Sweden calls for international tribunal to bring Isis fighters to justice

Sweden's prime minister has called for an international tribunal to investigate EU nationals who return from joining terror groups and are suspected of war crimes.

Sweden calls for international tribunal to bring Isis fighters to justice
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven. File photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven made the comments ahead of an EU meeting on Thursday, Aftonbladet reported. Sweden and several other EU countries have been grappling with the question of whether to repatriate EU nationals who travelled to join terror groups such as Isis, and how to prosecute those suspected of crimes.

“This is pure and ritual evil and those who are guilty must take responsibility for this,” said Löfven in reference to war crimes committed by the Isis group including rape, mass execution and murder.

“If you commit terrorist offences or war crimes, you must be sentenced for such crimes, no matter where it happens,” he said.

READ ALSO: Sweden moves to tighten anti-terror laws: five key things to know

Following the genocide in Rwanda, the United Nations Security Council established an international tribunal to hold trials for those suspected of war crimes and breaking international law, and the same method was used after the Yugoslav Wars.

Sweden is now calling for a similar approach to be taken with those who have fought for terror group Isis in Syria and Iraq, although Löfven acknowledged that the tribunal may look different from previous ones due to different factors such as the involvement of the Syrian regime. Justice Minister Morgan Johansson has also made the suggestion of an international tribunal.

According to figures released by the Swedish intelligence agency Säpo, at least 300 Swedes travelled to Syria and Iraq between 2012 and 2017 to join extremist groups, including Isis. Roughly half of them are believed to have returned to Sweden, while around 50 are thought to have been killed and another 100 remain in the region.

Some 800 foreign Isis fighters are currently being held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), including some believed to be Swedish. This has led to debates in Sweden, as well as other countries from where people travelled to join Isis, over whether it's possible to prosecute them. 

“The main problem is that Sweden doesn't yet have the laws in place, and so we can't prosecute them [here yet],” Swedish terror expert Magnus Ranstorp told The Local previously.

Sweden recently moved to tighten its anti-terror laws, and the proposal would make it illegal to be a part of or to assist a terrorist organization. However that law would come into effect from August at the earliest, and would not be applied retroactively.


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US sanctions far-right Swede for links to Russian terror group

The United States on Wednesday slapped sanctions on white nationalists from Russia and Sweden, warning they posed a threat and that one raised funds for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

US sanctions far-right Swede for links to Russian terror group

After decades focused on Islamist extremism, the United States has increasingly identified a threat from the far right, classifying in 2020 the Russian Imperial Movement as a terrorist organization, the first such action against a white supremacist group.

The State Department on Wednesday designated as a terrorist Anton Thulin, a Swede who allegedly traveled to Saint Petersburg for paramilitary instruction by the Russian group.

Thulin, who was formerly active in the Nordic Resistance Movement, was sentenced to prison in 2017 for setting off a bomb near a refugee center in Sweden. After his release, he was expelled by Poland, where authorities said he was seeking further training.

“The US government remains deeply concerned about the evolving racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist threat worldwide,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

“An element of it entails violent white supremacists traveling internationally to train and fight with likeminded individuals.”

The Treasury Department also blocked any US assets and criminalized financial transactions with two members of the Russian Imperial Movement, identified as Stanislav Shevchuk and Alexander Zhuchkovsky.

Shevchuk has traveled to the United States and Europe to unite far-right extremists, while Zhuchkovsky has used social media and online payment systems to buy military supplies for Russian troops in Ukraine, the Treasury Department said.

The Russian group denounced the US terrorist designation in 2020, insisting that it was only helping volunteers fighting on behalf of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

Canada earlier this year followed suit by banning the Russian Imperial Movement as a terrorist organization along with the Proud Boys, a far-right group involved in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.