once again have a future. The mothers have all been arrested and will now be prosecuted. Yet they are all happy to be back in the Netherlands,” he added.
Moreover, he said now “that the women and children who have requested to be repatriated, I have been brought back, we will look into possibilities of having males (Dutch nationals) repatriated.”
According to a report of the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) from 2019 there are still five Dutch men in Syrian Kurdish prisons.
“While ensuring that any repatriated women who committed grave crimes face justice, the authorities should take into account that many women may, like their children, be victims of ISIS,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday.
The Netherlands is the latest of several governments, including Germany, France and Canada, Australia, that recently repatriated women and children, HRW said.
The Syrian Kurds have repeatedly called on foreign governments to repatriate their ISIS nationals.
“Even if governments have repatriated these nationals reluctantly, they can now set examples for other countries by providing these returnees with the reintegration services they need to rebuild their lives,” the HRW report added.
Letta Tayler, associate director of the Crisis and Conflict Division at Human Rights Watch, told Kurdistan 24 on Friday that the recent repatriations by the "Netherlands and other Western countries are a significant step forward."
"Ultimately, all countries should bring or allow home all nationals who wish to return, including men and women without children. Adults can be investigated and prosecuted if warranted."