Returning jihadists from the West belong in the criminal justice system, not counselling, Heritage report says



Foreign fighters the report reveals security gaps

Reaction from the ‘Special Report’ All-Star panel

A new study says that the best way to deal with the annoying problem of the Islamic fighters from Western countries who return home, she is in the criminal justice system, in place of guidance, and to jail those who deserve it.

“Western governments should keep the fighters who joined Islamic foreign conflicts and then return to their home countries legally accountable for their actions in the context of national or international legislation”, says a Heritage Foundation report, titled “Foreign Fighters: The Rule of Law is the Best Response of the Islamic Fighters from Western Countries,” which is due later this week.

“Legal accountability and, if applicable, disability – a much-needed signal to those who choose to join the terrorists who are the future of the ‘foreign fighter travel is totally unacceptable,” the report said.

The challenge of how to deal with Islamic fighters returning to their Western homes, has led to a controversial debate in the recent years, especially since ISIS has actively sought to stock the ranks with the citizens of those countries.

Thousands of western foreign fighters have flocked to the battlefields of Iraq and Syria after the emergence of ISIS.

(Associated Press)

Robin Simcox, the report’s author, sets the “alternatives posited are a mix of the failed, unproven or already forgiven,” and “send the wrong signal about the acceptability of foreign fighter travel.” Such alternatives are based largely on what is referred to as the “Danish model,” he said.

This approach, implemented in various degrees in the whole of Europe, “offers returnees the opportunity to take part in a voluntary counseling program, back to school or university, assistance with finding housing, and other services that allegedly facilitate their integration in the Danish society.”

But the Heritage report, numerous cases, in which a number of the returning fighters have claimed to have not participated in the violence, only for the evidence to later prove that otherwise.

For example, Harry Sarfo, who traveled to Syria from Germany, gave an interview to The New York Times claims he does not commit damage. But the video later surfaced of him allegedly shoot ISIS prisoners in Palmyra, Syria in 2015.

ISIS fighters in Syria.


Simcox, the report also criticized what he calls the increasingly common notion held by some that “disappointed” fighters can be “useful against-terror messengers” to prevent others to join the jihadi cause.

“The paths of extremism are very rarely immediately. It may take years for the former extremists to completely detach from this ideology. Expect someone who is fighting alongside ISIS, on a day a legitimate ally in the fight against Islamist extremism and the day after is an unrealistic expectation,” Simcox told Fox News. “The increasingly popular idea that we should not jail terrorists, because that would only make them even more radical, shows how utterly backwards this whole discussion can be. Yes, the prison radicalisation.

“However, the answer is to deal with the circumstances that the prison radicalisation – an inability to isolate charismatic Islamist recruiters, for example – do not stop with the sending of those who broke the law to prison.”

The findings of the report are likely to generate resistance from many who have urged Western governments to a less criminal-oriented approach.

Christianne Boudreau, a Canadian whose 22-year-old son Damien was killed in 2014 while fighting with al-Nusrah, the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda, has become a prominent advocate for the work with the authorities to open the way for foreign fighters to see the error of their ways. They urged they be used “as sources of information and reduce them to some form of de-radicalisation programs is not in a high-security prison.”


A new report released by The Heritage Foundation stresses that a hard line approach is the best way to deal with the return of foreign fighters.


And Daniel Koehler, co-founder of the German Institute on Radicalisation and De-Radicalisation Studies (GIRDS), was personally charged with laying the groundwork for the first controversial U. S program to de-radicalize an aspiring ISIS fighter. Also he has long argued for an integrated approach. “Well-designed, de-radicalisation programs usually have four main areas: religious, social, educational and psychological,” he said.

The Heritage is there an exception for the return of the children, who are born in the conflict zone, or being forced to travel there with their extremist parents.

“These children are born there or had no choice about the fact that there; are used in military operations; and have learned to hate the West and continuously exposed to ISIS ideology and propaganda,” the Simcox notes. “The local government teams working with young offenders, foster care, psychologists, de-radicalization initiatives and for the older children – security service monitoring are all options that can be used.”


But for adults, the report relentlessly concludes the law-and-order approach of the Western leaders to demonstrate to the population that they can respond to the public’s fear of terrorism.

“The emphasis on persecution does not mean that there is no place for de-radicalisation initiatives; a successful counter-terrorism strategy will have multiple components,” the report states.

Between January 2014 and December 2017, there were 180 known Islamist terror plots or Islamism-inspired acts of violence in Europe, the research highlighted. This took place in 17 different countries, which leads to 357 deaths and 1,656 injuries. The number of plots in Europe increased each year over the same period.

“The U. S government and the governments in Europe should be the priority of public safety. That means that the primary focus should be on incapacitating of the terrorists by all legal means,” Simcox added.

Hollie McKay, is a staff reporter since 2007. She has expanded from the Middle East about the rise and demise of terrorist groups, such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter via @holliesmckay

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