Federal Court orders repatriation of four Canadians detained in Syria

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Federal Court orders repatriation of four Canadians detained in Syria

General view of Al-Hol detention camp in northeastern Syria.

The Federal Court on Friday ordered the repatriation of four Canadians who are currently being held in northeast Syria, their lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, told CBC.

This decision comes the day after an announcement by Global Affairs Canada which agreed to repatriate within a reasonable time 6 Canadian women and their 13 children, who are also represented by Mr. Greenspon in a case seeking to compel Canada to repatriate its citizens.

The feds say Canada couldn't provide them with consular services in Syria because the situation was too dangerous, but the nationals' lawyer argued instead that other countries had done so.

This is wonderful news, reacted Me Greenspon. We have been fighting for their repatriation for three years. We hope that all Canadian men, women and children [detained in Syria] will return.

In its judgment, the Federal Court refers to the poor conditions of detention of Canadians in Syria and the fact that they were neither tried nor convicted.

The conditions [detention] of men are even more difficult than those of women and children whom Canada has agreed to repatriate, the judgment reads. There is no indication that they were convicted or tried in a manner consistent with international law.

Several Canadian nationals have been in camps in Syria for years.

The Federal Court further asserts that the government has provided no evidence demonstrating the involvement of these Canadians in terrorist activities.

It should be noted, however, that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) could lay charges against these nationals upon their return to Canadian soil. Three months ago, two Canadian women were repatriated with their children and one of them was arrested, before being granted bail.

Last October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed particular concern for Canadian children detained in the camps.

According to the international human rights NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), there remain 27 Canadians, that is to say 13 women, 10 children and 4 men, who are still in the camps in Syria where thousands of relatives of IS fighters are held.

Many of them live in al-Roj and al-Hol, where hundreds of adults and children have died in the fighting in the region, lack of medical care or unsanitary conditions, the NGO said.

Among the four nationals who will be repatriated under this judgment is Jack Letts, a Canadian of British origin who has been detained for four years in a prison in northern Syria. A convert to Islam, Mr Letts, who grew up in Oxford, UK, joined fighters from the jihadist armed group Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria in 2014. He was captured by Kurdish militia YPG after escaping from Raqqa, the former stronghold of ISIS, shortly before its fall.

With information from CBC News

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