Human Rights: France violated rights of French children detained in Syria by failing to repatriate them, UN committee finds

Geneva, February 24, 2022.- France’s failure to repatriate French children who have been held in Syrian camps in life-threatening conditions for years violates their right to life, as well as their right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment, the UN Child Rights Committee has found.

The Child Rights Committee (CRC) issued its findings today after considering three cases filed by a group of French nationals* whose grandchildren, nieces and nephews are currently being held in the Rawj, Ayn Isa and Hawl camps in Rojava, which are under the control of Kurdish forces.

The three cases involve 49 French children: some of them were born in the Syrian Arab Republic, while others travelled there with their French parents at a very young age. Their parents are alleged to have collaborated with Da’esh, the ISIL terrorist group.

Since the relatives took their cases to the Committee in 2019, the French government has repatriated 11 of these children. The remaining 38 child victims, some of whom are as young as five years old, are still detained in closed camps in a war-like zone.

The Committee found that France has the responsibility and power to protect the French children in the Syrian camps against an imminent risk to their lives by taking action to repatriate them.

The Committee further considered that the prolonged detention of the child victims in life-threatening conditions also amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

The Committee also concluded that France has not shown that it gave due consideration to the best interests of the child victims when assessing their relatives’ requests for repatriation.

The Committee urged France to take urgent action to repatriate the remaining 38 child victims. In the interim, it asked France to take additional measures to mitigate the risks to life, survival and development of the child victims while they remain in North East Syria.

“The children are living in inhuman sanitary conditions, lacking basic necessities including water, food and health care, and facing an imminent risk of death. At least 62 children have reportedly died in the camps as a result of these conditions since the beginning of 2021. The situation is therefore extremely urgent,” said Committee member Ann Skelton. “We call on France to take immediate action, as every day that passes there is a renewed possibility for further casualties.” She added.

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