Federal Court rejects legal effort to force reparation of women and children in Syrian detention camps

The Federal Court has upheld an earlier ruling rejecting legal arguments calling for the repatriation of Australian ISIS brides and their children from a refugee camp in Syria.

On Tuesday morning, Judge Christopher Horan announced that the court would dismiss the appeal in the case.

The court is of the opinion that the appeal should be dismissed. I am publishing our reasons,” he said.

Over two days in early May, a panel of three judges heard the appeal brought by litigant Save the Children Australia on behalf of 31 women and children in the Al-Roj camp in north-eastern Syria.

Last November, Justice Mark Moshinsky rejected an initial application to issue a habeas corpus order – effectively forcing the Australian government to bring the group home.

The women, some of whom were still children at the time, traveled to Syria to become brides of Islamic State fighters before the self-proclaimed caliphate collapsed in 2019.

34 women and children who are Australian citizens or eligible for Australian citizenship remain in Al-Roj camp, controlled by the Autonomous Administration of Northern and Eastern Syria (AANES).

Save the Children Australia had argued that the government had a “legal and moral obligation” to act. The Australian government, however, argued that AANES had “complete and unfettered discretion” over the prisoners and therefore could not be forced to repatriate them.

Last year, Save the Children Australia chief executive Mat Tinkler said the families had waited more than four years for their repatriation before turning to the justice system as a last resort.

The appeal judgment by Chief Justice Debra Mortimer, Justice Geoffrey Kennett and Justice Horan is published online.

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