A Turn of the Tide in the Extraterritorial Application of Child Rights: On the French Approach towards ISIS’ Child Returnees

  •  Felix A. Aguettant    


There are hundreds of children of French jihadists detained in northeast Syrian camps, being in direct danger of irreparable damage to their physical and psychological development. France has been denying the existence of any competence in Syria that could impose international obligations regarding these children. However, in November 2020, the Committee on the Rights of the Child decided in an individual communication procedure that the French State has jurisdiction over these children, marking a significant development in the extraterritorial application of human rights that is not immune to severe criticism. The Committee established that competence is found entirely upon a factual assessment and used the nationality of the children as a central criterion, posing arbitrariness concerns. The decision is nevertheless a decisive basis to uphold the positive obligation to protect child nationals, making the refusal of the State to systematically repatriate them less and less defensible. Finally, an understanding of security concerns was found to be crucial in a policy change. Any future decisions should therefore strike a better balance between public security and the rights of the child.

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