Dutch state does not have to help women, children trapped in Syria: Supreme Court

Refugee camp in Idlib, Syria
A child peaks out from under a tent wall at a refugee camp in Idlib, Syria. May 18, 2019Photo: ikurucan/DepositPhotos

The Dutch State does not have to repatriate women and children currently trapped in camps in Syria or Iraq, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday in a cassation case filed by 23 Dutch women who went to areas controlled by terrorist organization ISIS of their own accord. 

The women filed a lawsuit in an attempt to get the Dutch government to help bring them and their 56 children, some taken to ISIS territory others born there, back to the Netherlands. They are living in miserable conditions in reception camps in Syria and Iraq. When this case was first tried, the court ruled that the Netherlands should bring the children back at least - a ruling that was overturned by the appeals court. The women filed a cassation request with the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State.

According to the Supreme court, the women and children cannot invoke human rights treaties directly against the Dutch State as they are outside Dutch territory. And while the Dutch State has a special responsibility towards persons with Dutch nationality, it is up to the State to assess whether it can and must intervene if a Dutch person's rights are violated or at risk of being violated. 

In its arguments to not repatriate these women and children, the Dutch state cited concerns that they could pose a danger to the Netherlands or other Schengen countries, that Dutch officials would be in danger if they have to go and help these women and children in Syria, and that international relations may be affected by the efforts necessary to repatriate them. 

"In view of these interests of the State and of the fact that the women voluntarily traveled to the jihadist conflict zone, the Supreme Court is of the opinion that, despite the compelling interests of the women and children, the Dutch State does not have to bring them back to the Netherlands and does not have to make an effort to do so," the Supreme court ruled.