The Government of Iraq (GoI) has committed to repatriating all of its nationals from the Al-Hol camp in Northeast (NE) Syria. In coordination with authorities in the region, the GoI has organised numerous rounds of voluntary return since May 2021.
The large number of Iraqi nationals that will be repatriated from NE Syria will pose considerable challenges to prosecutors, judges, and prison officials for some time to come. The caseload is complex, with no clear divide between victims on the one hand, perpetrators or individuals with perceived or actual affiliation to ISIL on the other, and preexisting groups located in the area. Moreover, while some nationals should be held accountable through the criminal justice system, not all nationals can or should be prosecuted. So-called “membership offences” (being a member of, participating in, or engaging in a terrorist organisation) pose a significant challenge to judicial stakeholders, both in terms of identifying what constitutes membership in a proscribed terrorist organisation and what forms of evidence can be used to demonstrate such links.
This project seeks to enhance the ability of the Technical Working Group (TWG) on Iraqi Returnees and the ability of the Government of Iraq to facilitate safe and human rights-compliant prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration processes for Iraqis returning from Northeast Syria.
To contribute to this, ICCT is delivering holistic expert support to the Government of Iraq and the Technical Working Group on Iraqi Returnees. Drawing on consultations with core stakeholders to identify key challenges and factors, ICCT experts will publish cutting edge research on good practices and lessons learned in case management of returnees, as well as how to treat offences related to membership of terrorist organisations. ICCT experts will further develop boutique training materials that will improve capabilities of those involved in the development and design of the case management system.
This project is funded by the International Organisation on Migration (IOM).
About the project
This project builds on ICCT’s extensive experience on PRR in various domestic and regional contexts, as well as its delivery of four roundtables on good practices in the operationalisation of PRR, organised in 2022 in partnership with IOM and Iraq’s National Security Advisory.
In these high-level meetings, GoI stakeholders identified the importance of a structured interface between national and international stakeholders involved in the return of Iraqi nationals from northeast Syria. A dedicated technical working group (TWG) was established to facilitate collaboration and coordination across and between the GoI and international stakeholders.
This project will help create a better common understanding amongst domestic and international stakeholders legal and prosecutorial challenges related to Iraqi nationals returning from Northeast Syria, as well as improve the capacity of Iraqi authorities to design and implement comprehensive rehabilitation case management.
To do so, ICCT experts are conducting in-person consultations with the Government of Iraq and other stakeholders to identify specific needs and key challenges in the Iraqi context. Interviews with experts and practitioners, as well as further research, are also taking place. Drawing from these, ICCT experts will publish reports on good practices and lessons learned from comparable contexts in case management of returnees, as well as on how to treat offences related to membership of terrorist organisations. These reports will also be made available in Arabic. In consultation with key stakeholders and based on international guidelines on rehabilitation assessment, ICCT experts will also develop tailored training materials for stakeholders involved in the design and development of the case management system.
By doing so, ICCT expertise will help:
- Equip Government of Iraq stakeholders with the knowledge needed to develop a more structured approach to adult returnees;
- Strengthen Government of Iraq capacities to design and implement comprehensive rehabilitation case management;
- Develop among stakeholders a common understanding of the legal and prosecutorial challenges related to membership offences and how to address these within the Iraqi legal system.