Jihadist road ends in death or jail. If the U.S. bombs don’t kill them, Europe will eventually jail them as the European Union sets up a common counter-terrorism register to facilitate prosecutions and convictions of suspected Jihadist militants. Those returning home from fighting with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are in for a surprise.
The move is partly aimed at addressing concerns about the fate of hundreds of EU citizens who fought for Islamic State. Most of them Syria and Iraq detain today. Many of them could return to Europe. The EU intends to establish evidentiary tools to prevent them from going free. The lack of evidence against them has contributed to unease in several EU countries over returning fighters.
A COOPERATIVE EFFORT
The new database will put together information from all the 28 EU countries on ongoing investigations, prosecutions and convictions of militants. It is a cooperative effort for a single goal to help the EU prosecutors.
This is expected to help convict war criminals and other militants, who might otherwise face trials for a lesser crime or no trial at all because national investigations have failed to gather enough evidence against them.
If the U.S. bombs don’t kill them, Europe will eventually jail them
Because of parallel investigations in different EU states, militants could face lighter punishments if the EU countries do not coordinate the probes as “nobody can be prosecuted for the same crime twice,” noted Ladislav Hamran. Hamran chairs Eurojust, the EU agency that will manage the database and is in charge of coordinating judicial investigations among EU states.
The new tool could also help prevent new attacks in Europe. Hamran told a news conference that with more information to access, Europe readies herself for a safer future.
HISTORY TAUGHT EUROPE
Jihadist terrorists hit the continent several times in recent years. These included two attacks in Paris in November 2015 and in Brussels a few months later. Both killed dozens of people.
The register will gather information on jihadists, political extremists and all sorts of radical militants. But its immediate use is likely to concern returning foreign fighters.
The EU security commissioner Julian King told Reuters Iraq and Syria hold at least 1,300 EU radicalized citizens. More than half are children.
National authorities have for years been reluctant to share information about prosecutions. But after the Paris attacks, cross-border cooperation has increased.
The EU anti-terrorist chief, Gilles de Kerchove, said the bloc was also trying to facilitate trials of suspects directly in Iraq.
The new register is open only to EU states. Not to Britain, which is due to leave the bloc on Oct. 31.
Hamran also urged the setting up of secured, encrypted channels to transfer electronic evidence to mitigate risks from cyberattacks.
Reuters contributed to this article.