Iraq begins trials for 900 jihadists; Syria Kurds return 25 Yazidis to Iraq
Iraq has begun trial proceedings for nearly 900 Iraqi suspected members of the Islamic State group caught fleeing jihadist territory in neighbouring Syria, a judicial source told AFP on Sunday.
They were handed over to Iraqi authorities by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which ousted IS from swathes of eastern Syria including territory bordering Iraq.
“We received the interrogation files of nearly 900 Iraqi Daesh (IS) members coming from Syria,” the court official said, speaking anonymously because he was not authorised to talk to the media.
“The specialised terrorism court has begun setting dates for their trial in batches,” the source added.
The nearly 900 suspected jihadists were transferred by the SDF to Iraqi custody in recent months as the remnants of IS’ once sprawling self-declared “caliphate” collapsed in neighbouring Syria.
Additional Iraqi suspects are in SDF custody and awaiting transferral, a security source told AFP Sunday.
“They will be handed over in batches on the Syrian-Iraqi border. They include very influential leaders, but IS had sought to keep them hidden,” the security source said.
One of those destined to be handed over was deeply involved in IS’ efforts to develop chemical weapons, he said.
Iraq has already tried thousands of its own nationals arrested on home soil for joining IS — including women — and has sentenced hundreds to death.
The country remains in the top five “executioner” nations in the world, according to an Amnesty International report released last week.
The number of death sentences issued by Iraqi courts more than quadrupled from 65 in 2017 to at least 271 in 2018.
But fewer were actually carried out, according to Amnesty, with 52 executions in 2018 compared to 125 in 2017.
In addition to locals, Iraq has also tried hundreds of foreigners, condemning many to life in prison and others to death, although no foreign IS members have yet been executed.
Among those awaiting trial in Baghdad are 12 accused French IS members, who were caught in Syria and transferred to Iraqi custody in February.
Baghdad has offered to try all foreign fighters in SDF custody — estimated at around 1,000 — in exchange for millions of dollars, Iraqi government sources have told AFP.
Rights groups including Human Rights Watch have criticised these trials, which they say often rely on circumstantial evidence or confessions obtained under torture.
Syria Kurds return 25 Yazidis freed from IS to Iraq
Qazlajokh, Syria (AFP) April 13, 2019 -
Syrian Kurds on Saturday repatriated 25 women and children from Iraq’s Yazidi minority after freeing them during the final push against the Islamic State group, a local official said.
The US-backed fighters say they rescued some 300 Yazidi women and children during the fight to take the jihadists’ last scrap of territory in eastern Syria.
“Today, we will hand over 25 people — 10 women and 15 children — to the Yazidi council in Sinjar,” said Ziyad Rustam, an official with the Kurdish-run group Yazidi House, which reunites rescued Yazidi children with surviving relatives.
“They will be sent to their families,” he told AFP.
At the Yazidi House headquarters in a village near the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, women wearing colourful robes collected children scampering around the compound before boarding busses bound for Sinjar, the Yazidi heartland in Iraq.
“The fate of my three sisters remains unknown… I don’t know anything about them,” said 17-year-old Jamila Haidar.
“I hope we will be reunited soon.”
Iraq’s Yazidis are a symbol of the suffering caused by the Islamic State (IS) group during its rein over vast swathes of Syria and Iraq.
The jihadists stormed through Iraq’s northwest in 2014 slaughtering thousands of men and boys and abducting women and girls to be abused as sex slaves.
But they have since lost all of the once-sprawling cross-border “caliphate” to multiple offensive.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces last month announced the defeat of the IS proto-state after tens of thousands of people streamed out of the jihadists’ last patch of territory, around the village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.
Rustam said SDF had in total liberated 850 Yazidi women and children during its battles against IS since 2015.
But 3,040 Yazidis are still missing, he said, adding that the search for them was ongoing.
Rustam said the jihadists had “sold many of them to people inside Syria, in places like Idlib”, most of which is held by a former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
Some of the Yazidis extracted from IS’s last sliver of territory are being held at the Kurdish-run Al-Hol camp, which also houses jihadist family members.
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Western countries have been rocked by fierce public debate over whether to repatriate citizens who joined the Islamic State group, which held swathes of Iraq and Syria for years before losing its last speck of land last month. Around 1,000 suspected foreign IS fighters are in detention i … read more
Iraq offers to try foreign IS suspects, for a price
Baghdad (AFP) April 10, 2019
Iraq has offered to put on trial hundreds of accused foreign jihadists in Baghdad in exchange for millions of dollars, potentially solving a legal conundrum for Western governments but sparking rights concerns.
Western countries have been rocked by fierce public debate over whether to repatriate citizens who joined the Islamic State group, which held swathes of Iraq and Syria for years before losing its last speck of land last month.
Around 1,000 suspected foreign IS fighters are in detention i … read more