TerrorismIS Returnees Should Be Charged with War Crimes: EU Agency

Published 26 May 2020

More than 13,000 citizens of European countries traveled to Syria and Iraq to join, fight, or work with ISIS. In addition to former fighters, this figure includes women and children. A new report from an EU-backed genocide investigation body says that adding war crimes and genocide to terrorism charges for IS fighters returning to the EU will lead to tougher sentences and “more justice” for victims.

Former “Islamic State” (IS) fighters who returned to Europe from conflicts in Iraq and Syria should be charged with war crimes along with terrorism, said a report released Saturday by the EU-backed Genocide Network.

According to the network, many returning foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) affiliated with IS only face charges under domestic terrorism laws in their EU home countries, which come with a statute of limitations that sets a time limit to prosecution. 

However, “core international crimes,” like genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, can be prosecuted without a statute of limitations and be added to domestic terrorism charges. Culminating charges can lead to stiffer sentencing, the report said. 

The Genocide Network said in the report that the legal basis for prosecuting former IS members should be amended, arguing the group’s activities in Iraq and Syria fulfilled legal criteria under international humanitarian law as an “organized non-state armed group.”

Therefore, its members and foreign terrorist fighters could be responsible for committing war crimes and other core international crimes.”

Tougher Sentences
The Genocide Network is supported by Eurojust, an EU agency based in the Hauge comprising prosecutors from member states. 

Eurojust said 20 cases that went to trial following this procedure in five countries, including France, Germany, and the Netherlands, led to “significantly higher” sentences. 

In one example, a German jihadist who posted a video of himself cutting the ears and nose of a dead Syrian soldier was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison for the war crime of “outrage upon personal dignity.”

In another case, a Dutch jihadist fighter was sentenced to over seven years in the Netherlands for sharing a picture of himself on Facebook laughing next to a crucified man. 

EU Solidarity on Genocide 
The report also cited a study from 2018 by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization based in London estimating there were over 13,000 people in Europe associated with IS, including former fighters, women, and children.

The report coincides with Saturday’s 5th EU Day against Impunity for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

On the “5th EU Day against Impunity, we show the world that we care — not only about European citizens, but about humanity as a whole. It is our joint responsibility to bring justice to the countless victims and people affected by armed conflicts,” Eurojust President Ladislav Hamran said in a press release Saturday.

This article is published courtesy of the Deutsche Welle (DW).