Iraqi President Barham Salih has said that 13 French detainees related to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), who were transferred to his country last week from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) custody, will be tried in Iraq.
“They are accused of having commanded operations against Iraqis and Iraqi installations in Iraq,” Salih told a press conference in Paris.
“They will be tried according to Iraqi law,” he added. “We are acting within the confines of international law on this matter.”
Salih, who refused to identify the French citizens or comment on their cases, said that the decision to prosecute the 13 individuals fell under Iraq’s purview.
He added that his country would seek to prosecute in Iraq all ISIL fighters who have committed crimes against Iraqis and Iraqi installations in the country.
The United States had called for countries to take back and try their own nationals.
France’s official position states that French “terrorist” fighters “must be tried wherever they committed their crimes”.
France holds that the Iraqi legal authorities are responsible for handling the cases of ISIL members on their territory.
The issue of captured foreign fighters in Syria poses a major conundrum for countries whose nationals have been arrested there.
The US-backed SDF are holding more than 900 foreign fighters in prisons in the country’s north, many of them Iraqis and Europeans.
According to an Iraqi government statement issued on Monday, about 280 Iraqi ISIL fighters have been handed over by the SDF to Iraq in two successive batches last week out of a total of more than 500.
Also last week, a French diplomatic official and an SDF official said they were trying to verify reports that Fabien Clain, a Frenchman who is one of Europe’s most-wanted members of ISIL, was killed in an air attack in Syria.
The French presidency said France intends to reaffirm its full support to Iraq regarding its security, stability, inclusive governance and the country’s reconstruction.
Both countries are also seeking to strengthen economic cooperation.
France remains militarily involved in Iraq and has troops in the country providing training and logistical support to Iraqi forces, as well as intelligence.