Red Cross in contact with foreign wives of IS fightersArchive
GENEVA: The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday it had access to more than 1,300 foreign wives and children of suspected fighters of the militant Islamic State (IS) group, following concerns expressed for the safety of the families held by Iraqi forces near Mosul.
The neutral aid agency called on all sides in the wars in Iraq and Syria to treat detainees in line with international law that prohibits torture or executions and enshrines the right to a fair trial.
More than 300 of the detained foreign families in Iraq came from Turkey, many others from former Soviet states, such as Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and Russia, according to preliminary figures from the Iraqi army.
“Currently we visit and provide humanitarian assistance to some 1,300 women and children of several dozen nationalities who are detained in Iraq near Mosul,” Patrick Hamilton, ICRC deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, told a news briefing.
Last month, foreign aid agencies in Iraq said they were “gravely concerned” about the fate of the families. The women and children have been in Iraqi custody since August 30 following the fall of the city of Tal Afar.
It is the largest group of foreigners linked with IS to be held by Iraqi forces since they began driving the militants from Mosul and other areas in northern Iraq last year. The ICRC denounced some authorities and militias in the Iraq and Syria wars against IS who have vowed to “annihilate” the enemy, but declined to name names.
Such “dehumanisation” of the enemy could lead to unlawful torture or executions, Hamilton warned. “Talk of annihilation or extermination contributes to perpetuating the problem rather than solving it.” International humanitarian law protects civilians and former combatants, he said.
The ICRC has a “good level of dialogue” with Iraqi authorities and has visited detention facilities in Iraq holding 44,000 people so far this year, according to Hamilton.
Thousands of foreigners have been fighting for IS in Iraq and Syria and an unknown number of them are now detained. Hamilton said the ICRC was already in talks about potential repatriation of foreign fighters.
“We are ready to play the role of a neutral intermediary to assist these states in carrying out that, the return of their individual citizens,” he said.
Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2017