Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven floated the idea ahead of a European Union meeting Thursday, arguing for a tribunal model to investigate ISIS war crimes in Iraq and Syria, just like what was done in the past with the genocides in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
“This is pure and ritual evil and those who are guilty must take responsibility for this,” Löfven told Swedish media out Aftonbladet. “If you commit terrorist offences or war crimes, you must be sentenced for such crimes, no matter where it happens.”
According to Aftonbladet, Löfven said it’s imperative that foreign fighters who have fought alongside ISIS be brought to justice — not just for the victims but also for people’s trust in the legal system.
Swedish Justice Minister Morgan Johansson said he “sees great advantages to be able to convict those who have committed crimes” in connection with the fighting.
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Speaking Thursday after a meeting of the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs Council in Brussels, Johansson said he believes Sweden can use the same models of genocide tribunals in the past.
Examples of this include the first international tribunal, which was held after the Second World War in Nuremberg. Several Nazi criminals were tried for crimes committed during the Holocaust. There was also the international tribunal after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which indicted 93 people for crimes against humanity.
Sweden is asking for a similar approach to be taken with ISIS fighters but acknowledged the tribunal may look different due to a number of factors, like the involvement of the Syrian regime.
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Why the tribunal now?
ISIS has lost a significant portion of its territory in Syria and Iraq since declaring its so-called “caliphate” in 2014.
According to U.S. estimates, the group oversaw about 100,000 square kilometres of territory, with about eight million people under Islamic State control. It had estimated revenues of nearly one billion dollars a year.
A senior U.S. official in December 2018 said the group was down to its last one per cent of the territory it once held. It has no remaining territory in Iraq.
The same month, U.S. President Donald Trump declared ISIS defeated and ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria.
Now that ISIS has lost its stronghold in the area, there is the question of what to do with captured fighters.
Last month, the U.S. State Department issued a plea to countries, including Canada, to repatriate and prosecute their citizens who fought for ISIS and are now being held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed alliance dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia.
Kurdish forces are now grappling with the problem of what to do with the detained ISIS fighters, including Canadians.
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What is Canada doing to deal with ISIS fighters?
Close to a dozen Canadian fighters and many more children are believed to be in SDF custody, according to Global News investigations.
Those currently in detention in Syria include a Canadian who promoted ISIS on social media and another who is believed to have helped produce execution videos. Both have admitted to their activities in interviews with reporters.
In December, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said that senior members of the Kurdish-led SDF had discussed the possible release of some 1,100 ISIS fighters and over 2,000 family members of alleged terrorists.
And the RCMP say they are getting ready.
In February, a senior law enforcement official told Global News the RCMP are ramping up preparations for the possible arrival of suspected Canadian ISIS members.
Police are also working with prosecutors to prepare charges and peace bonds against the detainees.
Upon their arrival in Canada, the RCMP intend to conduct assessments and decide how to proceed with each case: criminal charges, terrorism peace bonds or interventions.
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