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Kurds begin prosecution of Daesh suspects in north-east Syria

Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units militia (YPG)
Members of the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units militia (YPG), 28 February 2015 [Kurdishstruggle/Flickr]

The Kurdish-led administration in north-east Syria has referred approximately 900 suspected Daesh fighters to its legal system for trial in the city of Qamishli.

According to Saudi news outlet Asharq Al-Awsat, the People’s Defence Court run by the Kurdish-led militias east of the River Euphrates is looking into the cases of the suspects who are alleged to have fought for or served the terror group. Khaled Ali, a member of the Social Justice Council of North and East Syria, said that the trials will be based on Decree number 20 issued by the administration’s Legislative Council.

Captured Daesh fighters have been held in prisons run by the Kurdish militias such as the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) since the self-styled caliphate’s military defeat two years ago. There are estimated to be 19,000 of them altogether, around 12,000 of whom are Syrians with the rest alleged to be foreign fighters who joined Daesh during the conflict in Syria.

The referral of the suspects to the Kurdish-led court follows a series of changes to the status of the prisoners and their detention. The administration announced on Saturday, for example, that it is to release all of those detained for petty crimes or suffering terminal diseases, and those over the age of 75. However, those who were Daesh commanders or are charged with crimes like treason, espionage, honour killings, sexual abuse and participation in the narcotics trade will not be given an amnesty.

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There are also tens of thousands of Daesh fighters’ family members of in a number of camps in north-east Syria. The largest of these is Al-Hol, from which Kurdish officials announced last week that up to 15,000 of its Syrian inhabitants could be released.

A key issue for the Kurdish administration to deal with is that of the detained foreign fighters and their families. The Kurds have been calling regularly on their home countries to repatriate and prosecute them. The mainly European countries, however, have largely refused to accept the return of their citizens and have sometimes stripped them of their nationality, insisting that they are a potential threat to national security.

Khalid Ali has called for the establishment of an international court to put the foreign suspects on trial. This, he explained, could guarantee that suspects from 55 countries get a fair trial under international law.

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