Passport

Could a Dutch Volunteer Be Charged with Murder for Killing Islamic State Militants?

A Dutch man could face murder charges if he's found guilty of killing Islamic State militants in Syria.

KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 25: Kurdish soldiers with the Peshmerga keep guard near the frontline with Sunni militants on the outskirts of Kirkuk, an oil-rich Iraqi city on June 25, 2014 in Kirkuk, Iraq.Tensions are high in Kirkuk after control of the historic Iraqi city was taken over by the Kurds following the abandonment of Army positions by the Iraqi Military.Tens of thousands of people have fled Iraq's second largest city of Mosul after it was overrun by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants. Many have been temporarily housed at various IDP (internally displaced persons) camps around the region including the area close to Erbil, as they hope to enter the safety of the nearby Kurdish region.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 25: Kurdish soldiers with the Peshmerga keep guard near the frontline with Sunni militants on the outskirts of Kirkuk, an oil-rich Iraqi city on June 25, 2014 in Kirkuk, Iraq.Tensions are high in Kirkuk after control of the historic Iraqi city was taken over by the Kurds following the abandonment of Army positions by the Iraqi Military.Tens of thousands of people have fled Iraq's second largest city of Mosul after it was overrun by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants. Many have been temporarily housed at various IDP (internally displaced persons) camps around the region including the area close to Erbil, as they hope to enter the safety of the nearby Kurdish region. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

When a Dutch man decided to join Kurdish forces in Syria to help them beat back the Islamic State, he probably thought he would return to the Netherlands to a hero’s welcome.

Turns out he returned to murder charges instead.

Dutch prosecutors believe the 47-year-old, whose name has not been released due to the country’s strict privacy laws, killed Islamic State militants in Syria. Although he is a former Dutch soldier, he reportedly traveled there without any instruction from the military. If he did in fact kill Islamic State militants, that could earn him prison time in the Netherlands.

He appeared before an investigating judge in the city of Rotterdam on Friday, but was released after agreeing to turn over his passport, which the judge said would ensure he did not travel back to Syria.

Still, the possibility of a full-fledged criminal trial is very real. Prosecutors said Friday there is “an important difference between Dutch nationals who travel to Syria on their own to fight against IS and Dutch soldiers who train Iraqi and Kurdish forces.”

The Netherlands has backed a campaign against the Islamic State, and even sends Dutch soldiers to train Kurdish forces. But the country does not encourage Dutch nationals to join the Kurds on their own. Still, some 100 Westerners are thought to have joined them in Iraq and Syria in the past two years. In 2015, at least one Canadian and one Briton were killed in battle.

But whoever this 47-year-old is, he’s not the only Dutch committed to backing up the Kurds. In October 2014, members of No Surrender, a Dutch biker gang, announced gang members had traveled to Mosul to fight the Islamic State.

At the time, Dutch public prosecutor spokesman Wim de Bruin defended the bikers.

“Joining a foreign armed force was previously punishable; now it’s no longer forbidden,” he told AFP. “You just can’t join a fight against the Netherlands.”

Photo Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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