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ICRC warns states against ‘dehumanisation’ of IS fighters

Governments must refrain from using language that speaks of the killing or “annihilation” of their citizens who have joined jihadist groups, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday.

The comments from the ICRC’s deputy chief for the Near and Middle East, Patrick Hamilton, came less than two weeks after France’s defence minister publicly stated her preference to see jihadists killed abroad.

In a discussion on French radio that touched on the hundreds of French nationals who have joined the Islamic State group (IS) in Iraq and Syria, defence minister Florence Parly said it was important to “neutralise a maximum number of jihadists”.

She added that “if jihadists perish in combat, I would say that’s better”.

Without addressing the French situation directly, the Red Cross official criticised “a public discourse including from states on the necessity or at least the desirability of annihilating those enemies still standing.”

He cautioned against language that fuels “dehumanisation of the other, of the enemy who is not deemed worthy of compassion”.

“No one can be tortured, nor summarily executed”, Hamilton told reporters in Geneva.

“Everyone has the right to procedural safeguards, and to a fair trial. This includes the so-called foreign fighters. They are no exception under the law.”

Debate over the fate of foreign fighters, including Europeans, who have entered Iraq and Syria to join IS has intensified as the jihadists have been flushed from their strongholds by a multi-national coalition.

Hamilton addressed suggestions raised by some that IS fighters can be deprived of basic rights because the group’s crimes have been so heinous.

“The argument that the crimes committed are unprecedented in nature and therefore justify an exception to the law do not stand historical scrutiny”, he said.

“Everyone has the right to be treated with humanity and dignity … including foreign fighters and their family members”, he said.