On 23 January 2022, the Council of Europe’s parliamentary body, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), will debate and vote on a report and a draft resolution on “Addressing the issue of Daesh foreign fighters and their families” returning to Council of Europe member states from Syria and other countries . The report and draft resolution were authored by Mr. Pieter Omtzigt, member of the Dutch Parliament and PACE Special Rapporteur on bringing Daesh to justice. Mr. Omtzigt has authored several other PACE reports and resolutions on Daesh’s genocidal atrocities and comprehensive Necessity. He also secured the first characterization of the Daesh atrocity as genocide by a major international body. Now he is calling on PACE members to address the issue of Daesh foreign fighters who may be returning home to Europe.
Daesh is a terrorist organization that includes thousands of foreign fighters, including more than 5,000 from Europe, guilty of murder, enslavement, deportation and forced population transfer, imprisonment, torture, abduction of women and children, exploitation, abuse , rape, sexual violence and forced marriage. Governments, parliaments and international institutions have recognized these atrocities as crimes against humanity and war crimes. Atrocities were said to meet the legal definition of genocide under article II of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide when they targeted religious or belief minorities, including Yazidis and Christians. On August 3, 2014, Daesh launched a ban on the Yazidis, an ethno-religious minority in Iraq. Daesh fighters have killed hundreds, if not thousands. As part of the same movement, Daesh fighters kidnap boys and turn them into child soldiers and women and girls into sex slaves. More than 2,700 women and children remain unaccounted for and their whereabouts unknown. Days after attacking Sinjar, Daesh also attacked the plains of Nineveh and forced more than 120,000 people to flee in the middle of the night.
Decisions on genocide have been made by several international bodies, including PACE, the European Parliament, the US State Department, the governments of Canada and the Netherlands, and more than a dozen parliaments. Most recently, on January 19, 2023, the German Parliament also recognized it.
The international community came together to stop Daesh. However, Daesh has not disappeared from the region. Moreover, Daesh’s ideology is far from neutralized. Daesh continues to pose a threat to communities in the Middle East, as Mr Omtzigt warned, “[Daesh] Foreign fighters suspected of involvement in genocide or other serious international crimes pose a serious threat to society. It is this ideology that drives them to commit such crimes, including the genocide of the Yazidis. He further added that with regard to Daesh foreign fighters, who traveled to the Middle East to sow havoc and commit atrocities aimed at destroying religious or belief minorities, and who continue to pose a threat to communities, “it is crucial to consider the loss of their families The right to live… Separation from a child may also be necessary in the best interest of the child. States should therefore consider repatriating the children of foreign fighters to their countries of nationality to join their families instead of returning their parents. “
Over the past eight years, few have brought the perpetrators to justice. Mr Omtzigt’s report and draft resolution call for a comprehensive response to atrocities and responses that center victims and survivors. In response, on January 19, 2023, several human rights organizations and experts called on PACE members to support the report and draft resolution and renew efforts to ensure justice and accountability. As their joint statement states, “It is vital that everyone who commits or complicates these international crimes accepts full and complete responsibility for their actions. Unfortunately, as we have seen in recent years As we have seen, there has been a trend in parts of Europe and North America in which Daesh members — especially female members — try to get better outcomes for themselves by lying about ignorance or victimization and relying on legal means to evade responsibility for their actions Without repentance or remorse.” They further added, “Neither the ongoing threat posed by ISIS fighters nor the pervasive ideology that drives them to commit genocidal atrocities can be diminished. Ensuring justice and accountability is therefore key. Without it, growing impunity will only fuel more crime.”
ISIS members cannot escape justice. Likewise, victims and survivors cannot wait decades for justice and accountability. As justice is delayed, it is denied, and it sends a heinous message that one can escape genocide. Global PACE members and politicians must find the political will to resettle the victims and survivors – as they have repeatedly promised.