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SDF calls for international tribunal to try ISIS members in Syria

The U.S.-backed force that defeated Islamic State in Syria has called for the international community to set up a special tribunal in the country to try detained ISIS members.

“We call on the international community to establish a special international tribunal in northeast Syria to prosecute terrorists,” the Syrian Democratic Forces said in a Monday, March 25 statement.

In this way, “trials can be conducted fairly and in accordance with international law and human rights covenants and charters,” it said.

“The Kurdish administration in northeast Syria has appealed to the international community to shoulder its responsibilities towards members of the terrorist organization detained by Kurdish security forces,” read Monday’s statement.

“But unfortunately there was no response,” it said.

It called on the international community, particularly countries that have nationals detained, to support the establishment of an international tribunal, calling for legal and logistical cooperation and coordination.

SDF spokesperson Mustafa Bali previously called on the United Nations to establish a special international court in northern Syria to try ISIS fighters.

In the past, two international tribunals were created by the international community: the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which tried genocide perpetrators in the African country, and the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which tried those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in wars that tore apart the Balkans in the 1990s.

Analysis: Murky legal future for captured ISIS fighters

The SDF on Saturday declared “total” victory over ISIS in Syria, announcing that it had cleared the fighters from their last remaining sliver of territory in Baghuz in Deir Ezzor province near the Syria-Iraq border.

But the SDF and the U.S.-led Coalition have warned that ISIS will not disappear with the loss of its self-declared caliphate which once stretched over Iraq and Syria, covering an area as big as the United Kingdom.

The Coalition said on Saturday that more than 60,000 ISIS members and civilians – most of whom are ISIS families – had surrendered or fled from Baghuz over the past month. The SDF told AFP on Monday that, as of last week, the force is detaining 9,000 ISIS family members.

Iraq declared the group vanquished from the country in December 2017, although ISIS sleeper cells have continued to carry out attacks in its former territory.

The future of the thousands of ISIS fighters, both from the region and countries as far as Indonesia and the United States, remains uncertain as many of their home countries refuse to repatriate them.

The SDF has warned that it does not have the resources to continue detaining the fighters indefinitely, and international law is not clear on what should happen to them, not least because of the difficulty in establishing the roles of ISIS members, because the SDF is a non-governmental actor, and because the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court.

The ICC is not part of the United Nations.

American officials have refused to confirm another possibility: whether ISIS members whose home countries have revoked their citizenship could be renditioned to the U.S. military detention center in Guantanamo Bay.

SDF declares ‘total’ victory over ISIS in Syria


With reporting from AFP

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