The EU Should Consider Revising Its Opposition to Capital Punishment in Light of “Daesh Flight” From Iraq and Syria

At present, the European Union unilaterally prohibits capital punishment in its member states. This remains the elephant in the room in discussions regarding European nationals who have illegally travelled to Syria and Iraq in order to fight in the ranks of the terror group Daesh (aka ISIS). Now that Daesh has largely been defeated in Syria and Iraq, some of the EU nationals who joined Daesh want to come back to Europe. This poses several legal and ethical problems. Legally, countries have asked themselves whether they are or are not obliged to “take back” their citizens who joined Daesh. While Daesh literally calls itself a “state”, the entire world recognises it only as a terror group. Therefore, while Daesh has issued passports, they are not recognised as legal documents by any government on earth and likewise, not by the UN.

Because international law prohibits governments from intentionally making individuals stateless, many individuals, including Donald Trump, have stated that EU nations must repatriate their citizens so that they can face justice. Whilst this might solve the legal problems associated with European Daesh members, it would not solve the ethical problems.

At a time when many EU governments are cash strapped and have subsequently forced so-called “austerity” measures upon their own people, the idea that EU governments should spend money and effort to repatriate terrorists is an affront to the common decency of many. Furthermore, because of the EU wide ban on capital punishment, many decent people are equally worried that millions in tax money will be wasted in order to keep many of these young terrorists in prison for the rest of their lives. Even more horrifying is the fact that ordinary people are worried that one day dangerous Daesh terrorists might be released from prison due to Europe’s notoriously lax approach to law enforcement.

There are two clear solutions to this matter and furthermore, these solutions are not mutually exclusive. 

First of all, the member states of the EU must work with the UN recognised governments of Iraq and Syria in order to bring Daesh members to justice. If Syria or Iraq would like to try Daesh terrorists in their own courts, European nations should not stop them from doing so. This is the case because these terrorists committed high crimes against the Syrian and Iraqi people and therefore, if the UN recognised governments in Baghdad and Damascus want to punish these terrorists in accordance with domestic law, they have every national and international right to do so.

In instances where Syria and Iraq do not want to try such individuals, the terrorists should in fact be repatriated to Europe, but only on the condition that they would be subject to capital punishment due to their swearing of allegiance to an internationally proscribed terrorist organisation. This of course would require the EU to remove its prohibition on capital punishment and for individual member states to re-introduce capital punishment.

The following nations currently allow for terrorists to be executed as a matter of law:










–Central African Republic 




–Democratic Republic of the Congo


–Equatorial Guinea











–Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of)

–Korea (Republic of)


















–Saudi Arabia



–South Sudan 

–Sri Lanka






–United Arab Emirates

–United States of America




Therefore, there is absolutely no reason why the EU cannot reserve its position on capital punishment. Such a reversal would save public revenue at a time when such funds should be invested in areas including education, health and infrastructure, it would guarantee that no terrorist could ever escape from prison nor be let out under a future ultra-liberal regime and finally, it would serve as a deterrent to those who believe that in Europe, one can commit acts of terrorism and not suffer the ultimate consequence.

In respect of “Daesh flight” from the Middle East to Europe, reinstating capital punishment one would allow European nations to satisfy the legal requirement not to leave an individual stateless, whilst also giving the public the assurance that they require to feel safe from the world’s most notorious and dangerous terror group.

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