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Four months after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to release some 800 ISIS crusaders captured by American-backed forces in Syria—including 32 Canadians—the RCMP is apparently weighing crimes against humanity charges ahead of possible repatriation.
The RCMP has yet to respond The Post Millennial‘s request for comment on a Global News report published earlier today indicating police considering this course of investigation.
Different from the terrorism offence in the criminal code, Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act encompasses genocide, enslavement, torture and rape “or any other inhumane act” committed against an identifiable group.
Ottawa lawyer Errol Mendes, an international law expert and former director for the Human Rights Research and Education Centre, says regardless of how the RCMP proceed, getting enough evidence remains the challenge.
“One of the problems we’ve had with our terrorism offence is we have to prove intent to commit certain acts on the basis of a form of political motivation against the government,” Mendes told The Post Millennial. “Unfortunately the way we’ve structured our terrorism law requires us to prove a very complex system of intent.”
“It’s not beyond the realms of possibility, especially if the person ends up saying yes, ‘I intended to do this,’ but you can also prove intent if you have the evidence.”
War crimes charges require different kinds of evidence, said Mendes but the real task facing RCMP will be finding it in the wreckage of a failed state.
“For crimes against humanity, you have to prove they are part of a systematic policy to commit major acts of killings, rapes, torture and so forth,” he said. “But both with the terrorism and crimes against humanity cases the major challenges will be evidence gathering and depending on how much they can do in a very volatile situation.”
Trump’s threat came as U.S-backed Kurdish forces were mopping up scattered ISIS resistance and eventually declared victory over the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate back in March.
Lost in Trump’s rendering of the numbers is that in addition to “fighters”, it is believed that 700 women and 1500 children are also being held.
Of the Canadians held in northern Syria, 17 are children along with nine women and six men. None have been charged, while CSIS says it is monitoring upwards of 90 former Islamic State fighters believed to be back in Canada.
Additionally, there remain concerns that others who were not killed or captured—as many as 300 Canadians uprooted themselves to join ISIS—are making their way home via Turkey and Europe.
In April, a Brussels-based think tank sounded the alarm about 50,000 jihadists from 100 countries posing imminent risk to the European Union and beyond.
UPDATE: RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Caroline Duval wrote the following in an email to TPM regarding efforts the police force is undertaking for “Canadian extremist travellers (CETs).”
“Should the appropriate evidentiary threshold be met, the RCMP could proceed with terrorism charges or seek a peace bond to place conditions on the individual upon their return,” writes Duval. “While our ultimate goal is criminal prosecution, we look at every tool at our disposal to disrupt the threat.”