Why Europe Refuses to Take Back Captured ISIS Fighters

The Daily Signal | 10/8/2019 | Staff
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Robin Simcox is the Margaret Thatcher Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

When the caliphate of the Islamic State collapsed, its fighters scattered.

ISIS - Terrorists - Camps - Kurds - Syria

Many ISIS terrorists ended up in camps being run by Syrian Kurds in northern Syria. Among the number are about 2,000 Europeans, and what exactly to do about that is the biggest source of disagreement that exists between the U.S. and Europe on counterterrorism policy today.

To the frustration of the U.S., the Europeans have shown no desire to take back their citizens.

Ambassador - Nathan - Sales - State - Department

Ambassador Nathan Sales, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, described the European approach as a “dereliction of responsibility.”

This sounds like it should be a simple problem to fix. Those traveling to Syria as soon as ISIS declared its caliphate were in all likelihood going there to live under the sharia-law state controlled by the terrorists.

Europeans - Citizens - Prison

They are now captured, so why don’t the Europeans just take back their citizens and throw them in prison?

However, strongly suspecting something does not necessarily translate to convictions in European courts, where the burden of proof is understandably high.

Stories - Men - Shabazz - Suleman—who - Interview

We may think the stories of men like Shabazz Suleman—who gave an interview to Sky News while in Kurdish captivity, saying he just spent his time in Raqqa, Syria, “playing PlayStation or going around on bike rides”—are ridiculous. And they are, but proving it in court is no easy task.

Furthermore, think of the technical difficulties of prosecuting those detained in Syrian camps. Some of these suspects were picked up on the battlefield by militias, not by “CSI: Raqqa.”

Nature - Evidence - Detainees - Are - Witnesses

So, what is the nature of the evidence against the detainees, and how was it collected? Are there reliable witnesses? Is there an unbroken chain of custody?

And on what legal basis can a Kurdish militia—not a fellow government, with which there is either a legal treaty or formal agreement—extradite a...
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