Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 28
By Azer Ahmadbayli – Trend:
“… in an ever smaller, increasingly volatile and increasingly complex world, the need for our cooperation becomes increasingly clear,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said at an opening session of the EU-Arab League summit held in Egypt last week.
“You can always count on the European Union, which has long sought to be a faithful and loyal partner of the Arab world. A partner in the defense of multilateralism because the planet belongs to everyone and not just to a few, and every people has the same dignity.”
Dignified attitude of Europeans to the fate of their former citizens – the “Islamic State” (IS) militants who were captured or voluntarily surrendered, rotting in prisons in Iraq and Syria could be a good example for the rest of “the world’s laymen”. But so far, many governments are hesitant about what they should do with them.
The EU high representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini said that each EU country will take an independent decision.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, for instance, expressed his preference for the IS jihadists to be tried in Syria or Iraq, i.e. where the crimes were committed. Denmark is also reluctant to repatriate its citizens.
The Minister of Justice of Switzerland Karin Keller-Sutter said she would prefer that the Swiss jihadists were tried on the spot. She said the safety of Swiss citizens is a priority for her. “Is it possible to put the Swiss at risk by repatriating people who voluntarily went to war in Syria and Iraq?” the Swiss press quoted her as saying.
The representative of the Swiss socialists Carlo Sommaruga believes that the controlled repatriation of jihadists with sentencing in Switzerland is the best way to guarantee the security of the country. It is much riskier to leave them in Syria, where they can escape or be released, and then be able to return to Switzerland, the Nashagazeta newspaper reports.
President Donald Trump called on European countries to repatriate the IS militants: “The US is asking the UK, France, Germany and other European allies to take more than 800 militants we captured in Syria, and bring them to justice. Otherwise, we will have to release them.”
Washington does not seem to be intent on returning its own jihadists to the country, having just set a precedent. The UK is doing the same and is simply depriving these people of citizenship.
Foreign Minister of Germany Heiko Maas said that the request of the US President is “tremendously complicated” and there is a need to immediately commence legal proceedings to investigate the cases when the citizens of Germany ask for the return home.
Sweden, by contrast, seeks to reintegrate jihadists who have returned and those who will return from the Middle East. Stockholm promised to keep in touch with all the families of terrorists, to create an expert group and to offer a psychological assistance for former IS fighters.
In turn, the Minister of Justice of France, Nicole Berube said to France 2 TV, France would not take further action after Trump’s call on European countries to take back their citizens. Paris will pick up French militants after considering each case.
75 years ago, things were different, and Europe was different.
In “Declaration on the responsibility of the Hitlerite fascists for the atrocities committed”, which was signed by Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill in 1943, it was stated that they would be judged on the spot by the peoples they have committed violence against:
“The United Kingdom, the United States of America and the Soviet Union have received from various sources evidence of atrocities, murders and cold-blooded mass executions carried out by the Hitlerite armed forces in many of the countries they have seized, from which they are now being persistently expelled. … the three Allied Powers, representing 32 united nations, solemnly declare and warn with their following declaration: …those German officers and soldiers and members of the Nazi party who were responsible for the above-mentioned atrocities, murders and executions, or voluntarily participated in them, are sent to the countries where their crimes were committed, so that they could be sentenced and punished according to the laws of these liberated countries and of free governments established there.”
IS jihadists probably did not differ much in their cruelty from Hitlerite fascists, but 75 years later the EU could have acted much more effectively.
This is quite understandable that it’s hard to conduct an impartial investigation and identify the facts of crimes or, vice versa, non-participation in them (for example, women, whose fault is that they joined their husbands). This will require considerable effort and resources.
But, repatriation of jihadists is not only a matter of security; it is also a matter of Europe’s reputation. Whatever crime a person commits, he/she has the right to a transparent trial and defense before the court. Isn't this one of the postulates of the European system of values?
Syria and Iraq do not want to bear the moral and financial burden of proof of guilt and years of imprisonment for these people. We may hear nothing more about them – it is quite possible that they will be sentenced within a couple of minutes and then executed. If “the advanced” Europe doesn't object such option, then let it be so.
And finally, what if someone afterwards decides to let them live in exchange for committing new violations?