The RCMP is in the process of figuring out if any Canadian ISIS fighters held in Syria could be prosecuted under war crimes laws.
This news comes on the heels of revelations that the government is trying to find ways to bring imprisoned ISIS fighters to Canada.
Officials are now saying that they are deciding if the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act could be used to lock up ISIS fighters who are Canadian.
The RCMP’s deputy commissioner has said it would be difficult to arrest and charge returning ISIS fighters, but the national police force has nevertheless made it clear it will try. Either way, it’s clear the federal government wants these terrorists to return.
War crimes charges are very rare in Canada, with only a handful of successful cases on the record.
Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau understands the challenge the RCMP faces, noting the difficulty with “making the translation from intelligence gathering activities to presenting evidence of crimes.”
“That is something that the RCMP, our intelligence agencies and indeed agencies around the world are struggling with and working on very hard,” he said.
The government estimates around 60 ISIS fighters with Canadian citizenship have already returned to Canada, with around 190 believe to remain abroad, many held by Syrian rebels.
Many of these fighters are accused of horrendous crimes.
One such man, Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed, an Ethiopian man from Toronto produced, narrated, and circulated ISIS mass execution videos.
Another, Abu Huzaifa, admitted to executing two people on behalf of ISIS. He also claimed he lied to Canadian authorities about what he did for ISIS upon returning to Canada.
ISIS commits unspeakable atrocities on those who do not follow its brand of extremist Islam, particularly religious minorities.
The mass murders, rapes and enslavements of Iraq’s Yazidi minority have been considered genocide by many.
It’s unclear to what extent those fighters with Canadian citizenship could have been involved in ISIS atrocities.
Due to the difficulty of procuring evidence from war zones, and the lack of law enforcement in former ISIS-controlled territory to work with, creating strong cases against many returning ISIS fighters would be nearly impossible.
Despite the efforts of the RCMP, it is unlikely that many of them would ever be punished for their crimes if the government returns them to Canada.