EU anti-terrorism chief wants law against foreign fighters

'More collaboration with Med nations needed', De Kerchove

04 December, 19:09

    Fighters in Syria (archive) Fighters in Syria (archive)

    (ANSAmed) - BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 4 - In a meeting of EU justice ministers on Thursday, anti-terrorism chief Gilles De Kerchove called for an EU-wide law that would criminally prosecute 'foreign fighters', greater collaboration with Mediterranean countries for evidence gathering and development of de-radicalization programs as an alternative to prison.

    ''An EU law against fighters would send a strong signal,'' De Kerchove said. For the first time the issue of 'foreign fighters' - term used to refer to citizens of Western nations fighting in Syria and other conflict zones - was on the agenda of the EU justice ministers meeting, which dealt with the issue during an informal lunch in which De Kerchove took part. ''In September, the UN adopted a resolution so that all member states provide for possible criminal prosecution of those that go abroad for training and fighting, as in Syria and Iraq,'' De Kerchove said. ''Having EU legislation harmonizing the behavior of all member states on this would ensure effective implementation, send a strong signal, prevent gaps and constitute a shared benchmark.''

    The anti-terrorism coordinator also stressed the difficulty involved in collecting evidence of foreign fighters' activities. ''If we are not in Syria, how can we prove that that person was with the Islamic State (ISIS)? This is why,'' he said, ''we must increase our judicial cooperation with Mediterranean countries like Turkey and Egypt,'' which he recently visited.

    However, in De Kerchove's eyes there is also the need to develop de-radicalization and reintegration programs in society as an alternative to prison, since prisons are ''large incubators'' that often result in deeper and more widespread radicalization. ''We must send those that have actually been in the ranks of terrorism to prison,'' he said, ''but we also have to come up with an alternative, a second track, and we would like the Commission to support member states in the organization of these programs.'' (ANSAmed).

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