UN experts urge Turkey to repatriate Irish woman associated with terror group

21 November 2019

Turkey must ensure that an Irish woman and her infant daughter who are being held in custody there are repatriated, independent UN experts said in a statement released on Thursday. The woman, Lisa Smith, has been described in press reports as a supporter of the ISIL terror group, and former member of the Irish military.

Ms. Smith and her child were transferred to Turkish custody following the bombing of a camp housing thousands of people, including suspected family members of ISIL extremists northeast Syria, and her exact whereabouts are currently unknown.

The UN experts expressed concern about the vulnerability of the infant, and that Ms. Smith may be facing ill-treatment in custody.

The Special Rapporteurs are insisting that Ms. Smith receive consular assistance, and protection from any abuse whilst detained by the Turkish authorities, and expressed grave concerns about her and her daughter’s physical and mental health.

Women and children associated with ISIL, say the independent rights experts, may have been subjected to serious human rights violations and gender-based violence during and prior to their detention in camps such as Ain Issa.

Ms Smith was reportedly a member of the Irish Air Corps, before leaving Ireland to travel to Syria in 2015, where she married an ISIL fighter in territory controlled by the group. Media reports earlier this month suggested that Ms. Smith and her daughter were due to be deported by Turkey, along with a number of other Europeans held in custody.

Following the territorial defeat of the ISIL terror group in Iraq and Syria, thousands of foreign terrorist fighters, known as FTFs, are attempting to find a way home, or relocate to safe havens or conflict zones.

The phenomenon of returning FTFs is recognized to be a major threat to international peace and security, and is a growing concern for many countries. The UN Counter-Terrorism Office (UNOCT) works to address these fears through several initiatives, such as a programme designed to improve the detection of FTFs and others suspected of serious crimes, as they travel, through the collection, identification, and analysis of their passenger data.

In their statement, the UN experts underscored the need for a thorough, individual evaluation of each woman and child in compliance with international human rights law, including attention to any gender-based violence they may have suffered, and persecution against women who return from Syria and Iraq, both in third countries and upon return to countries of nationality.

 

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