“In execution of its judgment, the Court specifies that it is incumbent on the French government to resume the examination of the applicants’ requests as soon as possible by surrounding it with the appropriate guarantees against arbitrariness”, indicated the Grand Chamber of the ECHR, its highest body.

According to the Court based in Strasbourg, “the rejection of a request for return presented in this context must be subject to an individual examination (…) by an independent body”.

– “Made of prince” –

Paris will have to pay 18,000 euros to one of the applicants’ families and 13,200 euros to the other for costs and expenses.

“It’s the end of the act of the prince and the end of arbitrariness”, commented Me Marie Dosé, one of the lawyers of the four applicants, parents of two young French women stranded in camps in Syria with their children.

The lawyer demands the repatriation of all the remaining women and children: “In three operations, it’s done”.

His clients had asked the French authorities in vain for the repatriation of their loved ones, before resolving to seize the European jurisdiction, believing that their daughters and grandchildren were exposed in the camps to “inhuman and degrading treatment”.

In its judgment, the ECHR points in particular to “the absence of any formal decision” on the part of the French authorities as to the refusal to repatriate the relatives of the applicants, who wrote, without obtaining a response, to the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron and to his Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Their daughters had left France in 2014 and 2015 to join Syria where they gave birth to two children for one, one for the other. Now aged 31 and 33, they have been detained with them since the beginning of 2019 in the Al-Hol and Roj camps (northeast).

The Court found that Paris had violated Article 3.2 of Protocol 4 to the European Convention on Human Rights, a text which stipulates that “no one may be deprived of entering the territory of the State whose is the national”.

“We are relieved because it was a three-year fight,” reacted the father of one of the two young women, who wishes to remain anonymous. “My daughter is doing as well as she can, there is a lot of fatigue. My grandson still hasn’t seen a tree, apart from sand,” he added.

However, the ECHR did not consecrate with this judgment a systematic right to the repatriation of nationals, in particular linked to jihadism: “the Court considers that the French citizens detained in the camps in north-eastern Syria are not entitled to claim the benefit of a general right to repatriation”, specifies the court.

On the other hand, France may have to do so in “exceptional circumstances”, such as when “physical integrity” is at stake or a child is “in a situation of great vulnerability”, as is the case in this file.

This judgment, which primarily targets France, also concerns the other member countries of the Council of Europe and their nationals detained in Syria.

During the reading of the decision, in addition to the representative of France, representatives of other countries (Denmark, Sweden, United Kingdom, Norway, Netherlands, Spain) were also present.

Elsewhere in Europe, countries like Germany or Belgium have already recovered most of their jihadists. For its part, to the chagrin of families and NGOs, Paris has long favored the “case by case”.

But in early July, France brought back 35 minors and 16 mothers, the first massive repatriation since the fall in 2019 of the “caliphate” of the Islamic State (IS) group. Until then, only a few children had been brought back.

“We did not wait for the decision of the ECHR to move forward,” reacted government spokesman Olivier Véran after the Court’s judgment. According to him “each file, each human situation basically, is the subject of an attentive, meticulous examination”.

There remain a hundred French women and nearly 250 children in camps in Syria.