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.
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.