20 UN experts call on Switzerland to repatriate 2 young girls from Syria

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Switzerland is violating international law by not repatriating two girls aged 8 and 14 from Syria, according to twenty UN experts. They are in a camp in the northeast after being reportedly abducted by their mother 5 years ago when she joined IS.

Until now, the Federal Council has always refused a possible return of the Swiss who went to jihad in Syria or their relatives. The girls’ two fathers, both residents of Geneva, asked him to repatriate them.

Read also: Sélina, Lausannoise detained in Syria: “I understood that Switzerland no longer wants us”

The mother had taken the two children for a vacation in 2016, but ended up with them in Syria with the jihadists of the Islamic State (IS). Despite repeated requests from the UN or the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), most Western states, such as Switzerland, refuse to bring back their young nationals detained in this country.

Very precarious living conditions

Children should not suffer the effects “of simply being born to individuals suspected of being associated with terrorist groups,” the twenty independent experts said Thursday from Geneva. The mother was arrested in 2019 by Kurdish units of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), along with her daughters.

The detention of these in precarious conditions, first in the camp of al-Hol then in that of Roj, “exposes them to all kinds of abuses”, add these specialists, of which the special rapporteur of the UN against torture, Zurich resident Nils Melzer. Especially since the medical situation of the half-sisters is of great concern.

Also read: “It is death assured if I return to the Islamic State”

The oldest is facing several problems, including a leg injury from the violence, which reportedly required three operations. Both are likely to lack the care they need, according to independent experts who do not speak for the UN.

Responsibility of the Federal Council

These specialists believe that children detained for association with armed groups should be recognized as victims of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL). Family reunification should take place if possible, they say.

The detention of these girls violates international conventions to which Switzerland is a state party, they insist. The Swiss refusal not to repatriate the mother should not keep her children in the situation they are facing. The independent experts add that the Federal Council has a responsibility to protect its nationals against the threat of serious violations of their human rights.

In 2019, the government mentioned around 20 Swiss nationals detained in Syria or Iraq for suspected terrorist reasons. He explained his refusal to actively repatriate these individuals for security reasons, while admitting that these people have the right to return to the territory. In total, several thousand children from different countries face similar conditions in northeastern Syria.