What changed France’s condemnation of the ECHR in repatriating the wives of jihadists?

After the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, it is the turn of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to appoint France. In question, the Paris doctrine regarding the return from Syria, “on a case-by-case basis”, of the wives of French jihadists. If France agreed, for the first time last July, to repatriate 16 mothers and 35 minors, its policy remains “arbitrary”, estimated the ECHR, this Wednesday, condemning it.

Why is France condemned? What will this decision change? Should Paris return all the families of French jihadists? 20 minutes make the point.

Why did the ECHR condemn France?

In 2021, after the refusal of the French authorities to repatriate their daughters, stranded in Syrian camps with their children since 2019, the parents of two young French women arrested the ECHR. They argued that their daughters and grandchildren, detained in Al-Hol and Roj camps, in the northeast of the country, were exposed to “inhumane and humiliating treatment”.

Believing this Wednesday that France violated article 3.2 of protocol 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which stipulates that “no one may be denied entry into the territory of the State of which he is a national”, the Court asked France to “investigate again as soon as possible” the requests for repatriation. “It is incumbent on the French government to proceed with the examination of the applicants’ requests as soon as possible by surrounding them with appropriate guarantees against arbitrariness”, reads the judgment of the ECHR.

Will this decision obligate the State to repatriate them?

This sentence is not necessarily synonymous with automatic repatriation. According to the ECHR, the wives of jihadists and their children do not benefit from a general right to return home under the right to enter national territory. On the other hand, if there is a refusal, the court asks France to prove, through an independent body, that the refusal “is not based on any arbitrariness”.

In “exceptional circumstances”, such as when “physical integrity” is at risk or a child is “in a particularly vulnerable situation”, French citizens can assert this general right to repatriation, considering the ECHR. France “cannot prevent the access of French nationals to (its) territory (…) These are arbitrary decisions” and Paris “must re-examine the requests for repatriation”, welcomed Me Dosé , one of the lawyers of the parents arrested the court.

What is France’s policy on family repatriation so far?

Our European neighbors, like Germany or Belgium, have brought almost all of their jihadists and their families from Syria in recent years. This is not the case in France. In recent years, Paris only repatriates children and under certain conditions – whether they are orphans, unaccompanied minors or that their mother accepts to leave.

Regarding the wives of French jihadists, the state has long promoted a “case by case” policy, before accepting, for the first time, a major return in July.

Why this sudden change in doctrine?

Before the return home in July, with 80 French women and 200 children in Syrian camps, France had the largest “contingent” in the EU and one of the most difficult positions to return home. In 2019, Finland launched the movement by announcing that it wanted to return all children. In March 2021, Belgium followed the return of almost thirty detained Belgian children, and 21 women. Germany has brought 12 women and forty children since 2019.

Paris was called to order several times. First of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, as we said, in February 2022. Two months later, in April, the defender of rights, Claire Hédon, who asked for the return “as soon as possible” of all . the French children imprisoned in the camps, as well as their mothers.

This Wednesday, a few hours after the decision of the ECHR, the Quai d’Orsay indicated that France is ready for new repatriations “whenever the conditions allow it”. “We are not waiting for the decision of the ECHR to proceed,” added the spokesman of the French government, Olivier Véran. “We have changed the rules for the examination and repatriation of French nationals who are still in northeastern Syria. Each file, each human condition at the end, is the subject of a meticulous examination of care”, he justified. To this day, a hundred French women and almost 250 children are still imprisoned in camps in Syria.

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