BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq is in talks with the United Nations over whether it can prosecute foreign Islamic State fighters currently held in Syria who did not commit crimes in Iraq, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday.
Asked whether Iraq would consider prosecuting them, Abdul Mahdi told reporters at his weekly news conference that his government was exploring the idea and had submitted some of its findings to the United Nations.
“We haven’t yet gotten serious offers to receive Islamic State members from Syria who did not fight in Iraq,” he said.
Thousands of people, including men, women and children from more than 50 countries, are lingering in detention camps in northeastern Syria, held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The group includes at least 2,000 suspected foreign fighters, many from Western countries, whose fates remain unresolved against a backdrop of protracted diplomacy.
Iraq has shown a willingness to prosecute them during talks with the U.S. and European allies.
Iraq has been conducting trials of thousands of suspected Islamic State members, including hundreds of foreign men, women and children who were detained as the group’s strongholds crumbled.
In recent weeks, Iraqi courts have sentenced 11 French citizens to death after finding them guilty of belonging to Islamic State.
All French men convicted were extradited to Iraq in February, and military sources at the time said that 14 French citizens were among 280 Iraqi and foreign detainees handed over by the U.S-backed SDF.
Abdul Mahdi said Tuesday that only those individuals who “fought in Iraq and committed crimes in Iraq” were being prosecuted there.
However, at least 30 suspected foreign fighters captured in Syria since 2017 were quietly sent by U.S. forces to stand trial in Baghdad having never before set foot in Iraq, Reuters exclusively reported last month.
Iraq sentenced at least three of them to death.
(Reporting by Ahmed Rashed and Raya Jalabi; writing by Raya Jalabi; editing by Jonathan Oatis)