Iraq - Q&A - Excerpts from the daily press briefing (19.07.17)

Q - The number of acts of vengeance against the Iraqis suspected of belonging to IS are increasing in Mosul according to the UN. Are you concerned about what will happen next following the liberation of Mosul and do you think that the Iraqi government is maintaining sufficient hold of its troops and militia?

A - The protection of civilians and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law are an ongoing requirement for France. It is up to the Iraqi authorities to ensure this. This is essential to bringing about national reconciliation and defeating terrorism over the long term.

France will continue to lend its full support to the Iraqi government in its efforts to stabilize the liberated areas, re-establish the rule of law and address the challenges facing the country.

Q - Have the Iraqi authorities confirmed the arrest of this French family? Are you in touch with the wife and her children or their family in France?

A - The Iraqi authorities were approached officially to learn of this family’s specific situation and where they are being detained; we especially emphasized our concern for the situation of the young underage children. The Ministry has also made contact with the family in France, to inform them of these steps.

Q - Can you give us an estimate of the number of French nationals, and particularly women and children, in the ranks of Daesh in Iraq or Syria?

A - I suggest you direct your questions to the Ministry of the Interior. For informational purposes, a circular was published by the Prime Minister’s office on March 23, 2017 (http://circulaires.legifrance.gouv.fr/pdf/2017) that mentioned nearly 750 French nationals in combat zones in Syria and Iraq, including – according to certain estimates – some 450 minors. Among other things, this circular specifies the measures to be taken should these minors return to France.

Q - According to Le Monde, “Personnel from the Quai d’Orsay’s crisis center are even advising [people] to place plastic tags around their children’s necks to identify them in case of death.” Can you confirm or comment on this remark?

A - This press report is false, and we strongly object to this lie. On June 15, the Ministry’s crisis and support center was in touch with the parents of a mother being detained in Iraq, and in the context of the fighting then going on in Mosul, they were given the following piece of advice: “It is recommended that your son and daughter-in-law report their presence and/or that of their children to the Red Cross, but especially to the Consulate in Baghdad or Erbil. And urge them to provide a way to identify their children if they are separated from their parents.”

I would like to take this opportunity to give you some additional details:

French nationals who have committed offenses in Iraq and who are on Iraqi territory may be prosecuted by Iraqi courts, although they will have a right to consular protection.

However, French courts could also have jurisdiction if they consider that these individuals have violated French law.

Thus, under article 113-6 of the Criminal Code, French legal authorities have jurisdiction to hear crimes committed by French nationals outside of France (the so-called active personality principle). That is the case with association in relation to a terrorist undertaking. Under this category, the Paris Public Prosecutor has engaged in numerous actions to apprehend French terrorist fighters. All French nationals who have traveled to Iraq and Syria since January 2015 to take part in fighting, as part of jihadist fighter networks, or who are involved in the organization of such networks, are considered to be participating in a criminal association.

Criminal prosecution may take place as soon as such individuals are arrested on French soil. Their departure from Iraqi territory would however presume the agreement of the Iraqi authorities.

If the concerned individuals are tried by Iraqi courts, they cannot be tried in France on the same charges.

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