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France ordered to revisit repatriation request of 'IS' wives

September 14, 2022

A European court has sided with the parents of two French women who say their children and grandchildren have been forced to stay in inhumane conditions in Syria.

The al-Hol camp holds relatives of suspected IS fighters
The al-Hol camp holds relatives of suspected IS fightersImage: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

The European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday ruled that France must re-examine repatriation requests from two French womenwho travelled to Syria with their partners to join the so-called 'Islamic State', and the children they gave birth to there.

Responding to a suit by the womens' parents, the court said that France's refusal to bring the women back was a violation of the right to "enter the territory of the state of which (one) is a national."

The court ordered the government to pay one set of parents €18,000 ($18,000) and the other €13,200 in damages and costs.

"The law has triumphed," the father of one of the women, who gave only his first name, Albert, said after the ruling. "I hope that they are not going to spend another winter over there, my grandson is only three and a half years old and that's all he's ever known."

France hesitant on repatriation after attacks 

The two women and their children are currently in a Kurdish-run detention camp in Syria that holds tens of thousands of suspected relatives of IS fighters. Rights groups say that at least 75 of the women and 160 of the children are French.

In court, the families argued that the children and grandchildren had been subjected to inhumane treatment and degrading conditions during their prolonged stay in Syria. They took the case to the European court in Strasbourg after a French judge ruled that Paris could not be held responsible for the living conditions of the Syrian camps since "it was not exercizing its jurisdiction there."

France has been one of the last holdouts in the EU to resist bringing back its nationals from Syria en masse, instead opting for a case-by-case basis that has left dozens of French citizens languishing in detention camps for years.

However, in July, Paris showed signs of breaking with that longstanding policy by bringing back 16 women and 25 children together on chartered planes.

One of the reasons that repatriating IS-affiliated citizens is particulary controversial in France is because of a wave of jihadist attacks in the country that has killed 250 people since 2015. A judicial source told French news agency AFP that one of the women brought back in July was the widow of a man who attackedthe Bataclan concert venue in November 2015. She and another woman have been jailed while they await trial on terrorism charges.

es/jcg (AFP, Reuters)