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Foreign Fighters

© Aloys Oosterwijk & ANP Foto

Welcome to the Foreign Fighters Tab of the International Crimes Database (ICD). This Tab, which is maintained by the T.M.C. Asser Instituut and sponsored by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague (ICCT), will collect cases of (individuals related to) (potential) foreign fighters, who could be defined as “individuals, driven mainly by ideology, religion and/or kinship, who leave their country of origin or their country of habitual residence to join a party engaged in an armed conflict” (A. de Guttry, F. Capone and C. Paulussen, ‘Introduction’, in: A. de Guttry, F. Capone and C. Paulussen (eds.), Foreign Fighters under International Law and Beyond, T.M.C. Asser Press/Springer Verlag (2016), p. 2.)

Often, the topic of foreign fighters is looked at from a (limited) counter-terrorism perspective only. In those cases, the object is not foreign fighters as such, but foreign terrorist fighters. This term has been defined in several ways, but the most authoritative one can be found in UN Security Council Resolution 2178 of September 2014, which refers to “individuals who travel to a State other than their States of residence or nationality for the purpose of the perpetration, planning, or preparation of, or participation in, terrorist acts or the providing or receiving of terrorist training, including in connection with armed conflict”.

Conversely, this Tab will collect cases of (individuals related to) (potential) foreign fighters as such, whether the suspects are charged with terrorism-related crimes (which admittedly will often be the case), war crimes or any other crimes.

Through the analysis of these cases, policy makers, practitioners and scholars alike will get a better insight into how (individuals related to) (potential) foreign fighters are prosecuted and which lessons learned can be distilled from these prosecutions. These lessons will be incorporated in papers that will be placed on both the ICCT website and this ICD Foreign Fighters Tab.

The first paper, based in part on the ICD case summaries, as well as other sources, is entitled ‘Prosecuting (Potential) Foreign Fighters: Legislative and Practical Challenges’ and is authored by Christophe Paulussen and Kate Pitcher. It can be found here:

The Foreign Fighters Tab has just been launched and hence the number of cases is still limited. However, more cases will be uploaded in the future.

Though the ICD is managed by a competent team of editors and interns, and already contains, in addition to several videos and working papers, more than 700 cases, any help would be greatly appreciated. We kindly request that you send suggestions for the database, information regarding important cases from any jurisdiction (not necessarily related foreign fighters), and particularly original court documents to the editors:

Thank you very much in advance for your assistance in continuing to build a comprehensive and user-friendly ICD together.

The ICD team

The Hague, January 2018

25 results (ordered by date)

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R. c. Habib, 2017 QCCQ 6948

Jugement sur la culpabilité (Judgment on guilt), 19 Jun 2017, Criminal and penal division, Court of Quebec, Canada

On 19 June 2017, Canadian citizen Ismaël Habib was the first adult found guilty of attempting to leave Canada to participate in the activities of a terrorist group. Mr. Habib had already travelled to Syria in 2013 for three months, but he was arrested and brought back to Canada as his passport had been cancelled by the Canadian authorities. Following initial suspicions, the Canadian police created an elaborate undercover operation by establishing a fictitious criminal organisation in which Mr. Habib was working. The accused was arrested in February 2016 after he confessed to a police undercover officer that he wished to leave for Syria to fight with ISIS. Even though the accused conceded that he had the primary intent of leaving Canada, there was a dispute on his reasons for doing so. While Mr. Habib argued that he wished to join his first wife and children in Syria, the prosecution contended that the defendant’s intent was to join ISIS and participate in its terrorist activities.

Mohamed: R v. Mohamed

Sentencing Decision, 29 Sep 2016, Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia

On 29 September 2016, Amin Mohamed was sentenced by an Australian court to 5,5 years’ imprisonment for attempting to travel to Syria and fight there. Mr. Mohamed, a New Zealander, was convicted by a jury in October 2016 for booking flights to Turkey, and receiving the contact details of a man who would assist him (and others) getting from Turkey to Syria with the intention of fighting in the ongoing armed conflict there. In this venture, Mr. Mohamed had been assisted by Hamdi Alqudsi, another man convicted earlier in 2016 for assisting seven would-be foreign fighters with travel to Syria. Mr. Mohamed was prevented from undertaking this travel in September 2013 due to the revocation of his passport and will likely face deportation to New Zealand at the end of his imprisonment.

R v Choudary and Rahman: R v Anjem Choudary and Mohammed Rahman

Sentencing remarks of Mr Justice Holroyde, 6 Sep 2016, Central Criminal Court, Great Britain (UK)

Anjem Choudary and Mohammed Rahman were both sentenced to 5.5 years’ imprisonment for inviting support for the Islamic State. Both men signed an oath of allegiance to the terrorist group that was published online and had broadcast a series of lectures online in which they denounced democracy and called for Muslims to support the establishment of the caliphate. In sentencing the two defendants, Justice Holroyde emphasised the seriousness of these offences, despite their indirect nature and the lack of violence directly caused, due to “the timing of [the] … communications, [the defendants’] high standing, the size of the audience [addressed] …, and the likelihood that those audiences would include impressionable persons who would be influenced by what” was said (p. 9). Upon release, both Mr. Choudary and Mr. Rahman will be subject to notification requirements for 15 years. 

Alqudsi: R v. Alqudsi

Sentencing Decision , 1 Sep 2016, Supreme Court of New South Wales, Australia

On 1 September 2016, Sydneysider Hamdi Alqudsi was sentenced to 8 years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 6 years, for his involvement in assisting seven fighters to travel to the conflict in Syria. Mr. Alqudsi was convicted by a jury on 12 July 2016 after attempting to argue that he was trying to save lives in Syria. Ultimately, it was found through intercepted communications that he was well aware of what the fighters he helped get to Syria and the Islamic State were doing there. Moreover, Judge Adamson acknowledged that he had been a key player in the movement of fighters from Australia to Syria as he linked those who wanted to travel with another fighter who was already there and had joined a jihadi group. 

Larmond: R. v. Larmond

Comments on Sentence, 26 Aug 2016, Superior Court of Justice, Ontario, Canada

On 26 August 2016, the Larmond brothers and Suliman Mohamed pleaded guilty to terrorist offences related to the Islamic State and Syria. They had planned to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State and had attempted this travel on several occasions. One of the twin brothers, Ashton Larmond, was the group’s leader and had previously had his passport revoked prior to heading to Syria via Turkey. His twin brother, Carlos Larmond, was arrested at the airport on his way to Syria, via India. Suliman Mohamed had planned to travel to Syria but had not been able to obtain a passport. In their sentencing remarks, Judge McKinnon compared home grown terrorists, such as the defendants, to “a particularly virulent form of cancer that must be aggressively eradicated”. Ashton was sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment, and Carlos and Suliman were both sentenced to 7 years’ imprisonment. 

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