French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Wednesday said he would discuss a judicial framework for putting jihadists 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 a way to have a judicial mechanism that is able to judge all these fighters, including obviously the French fighters,” he told BFM-TV, without specifying when he would go to Baghdad.
Seven European countries — France, Britain, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark — have during the last months been discussing setting up an international court in Iraq for putting foreign Islamic State (IS) jihadists 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 (IS) to justice and rebuilding the society.”
A major issue will be Iraq’s use of the death penalty, which is outlawed throughout the EU.
Hundreds of foreigners have been sentenced to death or life imprisonment in Iraq for belonging to the Islamic State group.
A dozen French jihadists held by Kurdish 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.
Eight 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 controversial Turkish offensive in northern Syria targeting Kurdish forces could lead to a mass prison outbreak of jihadists captured by the Kurds.
But Le Drian said the security of Kurdish-run prisons holding suspected jihadists in northern Syria was “currently” not threatened by the Turkish military operation.
“To my knowledge, the Turkish offensive and the positioning of the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) 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 IS prisoners held at a prison in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad “in an attempt to fuel chaos in the area.”
Kurdish officials, for their part, claimed that Turkish bombardments had allowed nearly 800 relatives of foreign IS fighters escape from a camp for the displaced.
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