UN human rights experts on Thursday called on Switzerland to repatriate two girls, aged 9 and 14, who are being held in a camp in northeastern Syria. The girls’ mother allegedly abducted the girls five years ago and joined ISIS.
The Syrian Democratic Forces arrested the girls’ mother and transferred her as well as her daughters to the Roj camp in the summer of 2019, where they are still being held today.
The two fathers of the girls, who live in Geneva, asked the Swiss government to take necessary steps to repatriate their daughters. The mother took the girls on the guise of a vacation in August 2016, but went to Syria instead.
“Deprived of their liberty for several years already in the camp of Al-Hol and then in Roj, denied of their right to return to Switzerland and be reunited with their families, the detention of these two children increasingly exposes them to all kinds of abuse,” the experts said.
The half-sisters’ health is also a concern. The older daughter reportedly has anemia and allegedly suffered a severe shrapnel wound to her leg. She has needed three operations. The younger daughter is also said to be in poor health.
Children detained for association with armed groups should be recognized as victims of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law, and family reunification should always be a priority, the experts said.
“The detention of these two Swiss girls in these conditions is contrary to their best interests and contravenes international human rights conventions to which Switzerland is a party,” the experts further said. “In this respect, Switzerland’s position not to actively intervene to repatriate the mother of the two children should not be a reason to leave these two girls in such a distressing situation in which they are held now.”
There are several thousand children still living in camps in northeastern Syria in similar conditions to those of the two girls.