LONDON: Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized Western governments for failing to fulfil their responsibility to the thousands of detained people linked to Daesh in northeast Syria.
Some 43,000 foreign men, women and children remain detained in what HRW call “inhuman or degrading conditions” by authorities in the autonomous Kurdish northeast of the country.
The prisoners were captured and placed in these camps after the fall of Daesh’s last territorial outpost.
HRW said they have been kept in these camps often with the explicit or implicit consent of their countries of nationality.
In the two years since the detainees were rounded up, they have never been brought before a court. HRW said this has made their detention “arbitrary as well as indefinite.”
The detainees include 27,500 children, the majority kept in locked camps and others housed in at least 300 prisons for men that have been criticized for poor, inhumane conditions. Several thousand others have been locked in a rehabilitation center.
HRW said the detainees are suffering from rising levels of violence and a sharp decline in levels of vital aid, including medical care.
“Men, women, and children from around the world are entering a third year of unlawful detention in life-threatening conditions in northeast Syria while their governments look the other way,” said Letta Tayler, associate crisis and conflict director at HRW.
“Governments should be helping to fairly prosecute detainees suspected of serious crimes and free everyone else, not helping to create another Guantanamo.”
The international coalition against Daesh is planning to support the building of new detention centers for female suspects and a 500-bed “rehabilitation center” for older boys.
The UK is set to fund a project to double the capacity of one of the prisons in Hasakah from 5,000 to 10,000 detainees.
Badran Chia Kurd, the autonomous administration’s deputy co-chair, said holding foreign detainees “is a huge burden” for the cash-strapped body.
Chia Kurd added that America has funded enhanced security and measures to reduce overcrowding for some of the prisons, but they do not meet international standards, and neither the US nor other coalition partners have supported measures to give detainees due process.
Minimum standards are not being met in many camps where foreign nationals linked with Daesh are kept.
Detainees and others interviewed by HRW described regular incidents of contaminated water, overflowing latrines, shortages of fresh food and diapers, tents leaking or catching fire, rampant disease, insufficient medical care, and a catastrophic undersupply of counseling for a severely traumatized population.
UK and US defense officials did not respond to HRW’s requests for comment.