UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The European Union has opened a common counterterrorism record in the hope of facilitating the prosecution and conviction of suspected militants and individuals returning from fighting with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, EU officials said on Thursday.
The move aims to allay fears linked to the fate of hundreds of European citizens who fought in the ranks of the organization and are currently being held in Iraq and Syria.
Many may return to Europe and are not being prosecuted for lack of evidence, which has caused concern in several EU countries.
The new database will collect information from all 28 EU countries on ongoing investigations, prosecutions and convictions of militants, and facilitate cooperation between prosecutors.
This is expected to contribute to the conviction of war criminals and other militants who could have faced lesser charges or completely escaped prosecution for the inability of their own investigative agencies to gather sufficient evidence against them.
Because there are parallel investigations in several EU countries, militants could stand trial on lighter charges if investigations are not coordinated. “No one can be tried on the same charge twice,” said Ladislav Hamran, president of Eurogast, the EU agency responsible for administering the database, which is responsible for coordinating judicial investigations between bloc states.
Hamran told a news conference the new tool could help prevent new attacks in Europe as prosecutors would have access to more information about the suspects.
The continent has seen several attacks in recent years, including two major attacks in Paris in November 2015 and one in Brussels months later, all of which claimed dozens of lives.
The register will gather information on jihadists, political extremists and all extremists of all kinds.
At least 1,300 European citizens, more than half of them children, are being held in Syria and Iraq, EU security chief Julian King told Reuters.
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