11:54 GMT27 February 2020
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    BRUSSELS (Sputnik) - The Belgian prime minister's office and diplomats are currently working with French, German, UK and Dutch officials to develop a common position on the fate of their nationals who went to fight on behalf of terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq, Belgian government spokesman Frederic Cauderlier told Sputnik on Monday.

    Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said earlier in the day that people who left their home states to fight for jihadist groups in Syria or Iraq should be trialled mostly in the countries where the crimes were committed, adding that an international legal procedure could be instituted to deal with foreign terrorist fighters.

    "The Belgian PM’s services and our diplomatic services are of course talking now to the French, German, British and Dutch authorities, to try to define a common position on the trial and return of jihadists, but we have not come to an agreement yet on the trials that will have to take place, or the location where they could take place," Cauderlier said.

    Speaking about the repatriation of jihadists' children, the spokesman said those aged under 10, who have family links in Belgium, would be able to benefit from the Belgian diplomatic and consular services, while in case of those aged 10 and above, it will be "a case by case operation for spouses and children."

    READ MORE: Jihadi Returnees Split Sweden as Gov't Refuses to Help Return 'Foreign Fighters'

    Djihadists Transferred by SDF to Iraq to Be Tried Under Iraqi Law

    Meanwhile, Iraqi President Barham Salih announced that the captured jihadists transferred by the SDF to Iraq will be tried under Iraqi laws.

    "Thirteen Daesh elements… have been put into the custody of the Iraqi authorities. They are accused of having committed crimes against the Iraqis, the Iraqi facilities, in Iraq. They will be judged according to the Iraqi law, this is recognized by the international law," Salih said at a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.

    Earlier in the day, media reported that several French members of the Daesh* had been sent to Iraq from Syria. The French president declined to confirm whether any of the jihadists transferred to Iraq were French.

    READ MORE: Ex-Iraqi PM Claims US President Helped Daesh Take Over Country — Reports

    Terrorist Fighters Should Never Be Allowed Back to Belgium

    Security at home has been a serious consideration for European countries in deciding whether to take back foreign fighters. Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl has suggested, in a recent interview, setting up tribunals for Daesh fighters in the Middle East, while Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter has said that Swiss citizens who had gone to Syria or Iraq to fight for Daesh should be put on trial abroad.

    Aldo Carcaci, a member of the Belgian federal parliament from the Parti Populaire (PP), has expressed similar views, stressing that terrorist fighters should be prevented from returning to Belgium and could serve their jail terms in Syria and Iraq.

    "I have proposed a bill in the Belgian parliament to refuse the return of any jihadist or family of jihadist [to Belgium]. Once they have left to fight alongside the IS in Syria and Iraq, they should have never been allowed to come back, except if they had a Belgian passport, because a country is not allowed to leave people stateless," Carcaci told Sputnik.

    According to the lawmaker, those jihadi fighters who have double citizenship, for example, a dual Moroccan-Belgian or Turkish-Belgian nationality, should be sent back to Turkey or Morocco.

    "Let these countries take them back. Of course, the imprisoned jihadists are afraid of harsher prison conditions since these [are] the Muslim states, and want to come back to Europe, hoping for more lenient treatment in Belgium. It should be a no-no… The Belgian citizens don't want these people back. They can do their jail term in Syria and Iraq," Carcaci pointed out.

    Temporary Moving Court to Syria Could Be an Option

    A Western diplomat told Sputnik, speaking on condition of anonymity, that putting foreign terrorist fighters on trial in Syria or Iraq could actually be tricky for European countries.

    "For the EU, judging them on the spot is quite delicate. In Iraq, the death penalty is applied, for example, which is contrary to European rules. Moreover, if they are tried in Syria, the EU would have to implicitly recognize the authority of the Syrian government in Damascus, that they refuse to discuss with," the diplomat said.

    Another option would be to prosecute foreign fighters at an international legal body such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, the diplomat added.

    "[But] many countries do not recognize the ICC. Russia, the United States, Israel, Sudan, but also China and India, are no longer 'state parties' or are critical of the court. It would be more logical to create a court locally, or most probably of temporarily 'delocalizing' a European court from Europe to Syria. No timing has been set. This is being discussed at this very moment, actually," the diplomat underlined.

    The European Commission said last week that decisions, whether to allow foreign fighters and their families to return from Syria to Europe, was entirely the responsibility of individual EU nations.

    The debate over the potential return of foreign terrorist fighters has recently intensified in Europe, as the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are advancing upon the last patch of land held by Daesh in the Syrian village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.

    READ MORE: Saudi-Iranian Rivalry Adds to Insecurity in Europe — Belgian Prime Minister

    Earlier in February, US President Donald Trump called on European countries to take back more than 800 Daesh fighters, captured by the United States in Syria, and put them on trial.

    *Daesh (also known as Islamic State, IS, ISIS, ISIL) — a terrorist group banned in Russia


    trials, jihadists, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Daesh, European Union, Syria, Iraq
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