A UN committee, which examined complaints concerning 49 French children, found that France had violated the rights of French children detained in Syria by failing to repatriate them.
Martin Pradel, who presented certain requests, explained to Agence France-Presse:
“This is the first time that such a high-level body has said so clearly that France has failed in its obligations with regard to these children who are not accused of anything, and who, because of their age, do not have committed any kind of offence. »
According to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, “France’s refusal to repatriate French children detained in Syrian camps in life-threatening conditions for years violates their right to life, as well as their right not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment”.
This committee is made up of 18 independent experts responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its States Parties. He was responsible for examining three petitions filed by a group of French nationals whose grandchildren, nieces and nephews are currently detained in the Roj, Ain Issa and Hol camps, which are under the control of Kurdish forces.
“Risk of indoctrination”
The three cases concern 49 French children, whose parents allegedly collaborated with the Islamic State group. Some were born in Syria, while others traveled there with their French parents at a very young age.
The fact that France did not repatriate the children is, according to the Committee, “undeniably undermines the protection of their best interests since it results in their continued and indefinite detention in the camps, in conditions threatening their survival and their physical integrity, (…) and where there is a risk of indoctrination”.
What is important, underlined Marie Dosé, lawyer for the applicants, is that the Committee “says that France may not be responsible for their detention, but for their continued detention”.
Since the relatives brought their case to the Committee in 2019, the French government has repatriated 11 of these children. The 38 other child victims, some of whom are only 5 years old, are still being held in closed camps in a war zone.
The UN Committee believes that “France has the responsibility and the power to protect French children in Syrian camps against an imminent risk to their lives by taking measures to repatriate them”. It further considers that the prolonged detention of child victims in life-threatening conditions also amounts to “inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment”.
France urged to take urgent action
The experts also concluded that France had failed to demonstrate “that it had duly taken into account the best interests of child victims when assessing requests for the repatriation of their relatives”.
The Committee urges France to take urgent measures to repatriate the remaining 38 child victims, together with their mothers “in order to preserve the family environment”. In the meantime, he asks the French authorities “to take additional measures to mitigate the risks to the life, survival and development of child victims during their stay in northeastern Syria”.
In these camps, “Children live in inhuman sanitary conditions, lack basic necessities including water, food and health care, and face imminent risk of death”underlined Ann Skelton, member of the UN Committee. “At least 62 children are believed to have died in the camps because of these conditions since the start of 2021. The situation is therefore extremely urgent”she said.