New CEP Policy Paper: Six Years Later: A Status Update On The Prosecution Of Female Returnees In Germany

(New York, N.Y.) – This week, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) released a new policy paper by researcher Sofia Koller, Six Years Later: A Status Update On The Prosecution Of Female Returnees In Germany, examining the prosecution of women who returned to Germany after traveling to Iraq and Syria to join terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State (ISIS). Koller has extensively covered the subject of foreign terrorist fighters, including analysis of the prosecution and reintegration of ISIS fighters in European countries.  

As of January 2024, almost 30 percent of all female returnees – at least 37 out of 129 – have received their final verdict. The remainder of returnees have a pending appeal, are still in trial or awaiting trial, or are currently being investigated. On average, the female returnees have been sentenced to around three and a half years in prison. 

Koller thoroughly studied the trials of several female returnees, including those of the women given the longest sentences – Jennifer W. (14 years in prison, pending appeal), Nadine K. (nine years and three months, pending appeal), and Marcia M. (eight years and six months in prison) – in her series ISIS Women in Court. 

The policy paper also includes a list of 40 female returnees prosecuted in Germany, including their convictions, (prison) sentences and a short case summary. 

In this most recent policy paper, Koller recommends repatriating all remaining German nationals from Northeast Syria and working with respective authorities in Iraq and Syria to issue extradition orders for those who refuse to return. Koller cites numerous past incidences of repatriation as evidence of the German government’s ability to retrieve its citizens and allow for appropriate risk management as well as prosecution.  

Koller also recommends improving access to gender-disaggregated data on criminal justice responses and including intersecting grounds in charges for core international crimes. The former would enhance research and corresponding trial effectiveness on gendered differences, and the latter would allow for more accurate charges. For instance, crimes committed by ISIS against Yazidis, a Kurdish religious minority primarily in northern Iraq, would include intersecting religious and gender-based charges.  

While Germany is currently planning another small repatriation mission for women and children remaining in Northeast Syria, a possible return of German male fighters remains however untackled. 

To read Sofia Koller’s full policy paper Six Years Later: A Status Update on the Prosecution of Female Returnees in Germany, please click here

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In Their Own Words:

We reiterate once again that the brigades will directly target US bases across the region in case the US enemy commits a folly and decides to strike our resistance fighters and their camps [in Iraq].

Abu Ali al-Askari, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) Security Official Mar. 2023
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