The wives and children of Islamic State fighters captured in Syria filed a legal complaint against French authorities for refusing to repatriate them, their lawyers announced on Wednesday.
Syrian Kurdish forces have captured around 40 French men and women accompanied by some 20 children who were living in ISIS-held areas.
The French government has said that men and women detained in Kurdish-held areas of Syria should be held there if they can be guaranteed a fair trial. But their lawyers argue that France has a duty to repatriate its citizens.
“These women who went out there are the object of legal proceedings in France,” lawyers Marie Dose, William Bourdon, Martin Pradel and Marc Bailly said in a statement.
“They accept that they must face up to their criminal responsibilities as soon as they arrive on French territory.”
The families have filed a legal complaint against French authorities for arbitrary detention and abuse of authorities. Their lawyers argued that French authorities are “exposing these mothers and children to obvious risks – notably in terms of their health, in a warzone” and that the Kurdish-held areas of Syria where they are held is not a legally recognized state.
French officials have indicated they will not repatriate Emilie König, a 33-year-old French national arrested last month by the Syrian Democratic Forces. König, the daughter of a police officer, had appealed publicly to be returned to France.
All French citizens who have traveled to Iraq and Syria since January 2015 to participate in the fighting, or recruitment or organization of terrorist groups are deemed to be participants in criminal association, a French diplomatic source previously told The Defense Post.
However, “if the individuals concerned were to be tried by the Iraqi courts, then they could not be tried for the same offenses in France,” said the source who asked not to be referred to by name.
France has extended consular assistance to some of its citizens, including a woman arrested in Mosul last year with her four children in an area controlled by ISIS. She is believed to be the wife of an ISIS fighter. The source told The Defense Post that the woman had received consular visits and France was working with Iraqi authorities to “achieve a successful outcome with respect to the humanitarian situation of these minor children.”
With reporting from AFP