CEP Webinar: A Sisyphean Task? Prosecuting Returnees from Syria and Iraq in France

(New York, N.Y. / Berlin) – Nearly 2,000 individuals have traveled from France to Syria and Iraq to join terrorist organizations such as the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). They make up the largest contingent of European travelers. During the past decade, the high number of investigations concerning these alleged foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) and court cases of returnees as well as a general increase in the terrorist threat levels in France has had a crucial impact on the French criminal justice system’s response.  

Potential prison sentences for terrorism-related charges, for example, have repeatedly been increased and returnees now risk imprisonment for life. Women made up around a third of travelers from France, but female returnees were—like in other European countries—not systematically investigated and prosecuted until 2017. Charges for core international crimes, such as crimes against humanity or war crimes, are receiving increased attention but remain more difficult to establish than terrorism-related charges. Finally, since France started repatriating French women from northeastern Syria in summer 2022, more female returnees who stayed with ISIS until the end are expected to stand trial in Paris.

The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) is delighted to invite you to this webinar, where Sofia Koller, senior research analyst at CEP Germany, will be presenting her latest policy paper, Prosecution of Returnees from Syria and Iraq in France: Insights and Recommendations for Policymakers and Security Agencies.

The CEP policy paper serves as a starting point for a discussion on the approach to prosecuting returnees in France, the role of international criminal law, gendered differences, as well as broader challenges of human rights-based processes of prosecution, rehabilitation, and reintegration of ISIS-affiliates.

The webinar will be conducted in English via Zoom.

Date:   Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Time:  9:00 a.m. ET / 15:00 CET to 10:30 am ET / 16:30 CET



Sofia Koller
Senior Research Analyst, Counter Extremism Project (CEP)

Dr. Sharon Weill
Associate Professor of International Law at the American University of Paris and Senior Lecturer at Sciences Po Paris

Constance Wilhelm-Olympiou
Doctoral Researcher, King’s College London, Department of War Studies

Moderator and Introductory Remarks:

Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler
Senior Director, Counter Extremism Project (CEP)

The presentations will be followed by a Q&A session open to all participants.


To participate in this webinar please register via this link:

Please register up to one hour before the start of the webinar to ensure registration approval.

Please feel free to forward this invitation to colleagues with an interest in the subject.

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On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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