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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Canada must bring detainees back from Syrian prison camps: judge

A Federal Court judge has ruled that the government must bring all Canadian citizens home from detention camps in northeastern Syria.

Justice Henry Brown released his decision Friday in a case brought by family members seeking the repatriation of Canadian men, women and children from the camps, which were set up to hold suspected Islamic State militants and other foreigners caught up in the fighting in Syria.

According to information on the court’s website, Brown has ruled that the detainees must be provided with Canadian passports or emergency travel documents “to allow the applicants to be repatriated to Canada.”

The ruling applies to four Canadian men who are being held in the camps.

One of those men is Jack Letts, a Canadian citizen who fled his home in England in 2014, when he was 17, to travel to Syria, resulting in the United Kingdom revoking his British citizenship. His family says they have no evidence that he was a member of a terrorist group.

An agreement, which did not include the male detainees, was reached Thursday to return six Canadian women and 13 children.

Two women and two children were repatriated in October for medical reasons. One of the women, Kimberly Polman, was released on a peace bond, which lays out strict conditions. The other, Oumaima Choay, is facing several charges for terrorism offences but has been released on bail while she awaits trial.

In correspondence filed with the court, government lawyers had argued that Ottawa had no legal obligation to provide consular assistance or repatriation services to Canadians abroad. The families of the detainees argued that leaving them stranded in detention cells in a sort of legal limbo violates their Charter rights.

Allan Woods is a Montreal-based staff reporter for the Star. He covers global and national affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @WoodsAllan

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