Court confirms: Belgium is not obliged to repatriate children of IS fighters

The Brussels Court of Appeal ruled that the Belgian State is not obliged to repatriate six children of two female fighters of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organisation. 

Both mothers and their children are currently in a Kurdish camp but risk being transferred to an area controlled by the IS, their lawyer Walter Damen is worried. However, according to the court's ruling on Wednesday, the Belgian state has no control or authority over the prison camp. Families are therefore not subject to Belgian jurisdiction.

The two widows of IS fighters and their children had already been evacuated from Syria in 2013. After giving birth in Antwerp, they went back to Syria with their children. Last March, the Antwerp Criminal Court sentenced them in absentia to prison terms of up to five years. The two mothers have since each gave birth to a new baby, bringing the total to six children aged two months to five years.

At first instance, the Brussels judge held that the Belgian State had a moral duty to deal with the minor children of combatants in Syria, on the basis of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but that this duty was not legally binding because the camps did not fall under Belgian jurisdiction. The mothers appealed against this decision.

The Brussels Court of Appeal ruled the appeal admissible but unfounded on Wednesday. In its judgment, it confirmed that the Belgian State has no control or authority over the prison camp and that women and their children do not fall within Belgian jurisdiction. Belgium is therefore not obliged to repatriate them.