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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

30 results (ordered by date)

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Burcu T.: Prosecutor v. Burcu T.

Judgment, 22 Jul 2015, District Court of Rotterdam, The Netherlands

On 22 July 2015, Burcu T., a Dutch national, was found guilty of violating the 1977 Dutch Sanction Law by transferring just over €2000 to an intermediary in Turkey as she ought to know the money would end up in the hands of terrorist groups. Burcu T. had been engaged to [T], who had informed her he was a member of the Taliban, and the court found that she ought to have known it was likely that the money she transferred would go to jihadist groups. In the same judgment, Burcu T. was acquitted of participating in a terrorist organisation due to a lack of adequate proof; the fact that the defendant was in a relationship with a terrorist and that she possessed documents, photos and videos linked to the jihad did not mean that she was a terrorist herself. She was sentenced to six months of imprisonment.


Harun P: Prosecutor v. Harun P

Judgment, 15 Jul 2015, Oberlandesgericht München, Germany

On 15 July 2015, German foreign fighter Harun P was convicted of membership in a foreign terrorist organisation and attempted murder in relation to his time in Syria in 2013 and 2014. Harun P had travelled to Syria in 2013 and joined the terrorist group Junud al-Sham. Subsequently, he confessed to participating in a large scale attack on a prison in Aleppo and to firing a mortar blindly into a populated industrial area in Syria. Since his return, he has distanced himself from his former views and cooperated significantly with the police. Harun P was ultimately sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment.


Prosecutor v. Omar H.

Appeal Judgment, 27 Jan 2015, Court of Appeal of The Hague, The Netherlands

On 27 January 2015, the Hague Court of Appeal convicted Omar H. for training for terrorism and making preparations to commit arson and/or an explosion. Thus, the Appeals Court agreed with the District Court of Rotterdam that Omar H. had prepared to commit arson and/or an explosion. However, it distanced itself from the District Court’s finding that Omar H. had not trained for terrorism as, according to the District Court, his actions could not be considered as “training”. On the contrary, the Hague Court of Appeal decided that training for terrorism had to be interpreted broadly. Researching how to make bombs online, and buying items to make explosive devices in light of Omar H’s interest in jihad and travel to Syria were sufficient to prove he had trained himself to commit a terrorist crime. Omar H. was sentenced in total to 18 months’ imprisonment by the Court of Appeal.  


Maher H.: Prosecutor v. Maher H.

Judgment, 1 Dec 2014, District Court of The Hague, The Netherlands

Maher H.’s case is the first conviction in the Netherlands of a Dutch ‘foreign fighter’ returning from Syria. He was convicted on 1 December 2014 and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment by the District Court in The Hague. Although it was not exactly clear what Maher H. had done in Syria, the Court found enough evidence to determine, among other things, that he was guilty of preparing to commit terrorist crimes, including murder and manslaughter. The Court based its decision on the fact that he had actually been to Syria and participated in the armed conflict there as well as his support for the jihad. Factors such as Maher H.’s decision to join a jihadi armed group in Syria that aimed to destroy Syria’s political structure and establish an Islamic State were also considered relevant in showing his terrorist intent. The Court moreover convicted Maher H. of disseminating inciting videos, pictures and a document. However, he was acquitted of conspiring to commit a terrorist offence due to a lack of evidence. This decision was subsequently appealed by the defendant. 


Shannon Conley: United States of America v. Shannon Conley

Plea Agreement, 9 Sep 2014, District Court for the District of Colorado, United States

Ms. Shannon Conley has pleaded guilty before US courts to having tried to travel to Syria in order to join and provide support to Al Qaeda / ISIS. Ms. Conley met her fiancé, a jihadi fighter associated with these groups, online and they shared a belief in violent jihad. She subsequently planned to join him and the terrorist group, and arranged to receive some training in weapons and military tactics. However, Ms. Conley was arrested prior to her departure on a flight to Turkey in April 2014 and was sentenced in 2015 to 4 years’ imprisonment.   


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