Rhetoric that “dehumanizes” and “demonizes” the enemy or suggests that a particular adversary is “outside the bounds of humanity” and can be treated “as if humanitarian law doesn’t apply” is highly concerning, ICRC’s Deputy Director for the Middle East Patrick Hamilton told reporters this week. Hamilton was speaking at a news conference on the issue of foreign fighters and their families leaving Iraq and Syria. Such language, which could appear to justify war crimes or illegal treatment of detainees, has become more common on all sides of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria. In his statement, Hamilton said it had gotten so common that the Red Cross felt it necessary to remind all combatants that international humanitarian law requires due process and humane treatment of detainees without exception.
In a statement to the United Nations General Assembly this month, the ICRC said:
In our view, the international community must be clear and firm about the need for counterterrorism activities to be conducted with full respect for the protection afforded to all individuals by international law, in particular IHL and international human rights law. This is also true for persons arrested and detained in connection with terrorism, including those designated as “foreign fighters”.
In this week’s roundup, we take a look at the discussion around foreign fighters, as portrayed by the media and other online outlets.**
BBC reports on a new study from the Soufan Center, a US-based think tank. At least 5,600 supporters of so-called Islamic State (IS) have returned to their home countries as it loses ground in Iraq and Syria, it says. The Soufan Center says 33 states have reported arrivals in the past two years. The figure includes half of the estimated 850 people who left the UK.
Thousands of Islamic State Fighters Return to Home Countries (Washington Times)
Guy Taylor writes: Thousands of foreign fighters who flocked to fight with Islamic State in its Syrian and Iraqi strongholds have returned to their home countries as the terrorist group’s territory shrinks, according to an extensive survey from a private security-intelligence firm, which also found that Russia has been the No. 1 source country of foreign fighters.
NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University's program on extremism, about whether ISIS fighters are returning to their home countries as feared, following losses in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS Jihadis Have Returned Home by the Thousands (The New Yorker)
Robin Wright asks, now that the ISIS pseudo-caliphate has collapsed: Just how many fighters have survived? Where are they? What threat do they pose?
ISIS Fighters Are Not Flooding Back Home to Wreak Havoc as Feared (The New York Times)
Eric Schmitt reports: As recently as a year ago, United States and other Western counterterrorism officials feared that a major surge of Islamic State fighters would return home to Europe and North Africa to commit mayhem after being driven out of their strongholds in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria.
Now, those cities have fallen to American-backed forces, but the number of combat-hardened returnees has been much smaller than anticipated, if still worrisome, counterterrorism officials say.
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