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Prison terms for repatriated Islamic State militants suggest lenient treatment by West Balkan courts

The North Macedonian Ministry of the Interior announced on 2 September that three alleged Islamic State sympathisers had been arrested in Skopje and Kumanovo and a weapons cache that was intended for use in attacks in the country had been seized. The cache was alleged to have contained small-arms ammunition, grenades, explosives, explosive belts, and other equipment. The three suspects were charged with terrorism and “creating a terrorist organization”. The Ministry of the Interior stated that the suspects had previously been convicted and jailed for fighting with a foreign armed group.

As of July 2020, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and North Macedonia have repatriated a total of 19 Islamic State militants from Syria. They are the only European countries to have publicly and voluntarily repatriated adult male citizens affiliated to the Islamic State who had been detained by Kurdish-led forces.

Other European countries have to date limited their repatriation operations to minors – mostly orphans – and small numbers of women. Court documents and news media reports on the Islamic State militants repatriated in the Western Balkans and their previous activities in Syria and Iraq have enabled Janes to provide country-specific observations on emerging prosecution and sentencing trends.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

As of July 2020, there have been at least eight cases of reported Bosnian Islamic State militants repatriated to Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of two separate repatriation operations. The first detainee was repatriated from Syria to Sarajevo on 20 April 2019, the same day that 110 nationals of Kosovo were repatriated to the Kosovan capital, Pristina. On 19 December 2019, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s government repatriated 25 additional Bosnian nationals held by Kurdish authorities in camps and prisons in northern Syria, including seven alleged male militants, six women, and 12 children.

Interpol Red Notice issued for Ibro Ćufurović. He was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment by a Bosnian court in 2019.  (Interpol)

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