French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he would discuss a judicial framework for putting foreign Islamic State fighters on trial during an upcoming visit to Iraq, as calls grow for an international court to judge the extremists.
“We need to work things out with the Iraqi authorities so that we can find the ways to have a judicial mechanism that is able to judge all these fighters, including obviously the French fighters,” he told BFM-TV, on Wednesday, October 16, without specifying when he would go to Baghdad.
Seven European countries – France, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom – have during the last months been discussing setting up an international court in Iraq for putting foreign ISIS fighters on trial.
Officials from all seven countries took part in a technical mission to Baghdad to assess the situation.
In a joint statement they said they had learned from the Iraqi authorities about “the daunting task they are facing in bringing Daesh to justice and rebuilding the society,” using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
A major issue will be Iraq’s use of the death penalty, which is outlawed throughout the European Union.
Hundreds of foreigners have been sentenced to death or life imprisonment in Iraq for belonging to ISIS.
A dozen French jihadists held by the Syrian Democratic Forces forces in northern Syria were already handed over to the Iraqi authorities at the end of the January to be put on trial although Le Drian said further transfers were not planned at the moment.
A number of French citizens have been sentenced to death in Iraq but none of the executions have been carried out.
The technical mission said it had reiterated its opposition to the death penalty “in all places and in all circumstances” to the Iraqi authorities.
There have been concerns that the Turkish offensive in northern Syria targeting Kurdish forces could lead to a mass prison outbreak of ISIS adherents captured by the Kurds.
But Le Drian said the security of SDF-run prisons holding suspected foreign fighters in northern Syria was “currently” not threatened by the Turkish military operation.
“To my knowledge, the Turkish offensive and the positioning of the SDF have so far not led to the safety and security of these camps … currently being threatened,” he said.
Turkey on Monday accused Kurdish forces of deliberately releasing ISIS prisoners held at a prison in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad “in an attempt to fuel chaos in the area.”
SDF officials, for their part, claimed that Turkish bombardments had allowed nearly 800 relatives of foreign ISIS fighters escape from a camp for the displaced.
With reporting from AFP