The issue of nationals of more than 50 States held at the Al Hol and Roj camps in Northeastern Syria has attracted the attention of the UN Security Council, the Human Rights Council, UN Independent Experts, treaty bodies, regional human rights courts, national courts, the media, and others. The repatriation of these children back into France is complicated by the allegation that their parents have collaborated with Da’esh, the ISIL terrorist group. Most of those detained are women and children, and States have raised logistical, legal, national security and other related arguments to systematically refuse to repatriate the children. While a human rights based approach to deal with the issue is critical, many States have continued to use non-transparent criteria for determining eligibility for repatriation. Meanwhile, foreign nationals continue to be detained in dire situations in the camps.
In February 2022, in Communication Nos 77/2019, 79/2019 and 109/2019, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child found that the Government of France has violated its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child for its “failure to repatriate French children who have been held in Syrian camps in life-threatening conditions for years”. The cases involved 49 French children some of whom are as young as five years old. Some of the children travelled to Syria with their parents while others were born in the country. A similar case (H.F. and M.F. v. France and J.D. and A.D. v. France (nos. 24384/19 and 44234/20) against France is currently pending before the Grand Chamber of the European Court on Human Rights. The Webinar will explore the international human rights, international humanitarian law, and national security issues around these cases. In doing so it will touch on topics such as best interests of the child, extraterritorial obligation of states, and the balance that needs to be struck between legitimate national security interests of States versus their human rights and humanitarian law obligations.