Policy Brief 5: Child’s right to identity in the context of repatriation policies of foreign children stranded in Northeast Syria

The scope of jurisdiction – particularly the ‘extraterritorial’ reach – of human rights treaties has long been a contentious issue before human rights courts and treaty bodies. This debate has recently taken centre stage in discussions surrounding the repatriation of individuals stranded in informal detention facilities in Northeast Syria. Following the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), thousands of alleged fighters from different countries, sometimes with their children, have been detained without trial in facilities administered by the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), a non-State actor. The arbitrary and unlawful detention of children, along with the degrading conditions and treatment they endure, constitute a violation of international law. This raises the question of who, if anyone, is responsible for ending the violations of children’s rights by removing them from the camps.

This policy brief argues that States should comply with the obligations arising from Articles 7 and 8 (right to identity) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which includes providing assistance and protection to children, who lack essential elements to establish their identity. Furthermore, it presents the argument that, when the nationality of children cannot be swiftly assessed and proven, their exit from the camps could still be based on another dimension of their identity, specifically respect for family relations. This could be achieved through reunification with other family members in third countries under Article 10 of the UNCRC (right to family reunification). These reunification efforts should be accompanied with the appropriate specialised counselling and supervision depending on the particular background of the children.

This policy brief has been prepared by Greta Faieta in the context of her work at Child Identity Protection in 2022. The word version was finalised and published on 31 October 2023.

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Word Version Oct 2023

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