September 15, 2022Counter-Terrorism Repatriation Gender Human Rights Act International Humanitarian Law Right to Life Citizenship
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled yesterday in a major case that France violated human rights when it refused to let French children and women confined in squalid camps in northeast Syria challenge officials' decisions barring them from returning to France.
The judgment has the potential to change the lives of children and adults from numerous European countries who are currently stuck in life-threatening conditions in the Syrian camps. The Court's conclusion was based on a treaty that nearly all European states -- except the UK, Turkey, Greece and Switzerland -- have signed and ratified.
RSI submitted an expert opinion (intervention) in the case, as did several other human rights groups. The Court took the unusual step of highlighting RSI's reports on the Syrian camps, Abandoned to Torture and Europe’s Guantanamo, explicitly and repeatedly as it stressed the harsh, dangerous and degrading conditions in the camps. RSI has argued that those conditions -- including for children -- result in pain and suffering that meet the criteria for torture.
The Court's ruling will make it harder for most European states to create legal black holes overseas in which they can abandon their own citizens, as well as people whose citizenship they have canceled.
RSI's repatriations tracker documents which countries have been bringing their nationals and former nationals back from the camps. While some countries have making notable efforts at repatriation, these developments have often been drawn-out and sporadic, while the lives of both children and adults detained in the camps continue to hang in the balance.
RSI believes the judgment should prompt all European states to repatriate their nationals and former nationals immediately. Regardless of the legal nuances, the Court's view is clear: the camps are dangerous, and countries should not be abandoning people to torture and potential death there, especially while keeping them out of courts where they could challenge those decisions.
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