June 24, 2019 10:40 am
Updated: June 24, 2019 10:54 am

55,000 ISIS-linked people — including Canadians — should be tried fairly or freed: UN

April 9: A Global News investigation reveals Canadian terrorists are responsible for a significant loss of life in other countries, such as Syria and Iraq. Jeff Semple reports.


UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Monday that 55,000 captured Islamic State fighters, including foreigners, and their families detained in Syria and Iraq should face fair trials or be freed.

States “must assume responsibility for their nationals” and should not inflict statelessness on fighters’ children who have already suffered so much, Bachelet also told the UN Human Rights Council as it opened a three-week session in Geneva.

WATCH: June 18 – Canadian victims of terrorist attacks call for more support

The 55,000 include suspected foreign fighters from nearly 50 countries and 11,000 family members held at the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria “in deeply sub-standard conditions,” she said.

“Accountability through fair trials protects societies from future radicalisation and violence,” Bachelet said. “And the continuing detention of individuals not suspected of crimes, in the absence of (a) lawful basis and regular independent judicial review, is not acceptable,” Bachelet said.

Authorities in northeast Syria have been urging Western countries to take back citizens who joined Islamic State and their relatives after the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured the group’s last enclave this year.

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READ MORE: Deadly export – Canadians responsible for hundreds of terrorism deaths and injuries overseas

“Foreign family members should be repatriated unless they are to be prosecuted for crimes in accordance with international standards. Children, in particular, have suffered grievous violations of their rights – including those who may have been indoctrinated or recruited by ISIL to perpetrate violent acts,” Bachelet said.

Few countries have seemed willing to take back their citizens, who may be hard to prosecute, and the issue has led to fierce debate in their home countries where there is little public sympathy for the families of jihadists.

The United States, France and the Netherlands have each repatriated a small number of women or children from northeast Syria, but many others remain there.

WATCH: April 9 – More than 300 terrorism deaths and injuries attributed to Canadians since 2012

Some children born during the conflict have been left stateless.

“To inflict statelessness on children who have already suffered so much is an act of irresponsible cruelty’,” Bachelet said.

“I urge all states to assume responsibility for their nationals, and to work together to provide resources to help the relevant authorities and actors in Syria and Iraq to address urgent humanitarian needs,” she said.

READ MORE: A growing number of Canadian victims of overseas terrorism, but little support for them

There are Canadians among foreign fighters who have been linked to the Islamic State.

An analysis by Global News found that Canadian terrorists have killed or hurt more than 300 people in countries including Algeria, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Iraq, Russia, Somalia and Syria since 2012.

The people killed in those attacks have hailed from countries including the United States, the U.K., France, India, Israel, Italy and the Philippines.

Dozens of Canadians linked to ISIS have been caught by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces amid the terrorist group’s collapse.

READ MORE: Turkey willing to help Canada repatriate ISIS members held in Syria, official says

  • With files from Stewart Bell

© 2019 Thomson Reuters

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