Netherlands wants Dutch jihadists to be tried in Iraq: report

The Netherlands and Iraq are looking into whether jihadists who fought for terrorist organizations like ISIS can be tried in the Middle Eastern country. Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs is advocating for a separate international tribunal to try foreign rebel fighters in the Syrian civil war, NRC reports.

Having foreign jihadists tried in Iraq will be complicated to arrange. Iraq does not recognize the International Criminal Court. The country also still uses the death penalty, while the Netherlands is strongly against it. If this cooperation succeeds, Blok will insist that jihadists not be given the death penalty, according to the newspaper. 

Blok and his Iraqi counterpart Ali Alhakim will meet at the United Nations on Thursday. Ministers and diplomats for around 20 other countries will also attend the meeting to discuss the proposal.

An estimated 20 thousand ISIS fighters are currently detained in Iraq. The majority of them are of Iraqi nationality. Only around a thousand are believed to come from other countries. Whether there are any Dutch among them, is no clear. Nearly 30 thousand ISIS fighters are also detained in Syria and likely to end up in Iraq, according to NRC. 

Blok thinks that this cooperation with Iraq is feasible. "The fact that they are willing to organize this with us indicates that they are interested", he said in New York earlier this week. "They naturally have a huge number of fighters. The scope of the job they face makes it interesting for them to collaborate with the Netherlands and other Western countries. Such a first step gives hope that we can go further."

According to Dutch intelligence service AIVD, around 310 Dutch traveled to Syria and Iraq to join a terrorist organization and become foreign rebel fighters in the Syrian Civil War. Around 60 of them returned to the Netherlands and some 90 were killed in the fighting. In May the service said that at least 55 Dutch are in Syrian-Kurdish camps or detention centers and around 80 are still active in the combat zone. The Netherlands has stated multiple times that it does not want to see ISIS fighters returning home, for various reasons.

Blok acknowledged that trial and punishment in Iraq is a way to keep the Dutch jihadists out of the Netherlands, according to NRC. "But the trial there would also be simpler given the presence of witnesses. In addition, the broader task is that crimes must not go unpunished and that is essential for Iraq and the region. It is good if the population sees that the fighters are not getting away with it", he said.