Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 8 December 2019

UN investigator rebukes France over extremist captives in Iraq

Agnes Callamard urges Paris to repatriate seven men so they can face fair trial

Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, urged Paris to repatriate the seven suspected terrorists so they could face a fair trial. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, urged Paris to repatriate the seven suspected terrorists so they could face a fair trial. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

A UN human rights expert chided France on Monday for its possible role in the transfer of seven suspected terrorists from Syria to Iraq, but the European country's Foreign Ministry dismissed her concerns as speculation.

The seven French nationals were arrested by the Syrian Democratic Forces before being transferred to Iraq in February, and UN extrajudicial executions investigator Agnes Callamard accused the French government of being involved.

Ms Callamard said the men were sentenced to death after "unfair trials" in Iraq. She urged France to repatriate the men so they receive justice.

“I am particularly disturbed by allegations that France may have had a role in this transfer, given the risk involved of torture and unfair trials, and that they would likely face the death penalty,” Ms Callamard said.

She also described the Iraqi justice system as being “marred by very serious structural problems”.

France opposes the death penalty and has rules against it extruding people who may face the punishment or being involved in such trials. But the Foreign Ministry in Pairs said the allegations were “not sustained, are pure speculation and are hers only”. France maintains that as they were not involved in the handover or the trial, they have not broken any French laws.

"We are increasing the steps to avoid the death penalty for these four French citizens," Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in May when the first cases against French nationals concluded.

The ministry reaffirmed the government’s position that citizens who joined ISIS should be tried near to where crimes were committed not brought back to Paris to face justice.

It said Iraq was aware that France opposed capital punishment and it asked that the death penalty was not applied.

Eleven French nationals and one French resident have been sentenced to death for supporting ISIS.

France is among several European countries that have been pressured to repatriate citizens who joined the militants who took over swaths of the country in a lightning offensive in 2014.

Since ISIS’s last stronghold in the Syrian village of Baghouz was retaken by US-backed Kurdish forces in March, countries who have had citizens leave to fight for the extremists increased their efforts to get them home.

Forty-five prominent French defence lawyers signed an open letter after the sentencing in May saying the government was violating the constitution while using the threat of terrorism. The government dismissed the accusation as well.

Roughly 450 French nationals are believed to be held up in camps and prisons in Syria, captured in the dying days of the ISIS proto-state.

Updated: August 13, 2019 06:18 PM

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