Europe’s Guantanamo: The indefinite detention of European women and children in North East Syria


Press release published by Rights & Security International, for a new report on detention camps in North East Syria where people are being held indefinitely due to European governments' failure to repatriate their citizens.

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Rights and Security International publishes the first of two hard-hitting reports calling for the immediate repatriation of European women and children held in detention camps in North East Syria.

This report accuses European governments of creating Europe’s Guantanamo in Kurdish-run detention camps in North East Syria. Some 640 European children and 230 European women accused of supporting ISIS are currently being held illegally without charge or the possibility of a trial. There are more European children currently detained in the detention camps than the entire population of Guantanamo Bay at its peak, and most of these children are under five years old. Like Guantanamo, they have no legal rights or protections while being forced to endure inhumane and brutal conditions.

Counterterrorism and security experts warn that, just as Guantanamo Bay has become a metonym for the worst excesses of the war on terror and a potent recruiting tool for terrorists in the past two decades, the detention of women and children in the North East Syria camps risks developing into a long-running human rights disaster, a site of dangerous radicalization to violence, and a symbol of European hypocrisy and violence which fuels the next generation of ISIL-inspired terrorism.

Rights & Security International (RSI) calls on European countries to fulfil their legal, political and moral responsibilities and immediately repatriate their citizens.

This report – the first of two addressing the situation of European women and children detained in North East Syria – draws on RSI’s extensive field and desk research conducted between November 2019 and November 2020. It sets out RSI’s factual findings on the conditions in which European women and children are detained in the camps, and the wider military and political relationship between European governments and the Kurdish authorities holding the women and children. It also sets out some of the security concerns caused by European States’ failure to repatriate and the fundamental legal questions posed by European States’ inaction. The second report, entitled, ‘Closing Europe’s Guantanamo,’ will set out an exhaustive technical legal analysis of our findings and is due for publication in early 2021.

Yasmine Ahmed, the Executive Director of Rights & Security International said:

“This is Europe’s Guantanamo, but for children. It beggars belief that European governments, who rightly condemned the abuses of Guantanamo Bay, now stand by and let children die. Now these women and children face another brutal winter with more deaths. The claim that it is safer to leave women and children in the camps flies in the face of security experts who say that the real security risk comes from leaving these women and children in the detention camps where they are vulnerable to radicalisation, and where their dire conditions can serve as a recruitment tool. Have we learnt nothing from the last 20 years on the war on terror? When we place people outside the law, when we deny them rights, treat them with brutality and without humanity, we not only undermine the values we are fighting for but we make ourselves and the world less safe, not more.”  

See below for a short video accompanying the report. To read media discussion of our report, please see our coverage in The Timesthe Guardian, and Middle East Eye, or here for RSI's press release.

Originally published here.

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