Can international tribunal help deal with thousands of captured IS militants

With the Islamic State group losing their last stronghold in Baghuz to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), there is a different problem for the Kurdish led forces to deal with – how to cope with the thousands of IS fighters being held in captivity.

The administration in northern Syria dominated by the Kurds have called for the setting up of an international court to try the thousands of IS fighter now living in camps post their defeat. The aim will be to try the militants as per international laws while also complying with human right regulations and so on.

That said, the US envoy to Syria, James Jeffrey has ruled out such a possibility right now. Transitional justice expert Joel Hubrecht too has stated setting up an international court in a war torn country isn’t the easiest thing to do, more so when the Kurds aren’t an internationally recognized group.

Compounding the problem is the over one thousand IS fighters of foreign origin who are among the prisoners. However, several western countries have shown scant interest in getting their citizens back citing the security risk such IS fighters might pose when at home. Further, prosecuting them in the courts might be a tall order as well.

President Trump has also called for renewed vigilance even after the fall of Baghuz, the IS’ last stronghold in east Syria. US officials believe there might still be about 20,000 armed rebels in the region and that these will surely try to re-group. With almost zero territory left to the IS, one way the group might try to remain relevant will be by carrying out surprise terror attacks.

While that remains a long-term concern, the one bothering the Kurdish administration right now is the thousands of IS militants captured from Syria so far. Setting up detention facilities itself is a challenge, let along putting the militant on trial.

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