Europe: UN experts urge swift repatriation of Irish woman and child from Turkey to Ireland

UN human rights experts have called on Turkey to ensure the safety and security of Ms. Lisa Smith and her infant child – both Irish nationals – who were transferred to Turkish custody following the bombing of Ain Issa displacement camp in northeast Syria in recent weeks.

Geneva, Nov 21, 2019.- The exact whereabouts of the mother and child are unknown. The experts express concern that Ms. Smith may face ill-treatment in custody and strongly recommend she is given consular assistance and that she and her infant daughter are protected against any abuse while detained.

There are grave concerns about the physical and mental health of Ms. Smith and her daughter. “The vulnerability of this infant is particularly worrying and there is a compelling obligation to protect her well-being in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Turkey and Ireland are both parties,” the experts said.

They urge that the basis for any detention be clarified, that access to adequate legal counsel be provided, and that interrogations are carried out in conformity with Turkey’s treaty obligations. In addition to the obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights under Articles 3, 5 and 13, Ms. Smith’s protection should follow at minimum the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules).

The experts underscore the need for a thorough individual evaluation of each woman and child in compliance with international human rights law, including attention to any gender-based violence and persecution against women who return from Syria and Iraq, both in third countries and upon return to countries of nationality.

They stress the need to recognise that women and children associated with ISIS may have been subjected to serious human rights violations and gender-based violence during and prior to their detention in camps such as Ain Issa. The experts affirm that an effective return process includes holding individuals accountable for violations of national and international law as appropriate and commensurate with the available evidence. They encourage human rights-compliant return and reintegration and offer assistance and support to that end.

The experts acknowledge the prompt preliminary response of Ireland and Turkey to this communication indicating their willingness to abide by their international obligations. They stress the urgency of human rights compliant repatriation in all cases and the effective implementation of protection in the interim.

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