UN special rapporteur urges end to indefinite detention of children at Syria detention camps News
Y. Boechat (VOA), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
UN special rapporteur urges end to indefinite detention of children at Syria detention camps

UN Special Rapporteur Fionnuala Ni Aolain released a statement on Friday urging the cessation of “indefinite mass detention without legal process,” particularly for children, in northeastern Syria detention centers. After arriving in Damascus, Syria on July 15, she visited prisons and detention sites and witnessed “major humanitarian challenges,” including inadequate access to water and electricity and issues with health services.

Around 52,000 people are held in the al-Hol and al-Roj camps in northeast Syria. Around 60 percent are children, of whom 80% are under 12. Most children are there due to their parents’ supposed links to ISIL/Da’esh. Many are separated from their parents, with Ni Aolain remarking that many separations are violent.

Due to the ongoing Civil War and the fraught political situation in Syria, repatriation attempts for adults and children in these camps are difficult, with many designated terrorist groups active around the camps. Those displaced are often people from surrounding countries such as Jordan, who became refugees during the conflict.

The Special Rapporteur alleged that there were multiple violations of international human rights law and said there is no legal basis in international law for these types of detention facilities. Ni Aolain appealed to the 57 countries whose nationals are detained in northeast Syria to support fundamental human rights and repatriate their nationals. According to the UN, 36 countries have repatriated third-country nationals in these camps, but it would take a “minimum of 20 years” to repatriate all within.

Also on Friday, the UK’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Jonathan Hall, spoke at an all-parliamentary group stating that the UK government needs to allow more repatriation of British nationals held in Syria. Similarly, Conservative MP David Davis pressured the Foreign Office during a parliamentary hearing about the repatriation of British citizens from Syria, suggesting that the continued refusal of the British government to repatriate their citizens is “isolating them from their closest allies.” One ally, Canada, repatriated 24 women and children from a camp last week.

Both camps and most of Northeastern Syria are under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a primarily Kurdish organization whose predecessors have fought ISIL since 2013.