Since 2018, the situation in Syria has gradually shifted from a full-scale civil war to a war on terror. Under the joint efforts of the international community, the “Islamic State” has rapidly disintegrated. However, in stark contrast to the surging war on the counter-terrorism battlefield, the parties’ long-term international cooperation plan to deal with the “Islamic State” captured personnel has remained undecided. This has also become a soft underbelly of current international counter-terrorism cooperation. In the middle of this month, Turkey repatriated several “Islamic State” militants from European countries and said that more foreign militants will be repatriated in the future.
Disposal of armed personnel involved in terrorism has become an urgent issue in international counter-terrorism cooperation. First, the number of personnel to be disposed of this time is arguably the largest in history. “Islamic State” has the characteristics of combining terrorist ideology with secular political demands, leading to the largest cross-border convergence of extreme people. From 2013 to 2018, more than 41,000 foreigners joined the “Islamic State”, the largest number of Western countries It’s France, Germany and Britain.
Second, the parties to the war did not have the ability to detain armed militants for a long time. Detention facilities are mostly temporary facilities located in areas of armed conflict, and there is a risk of organized prison escape for terrorist-related armed personnel. Anti-terrorism is essentially a battle between modern human civilization and barbarism. Military victory is important, but fundamentally resolving terrorism depends on moral superiority. If a large number of armed personnel are detained for a long time without a fair trial in accordance with the law, or if there is a serious humanitarian crisis in the place of detention, the fight against terrorism will face a risk of failure.
International cooperation in dealing with armed terrorists is subject to political contradictions. First, at the international political level, the distribution of responsibilities between terrorist exporters and victims of terrorist activities is uneven. Different from the historical flow of international terrorists from developing countries to developed countries, a large number of “Islamic State” terrorists are reversely exported from developed countries to developing countries. In counter-terrorism practice, the responsibility for dealing with terrorists also mainly lies in developing countries that have suffered harm from terrorist activities. Western society’s anti-terrorism concept may be that Syria will deal with the “Islamic State” aftermath of Syria’s political reconstruction, including terrorists.
Secondly, at the domestic political level, European countries that export terrorists themselves have also suffered from “Islamic State”. Accepting repatriated terrorists can easily cause social panic and create political pressure.
Finally, it is only expedient for the warring parties to detain terrorist-related armed personnel separately. Once such wartime emergency measures are normalized and fixed, armed detainees are likely to become tools of international political struggle. This round of the repatriation dispute between Turkey and Europe is a preview of this dangerous prospect. The painful lessons of the Iraq war show that improper handling of detained armed personnel is an important incentive for breeding terrorist organizations.
Judicial cooperation and public policy weaknesses exist in the repatriation of terrorist-related armed personnel. First, according to European Parliament statistics, 15 EU countries have allowed “disloyalty to the motherland” as a reason to cancel their nationality. Although such practices have reduced the country’s judicial responsibility for counter-terrorism, they are not completely consistent with the principle advocated by the UN Security Council Resolution 2178 for the prosecution and punishment of national terrorism-related personnel by sovereign states. The complexity of international cooperation.
Second, the degree of completeness of EU anti-terrorism legal systems differs from conviction and sentencing standards. Some EU countries are worried that after the repatriation of terrorists, it will be difficult to meet their national standards of criminal evidence.
Third, all parties participating in the war in Syria lack sufficient criminal investigation and evidence collection capabilities, and there are political differences between them. It is difficult to carry out effective resource sharing and international cooperation in the field of evidence.
Fourth, terrorist depolarization is a long, costly and limited social project. EU countries are generally worried that after the repatriation of terrorist-related armed personnel, they will spread the idea of extremism in places where they serve sentences and return to society.
The effectiveness of international counter-terrorism depends on the success of international counter-terrorism cooperation, which is a profound lesson left by the Syrian crisis. The opportunity for the rise of the “Islamic State” stems from the serious political differences and opposing military actions of the international community on the Syrian issue. The disintegration of the “Islamic State” benefits from the formation of the war on terror. In the fight against international terrorism, no country can stand alone, try to ban the terrorist circle from its own country, and try to make some countries bear too much responsibility for counter-terrorism, which will provide dangerous soil for the resurgence of international terrorism. For this reason, the international community urgently needs to establish a more fair, reasonable and effective anti-terrorism political and judicial cooperation mechanism.