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Returning foreign terrorist fighters in europe: a comparative analysis


Authors: De Rivoire, Hector et al.

Date of Publication: 2017

Publication: University of Strasbourg

Design of the study


Analysed official criminal legislations documents representatives’ and associations’ reports, plus used meetings, conferences and interviews to gather direct assessments from politicians and experts working on the subject.


Looks at FF issues for Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Turkey and the UK.


Examines criminal and administrative measures, analyses prosecution, prison and probation and non-repressive measures (rehabilitation, de-radicalisation/ disengagement), international cooperation frameworks and recommendations regarding the FF issue. These were specific to Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Turkey and the UK.

Key Findings 

This report presents several relevant findings of the working group on the implementation of policies in the studied countries concerning FF. These include:

  • Responses to FFs and potential imitations of such.
  • A differentiation can be made between the policies implemented by the studied states. Indeed, only two countries (Denmark and Germany) have developed programmes dealing with returning terrorist fighters. 
  • Some countries intend to design such programmes from their experiences in the prevention of violent radicalisation. Nevertheless, others favour a mainly repressive response, excluding the use of deradicalisation and rehabilitation measures for returnees. 
  • This diversity of cases is above all the result of historical and cultural differences between countries, notably in the judicial field. 

The lack of knowledge on the efficiency of disengagement, deradicalisation and rehabilitation measures is another reason of these differences.

Key recommendations 

Reported are several recommendations made by this working group in order to improve the response given by Member States of the CoE concerning the issue and challenge of the FFs.

These relate to policy, risk assessment, detention responses and alternatives to prison, medical support to traumatised returnees, special attention for children, and disengagement and social reintegration.

Reviewer Notes

This is a thorough and detailed document, however readers should be cognisant that it may become somewhat out-of-date due to the changing nature of legislations and policies of different countries.

This is a 93 page report sponsored by the Council of Europe. This report was produced by the working group ‘Returning foreign terrorist fighters’, composed of twelve European students from the IEP (Institut d’Etudes Politiques) of Strasbourg.

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