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EU agency wants 'IS' returnees charged with war crimes

May 23, 2020

A new report from an EU-backed genocide investigation body says 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.

Militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave its flags
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo

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 so-called 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. 

Read more: Prosecuting IS returnees in Germany requires the law's longest arm

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 comprised of 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. 

Read more: How a German family ended up in Syria's Islamic State-controlled territory

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 Centre for the Study of Radicalisation 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." 

Read more: Over 60 Germans among Islamists in Idlib

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.

wmr/rc (dpa, AFP)

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