Court cases against foreign terrorist fighters on rise
Eurojust presented its fourth report on the topic to the Civil Liberties Committee MEPs
Maria Koleva, Brussels
30 June, 2017
Photo: © European Parliament
The Civil Liberties Committee MEPs discussed the Eurojust report on foreign terrorist fighters.
At the Civil Liberties Committee sitting on 28 June, Michele Coninsx, President of Eurojust, the European Agency for criminal justice cooperation, presented to MEPs the latest report on foreign terrorist fighters. In this fourth in a row paper, which is not available to the public, the agency outlines Eurojust’s views on the phenomenon and the criminal justice response. The Eurojust chief gave an overview of the developments from 2012, when were identified the first signs about the foreign terrorist fighters travelling to Iraq and Syria and the agency in fact started to deal full time with the problem, to 2016. The presentation included information on justice response in Member States, work in the field on deradicalisation and strategies for dealing with returnees.
Saying that there is a gradual increase in the court cases in terms of the foreign terrorist fighters across the EU, she explained to the lawmakers that in the operational work since two years there is a five-fold increase of cases, much more coordination and meetings, much more joint investigations. The mutual recognition instruments like the European arrest warrants, the joint investigation teams, and the European investigation order which saw the light on 22 May this year, will help us to accomplish the objective to get evidence, and to get them in a quick way, she said.
The figures for 2016 in terms of prosecutions show 133 investigations and prosecutions compared to 2014 with just 33, and to 2015 – 100. The concluded court cases in 2014 were 180, in 2015 they were 218 and in 2016 these cases were 275 in the whole EU. In 17 Member States last year there were convictions especially in relation to the fight against jihadist terrorism.
We see that the conviction rate was amazing, 89% of cases led to conviction, an acquittal rate of 11%, and that means that we have been quite successful in collecting evidence in an admissible and correct way, Michele Coninsx specified. Those cases led to imprisonment, restraining orders or mental health care, among others.
The number of individuals tried is also augmenting, from 244 in 2014, to 513 in 2015, and 580 in 2016.
In relation to evidence gathering and using the intelligence, referring to the different rules across Europe, Eurojust is recommending involvement of judicial authorities at the earliest stage possible, especially when intelligence is coming from third countries.
According to the findings in the paper, the number of returnees from Iraq and Syria does not seem to be increasing and there is more chance that they are going to be relocated in the war zones, and there will be shifts from Iraq, Syria to other regions in the neighbourhood. But we see however a new trend that females and young children are coming back to Europe, and they need special attention, Michele Coninsx pointed out.
Lawmakers asked her quite a few questions on different aspects of the reported facts, including on radicalisation, on the number of the women and children returnees from the conflict zones, and on the implementation of the Money Laundering Directive by the Member States. They also voiced concerns that half of the mosques in the UK are funded by third countries.