EU States Balk at Trump’s Call for Taking Back IS Fighters to Try Them
Collecting relevant evidence to be used in European courts appears practically impossible.
Officials from several EU states have been inconclusive as to whether their countries can comply with the call of US President Donald Trump to take back more than 800 of their nationals who fought for the Islamic State, and put them on trial.
As the US-back Kurdish dominated Syrian Democratic Forces were closing in on the last pocket of IS held territory near the Syria – Iraq border over the weekend, Trump urged “Britain, France, Germany, and other European allies” of the US to receive their citizens who had been captured as Islamic State fighters, and try them.
The Islamic State was born in 2014 when its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took advantage of chaos in both Syria and Iraq to declare himself a caliph seeking to unite all Muslim people and territories.
At its height, IS attracted thousands of international fighters, including radicalized youth from the Muslim communities in the Western European EU member states.
Reacting to Trump’s call, however, European officials have made it clear that the issue of taking back European jihadists, and slap adequate sentences on them is not at all a simple one.
Few of the relevant EU countries have embassies or extradition treaties in Syria and Iraq where captured jihadists might be subject to torture or the death penalty, France24 points out in a report.
Gathering evidence for European courts could prove to be impossible, while the fate of European jihadists’ wives and children further complicates the whole conundrum surrounding the IS fighters.
“It is certainly not as easy as they think in America,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters Monday at a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
“German citizens have the right to return, but we have little ability in Syria at present to check whether German citizens are actually affected,” he added.
Maas said authorities would have to “check to what extent they were involved in fighting for IS, which would result in criminal proceedings having to be opened against them”.
“These people can come to Germany only if it is ensured that they can immediately be taken into custody,” he said.
The largest group of European recruits of the Islamic State come from France. In 2015 and 2016, a group cell of French and Belgian fighters went back from Syria via Turkey, and carried out deadly terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels.
“The last territorial bastions of Daesh are falling, which doesn’t mean that the action of Daesh is finished. On the contrary,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
“For the time being we are not changing our policy. At this stage France is not responding to [Trump’s] demands,” added French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet in an interview with France 2 television.
The UK refuses to receive IS fighters that it has stripped of citizenship, while Belgium’s authorities have made it clear they would not seek actively the release of Belgian citizens in custody, 12 in Syria and 2 in Iraq.
Many other EU states have not made known their position on the issue of IS fighters.
“Our major endeavor now should be not to allow them to come back to Europe,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto is quoted as saying.
(Banner image: European Council)