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Laws Related to “Foreign Fighters”

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The following is a guest post by Connie Johnson, a senior legal research analyst at the Law Library of CongressShe most recently published a blog post on her new bibliography of Islamic law materials.

The Law Library of Congress has published a report titled Treatment of Foreign Fighters in Selected Jurisdictions. The focus of the report is on the legal treatment of individuals who travel to other countries to join and engage in the activities of terrorist organizations. It discusses laws already adopted and provisions under consideration by the United Nations, the European Union, and 73 countries. Two maps that illustrate the findings have been included in the report – one of which is shown below.

One impetus for action by some countries in recent months is the adoption of a resolution by the United Nations Security Council in September 2014 , in which concern was expressed about the threat posed by these fighters, both while abroad and once they return to their home countries.

Many nations can use laws already in place to punish such “foreign fighters.” Penalties include imprisonment and in some cases loss of citizenship. Furthermore, there are some jurisdictions in which harsher punishments are imposed for recruiting others for terrorist actions abroad and for undergoing military training with foreign military groups. Some countries are also considering, or have enacted, measures related to refusing or canceling travel documents, and investigating and detaining people suspected of planning to travel to other countries to join terrorist groups. One city in Denmark has a unique approach: instead of facing punishment, returning fighters are given the opportunity to study or take a job.

The report was completed in late 2014.  As you might have seen from various news reports from around the world, this is a rapidly developing area of law. Law Library staff will be providing updates to the report through our Global Legal Monitor publication as new information becomes available.

Foreign fighter laws - map

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