The UN rights chief yesterday called for countries to repatriate family members of suspected foreign fighters in Syria, including thousands of foreign children of Islamic State group jihadists.
The call from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, came as world leaders face divisive decisions over the families of foreign jihadists captured or killed in Syria and Iraq.
Australia yesterday confirmed that eight orphans of Australian IS fighters had been spirited out of a camp in Syria and were now under the government’s care.
The move marked a U-turn for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who had previously indicated his government would only help citizens if they approached an embassy or consulate.
Morrison said Australia’s decision to assume care of the eight children -- believed to be aged between two and 17 -- was not “made lightly”. But ultimately he concluded “children should not be punished for the crimes of their parents”.
Following the collapse of IS’s self-proclaimed caliphate, foreigners from nearly 50 countries have been detained in Syria and Iraq, and more than 11,000 of their family members are being held in difficult conditions in Syria’s al-Hol camp.
In a speech to the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council, Bachelet sought to provide clarity to governments uncertain how to handle the families -- and especially children -- of jihadist fighters from their country.
“Foreign family members should be repatriated, unless they are to be prosecuted for crimes in accordance with international standards,” she said.
“Children, in particular, have suffered grievous violations of their rights, including those who may have been indoctrinated or recruited by ISIL to perpetrate violent acts,” she said, using another acronym for IS.