The wives and children of French ISIL members captured in Syria have filed a legal complaint against French authorities for refusing to repatriate ex-fighters and their relatives, their lawyers announced Wednesday.
The fate of some 40 captured Islamic extremists and those living under ISIL, including men, women and around 20 children, has been hotly debated by the French over recent weeks.
The French government said on January 4 that those detained in Kurdish-held areas of Syria should be left there providing they can be guaranteed a fair trial. This covers the vast majority of the cases.
Lawyers representing the wives and children argue that France has a duty to repatriate its citizens.
"These women who went out there are the object of legal proceedings in France," lawyers Marie Dose, William Bourdon, Martin Pradel and Marc Bailly said in a joint statement.
"They accept that they must face up to their criminal responsibilities as soon as they arrive on French territory."
By leaving them there, French authorities are "additionally exposing these mothers and children to obvious risks -- notably in terms of their health, in a warzone."
The families have filed a legal complaint against French authorities for arbitrary detention and abuse of authority, the statement said.
Their lawyers are arguing that Syria’s Kurdish enclaves do not form a legally-recognised state entity and so "these women and children are being held in unauthorised detention".
The lawyers have not confirmed how many families were involved in the suit.
It is not thought to include the infamous Frenchwoman in Kurdish detention, the notorious ISIL propagandist Emilie Konig, a 33-year-old Muslim convert from Brittany.
A policeman's daughter, she converted after meeting her first husband. Konig set off for Syria in 2012, leaving behind her first two children in France. In Syria, she joined a new partner who was later killed and appeared in a number of ISIL propaganda videos.
French intelligence intercepted messages she sent to contacts in France urging them to attack French institutions or the wives of soldiers.
Konig features on UN and US blacklists of dangerous militants. She was captured last month and is being held in a Kurdish camp with her three young children.
Her lawyer Bruno Vinay said she has also requested to be brought to trial at home in France, but French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux indicated there are currently no plans to do so.
Of some 5,000 EU Islamists believed to have gone to fight, around a third have returned home, according to the Soufan Center, an NGO that looks at global security.
French citizens are among the biggest contingent of overseas fighters who have joined IS, with around 1,000 nationals estimated by counter-terror officials to have traveled to Iraq and Syria.