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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: https://icct.nl/publication/prosecuting-potential-foreign-fighters-legislative-and-practical-challenges/

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: editors@internationalcrimesdatabase.org.

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

31 results (ordered by date)

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Prosecutor v. Omar H.

Judgment, 23 Oct 2013, District Court of Rotterdam, The Netherlands

In one of the first cases concerning (potential) foreign fighters, Omar H., a Dutch citizen, was found guilty of preparing to commit arson and/or an explosion, and of incitement to commit a terrorist crime on 23 October 2013. The District Court of Rotterdam found that Omar H.’s actions of searching online for information about how to make homemade bombs, visiting certain websites, and his purchase of the necessary objects to make a bomb demonstrated he was preparing to commit an act of arson and/or explosion. However, the Court rejected the Prosecutor’s submission that this constituted training for a terrorist crime as there was a need for actual preparation or execution in order to speak of training. Omar H. was also found guilty of inciting terrorist crimes as he had put a film and text about terrorist attacks online, and he had started an online discussion about jihad in a public forum. Omar H. was sentenced to 12 months in prison, four of which were suspended. 


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