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Kurds Demand International War Crimes Tribunal for Syrian ISIS Fighters

Syria's al-Hawl refugee camp. (Photo: YouTube)
Syria's al-Hawl refugee camp in September 2019. (Photo: Washington Post, YouTube)

“Evidence, proof and witnesses against them are in this region, and we can prosecute them.”

Officials in the Kurdish-led region of north-eastern Syria are calling for an international war crimes tribunal to be held for Islamic State fighters currently held in overcrowded regional prisons and refugee camps, according to a report from the Guardian.

Estimates from the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria claim the number of detained Islamic State fighters in the region is about 6,000, including 1,000 foreigners and 60 Britons, yet the Guardian claims the number could be much higher. Some fighters have been in custody for two or more years without a trial.

The Foreign Minister of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, Dr. Abdulkarim Omar, announced a “call for the installation of an international tribunal to bring to justice fighters in our region.”

“Those people, the ISIS criminals, committed their crimes in our region and against our communities. Evidence, proof and witnesses against them are in this region, and we can prosecute them.”

The United States has a military force of 1,000 soldiers in the region but is opposed to the installation of a war crimes tribunal. Instead the U.S. wants the foreign fighters to be repatriated and tried back in their home countries. The refugee camps are overflowing as it is and typically severely short on staff.

The refugee camp of Hawl, for instance, had been home to about 10,000 Iraqi and Syrian women and children who fled ISIS, including women from Tunisia, Somalia and Russia, along with British and Australian citizens. However, the camp’s population has dramatically increased in size and was reported at around 73,000 in June of 2019, but only 400 hundred guards or so monitor the camp.

Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, with help from Russia has taken back control of most of Syria and fought off militant insurgent Islamic groups across Syria, forcing them out to border regions. However, parts of northern Syria are still under outside control.

In the Kurdish dominated north-eastern Syria, Turkey and the U.S. have pushed for the establishment of a planned safe zone inside of Syria along the Turkish border. Referring to the safe zone as a “peace corridor,” the zone’s goal is to return one million of the estimated three million-plus Syrians displaced in Turkey due to the Syrian War.

Syria has, however, rejected the notion of the safe zone and accused the U.S. and Turkey of using the pretense of fighting “terrorism” as a “tool to impose their insidious agendas on the people and governments that reject their external dictates,” as Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said during his speech at the recent United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“Any foreign forces operating in our territories without our authorization are occupying forces and should withdraw immediately,” Muallem warned.

Rami Almeghari

Rami Almeghari is a freelance independent writer, journalist and lecturer, based in the Gaza Strip. Rami has contributed in English to several media outlets worldwide, including print, radio and TV. He can be reached on facebook as Rami Munir Almeghari and on email as [email protected]

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