PARIS (Reuters) – France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that he would soon go to Iraq to discuss a judicial framework to enable jihadists being held in Syria to face trial.
“The subject with the Iraqi authorities is to find a judicial system that could try all these fighters, including the French ones,” Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM television, referring to Islamic State militants held in Kurdish-controlled camps in northeastern Syria.
European states are trying to fast-track a plan to shift thousands of foreign Islamic State militants out of Syrian prison camps and into Iraq, after the outbreak of fresh conflict in Syria raised the risk of jihadists escaping or returning home, diplomats and officials have told Reuters.
“There needs to be an ad hoc judicial system and that’s what we’ll be talking to the Iraqi authorities about,” le Drian said.
Le Drian said he would head to Iraq very soon because it was vital to offer support to Baghdad which was in danger of seeing the hardline militant group revive its activities in the northwest Iraq.
Iraq saw some of the bloodiest battles against Islamic State and its government is already conducting trials of thousands of suspected Islamic State insurgents with many arrested as the group’s strongholds crumbled throughout Iraq.
Le Drian said that nine French women had already escaped on Sunday from the Ain Issa camp in northwestern Syria. Kurdish officials have said almost 800 people fled that camp after the Turkish offensive into northern Syria targeted the area.
Le Drian said women, who had joined Islamic State, should also face justice in the region, although Paris would look to bring back children.
“The French women who went to this region in 2015 knew what they were doing. They aren’t tourists. They are fighters against France and must face trial (in Iraq) if possible,” he said.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Toby Chopra)