“Case by case” is the end of French doctrine?

France on Tuesday for the first time repatriated minors, including the mothers of the children of jihadists fighting for the Islamic State group in Syria. The departure from the French doctrine of “case by case” which suggests a change in the hard line adopted in Paris, expects associations to defend human rights.

It is the largest repatriation operation conducted by the French authorities since the Islamic State group’s last stronghold collapsed in 2019. The French Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday, July 5, the return of 35 minors and 16 mothers to national soil. There are jihadist prisons in northeastern Syria run by Kurdish forces.

This repatriation marks a significant development of the French doctrine “case by case” adopted by Paris. First, the number of repatriated children is exceptionally high. The last operation, which took place in January 2021, involved only seven children.

Another element that appeals to the contrast of Paris in this file: the presence of some mothers of these minors. So far, Paris has only agreed to repatriate orphans or children whose mothers have agreed to relinquish their parental rights.

“France is finally taking a 180-degree turn. At the end of the tunnel it is a light that illuminates,” France 24 responded to the antenna, Albert Duggett, whose daughter is being held in a camp in Syria but was not affected by the operation.

“This is definitely a change that should be welcomed. It’s a good start, even if it’s late,” said Patrick Bowdoin, president of the League for Human Rights (LDH). “There is an awareness of the need to adhere to international commitments and fundamental respect for humanity.”

“This is good news but we’re a little in the middle of Ford because the political declaration is missing that could include this repatriation on a case-by-case basis,” said Raymond Ponsett, a senator on environmental issues, regretting a question he wrote at the end of June.

International pressure

Much criticized for its tough line, France has been called upon to issue several orders by national and international bodies in recent years, including the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in February. “Children live in inhumane sanitary conditions, lack basic necessities, including water, food and health care, and are at imminent risk of death,” said committee member Ann Skeleton.

Also, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), seized by several families, will soon have to rule on the position taken in Paris. “France is aware of the risks of condemnation and prefers to lead rather than expose itself to these risks,” said Vincent Brangarth, a lawyer for firm Borden and associates at the front of the file.

At the European level, France has also become increasingly isolated. Thus, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and Germany have all decided to repatriate all children and mothers. At the end of June, Brussels, for example, repatriated almost all of its citizens from Syria.

The French electoral agenda also provides a key to understanding Elsie’s contradictions. “Emmanuel Macron has entered his last order so he plays much less politically,” Vincent Brangarth assured.

“It cannot be ruled out that the change of foreign minister has anything to do with this development, as Jean-Yves Le Drian has shown himself to be particularly resistant to any consideration of the basic elements of humanity,” Patrick Bowdoin believes.

In France, the question of repatriation of jihadist families has long been explosive at the political level, recalls James Andre, a journalist for France 24. “The deadliest attack in recent years has been on French soil. In addition, France is the country whose most citizens have traveled to the Iraqi-Syrian zone to join the self-proclaimed caliphate of the state organization Islamic.”

An estimated 1,700 French nationals have joined the ranks of the Islamic State organization in Syria since 2014, with 760 British or 470 Belgians.

But for Senator Raymond Poincar, the government’s reluctance to repatriate jihadist children and wives shows a “lack of political courage.” If we explain to the French people that mothers must be judged and children must be protected, I am sure public opinion will follow. “

Towards new repatriation?

Finally, the evolution of the French position can be explained by a better reception capacity for extremist prisoners. “A new Radicalization Assessment District has recently opened in Renaissance, so France has a way to bring these women to justice and imprison them in situations that make it possible to imagine long-term reunions,” said James Andre.

Under these conditions, will we expect other large-scale repatriations in the coming months? “I am cautious but it is difficult for me now to see how France can move forward differently,” said Patrick Bowdoin of the LDH.

>> View: Pascal Descamps: “We let my daughter die slowly in Syria”

“We must now repatriate all these children who have been living in dramatic conditions for years. This is a political position because legally everything needs to be repatriated,” assured Mark Bailey, a lawyer for the families of children who have moved to France.

“The masks must have fallen off. We have made many excuses for operational elements that have hindered the mass repatriation of these families. We see today that the state has the power to act and we do not see what could be the justification for equality in repatriated families. And others.” , Reassures Vincent Brangarth.

An estimated 80 jihadist wives and 200 French children were still being held in camps in northeastern Syria before Tuesday’s repatriation.

“From now on, the government must move quickly. Every day counts for these French children,” requested Raymond Ponset. “Today, a five-year-old child cannot be threatened.”

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