Eurojust, Europe’s judicial cooperation agency, has called for Daesh returnees from Iraq and Syria to be charged with war crimes. The call was made in a new report by the agency.
Daesh has been classified as a terrorist organisation, which means that its members who have returned to their country of origin primarily face prosecution for terrorism-related offences under domestic laws. However, says Eurojust, “[Daesh] should not only be considered as a terrorist organisation.”
Daesh, the agency insists, fulfils the criteria to classify the organisation as a “party to a non-international armed conflict in Iraq and Syria acting as an organised non-state armed group.” Under this classification, parties are obliged to follow international humanitarian law, meaning that members of the organisation can be held liable for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, among other core international crimes.
The Eurojust report calls for cumulative charging, where defendants face prosecution for terrorism-related offences and core international crimes at the same time. The process has been used against Daesh fighters returning to France, Germany and the Netherlands in recent months.
In late April, the trial of a 37-year-old Iraqi man suspected of being a member of Daesh started in Frankfurt, Germany. The defendant, known only as Taha Al-J, faces charges of genocide, murder, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the death of an enslaved 5-year-old Yazidi girl.
Meanwhile, in early May, Omaima M, the widow of German rapper turned Daesh fighter Denis Cuspert, went on trial in Hamburg, Germany. She faces charges of human trafficking, membership of a foreign terror group and crimes against humanity.
The Eurojust report says that cumulative charging, including prosecution of perpetrators of war crimes, is an important step. “Prosecuting terrorism offences combined with acts of core international crimes ensures the full criminal responsibility of perpetrators, results in higher sentences and delivers more justice for victims,” the agency explains.
Moreover, core international crimes are not subject to the same statute of limitations as terrorism-related offences. This means that Daesh returnees could face prosecution decades after the crimes of which they are accused were committed. “By recognising and naming these crimes for what they are, justice can hence be brought to victims,” concludes Eurojust.