PARIS: French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday he would visit Iraq soon in a bid to hammer out a judicial framework to enable Islamic State (IS) insurgents to face trial where they are held.
“We must make sure, with the Iraqi authorities, that we find the means to have a judicial system that could try all these fighters, including the French ones,” Le Drian told BFMTV news channel.
“Our concern is that security is no longer assured and that the Kurds are abandoning these camps. This is a major danger. This is why I am going to Iraq soon,” he said.
Dozens of French IS fighters and hundreds of French women and children are being held by Kurdish groups in areas close to the Turkish offensive. France fears they could escape amid the strike, return home and carry out attacks.
“To my knowledge, the Turkish offensive and the positioning of the SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) have not so far threatened the safety and security of these camps. Currently, jihadist prison camps are still held by the Kurds,” Le Drian said.
France has repeatedly expressed a preference for its citizens held in Iraq and Syria and who fought with the Islamic State to be prosecuted there, fearing growing militancy at home.
In coordination with six other European countries — the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark — France has been working for the establishment of an international court in Iraq.
Some 12,000 fighters, including Syrians and Iraqis, as well as about 3,000 foreigners from 54 countries are detained in Kurdish jails, local media said citing official Kurdish data.
Reports said 785 relatives of IS jihadists, among them several french fighters and hundreds of women and children, fled on Sunday from the AinIssa camp after being bombarded by Turkish forces.
Le Drian stressed that women who had joined the Islamic State should also face trial in the region, but Paris would examine the cases of minors.
“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.
While in Baghdad, the French minister also plans to discuss ways to guarantee Iraq’s security and help the country face the risk of the resurgence of the IS, which had plunged the country into its bloodiest conflict to date.