France must repatriate, give fair trial to IS suspects, UN expert says
A top UN rights expert rebuked France on Monday for its possible role in the transfer of seven suspected Islamic state group members from Syria to Iraq, where they are likely to face execution.
France has dismissed the claims by UN extrajudicial executions investigator Agnes Callamard as speculation.
Callamard, who also served as the international body’s chief investigator into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said the French nationals had been arrested by Syrian Kurdish forces and sent to Iraq in February "at the alleged request of the French Government or with its suspected involvement."
"In these circumstances, the transfer of persons to Iraq for prosecution is illegal," the expert said.
After being sent to Iraq, there were "serious allegations" the suspects faced "unfair trials", Callamard explained, adding that the seven had no "adequate legal representation or consular assistance".
They now await execution after being allegedly tortured while in Iraqi captivity, the expert added in a statement according to Reuters.
Callamard is now urging France to repatriate the suspected IS fighters and give them a fair trial at home, something Paris has avoided until now.
France officially opposes the death penalty.
The French Foreign Ministry hit back at the France-born expert, claiming that the allegations were "not sustained, are pure speculation and are hers only".
The UN rights expert had not checked with the French authorities as required, the ministry claimed.
The foreign ministry reiterated Paris' official position that suspected IS members should be tried near where crimes were committed. The group, still operational but ousted from its last clear strongholds earlier this year, is operational in Syria and Iraq.
"Iraqi authorities know France is against the death penalty, everywhere and in all circumstances, and has asked for the sentences not to be executed," it added.
Baghdad is currently conducting trials of thousands of suspected IS fighters, among them hundreds of foreign nationals.
Eleven French nationals figure among the non-Iraqis on death row, while three others have been sentenced to life in jail.
Iraq has convicted more than 500 foreign men and women of joining IS since the start of 2018.