IS women spend less time in jail in the Netherlands than in other European countries

Women who joined the terrorist group IS in the Netherlands received on average a much lower prison sentence than in neighboring countries such as Belgium, France and Germany. This is evident from research by the International Center for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT). The 28 women convicted here were sentenced to an average of 1.6 years in prison. In the other countries examined by the ICCT, the average sentence is much higher: 4.3 years in Belgium, 4.7 years in Germany and 7.6 years in France.

An explanation for this difference in sentencing is according to the ICCT among other things, that the convicted women in France were directly involved in preparing or carrying out attacks. Moreover, many more IS women have been prosecuted and convicted in France, Belgium and Germany than in the Netherlands. Many criminal investigations are still ongoing in the Netherlands.

There is now a trend in the Netherlands to demand higher sentences against returning female IS sympathizers. The first repatriated women were not even primarily regarded by the Public Prosecution Service as suspects, but as witnesses. Only after 2015, following the publication of a critical analysis by the AIVD intelligence service, did the Public Prosecution Service decide to actively prosecute IS sympathizers who were active abroad, including women. Standard sentences of 5 years or more are now required, usually on suspicion of membership of a terrorist organization. Since 2021, IS women who took their children abroad have also been prosecuted for child neglect.

Also read
Post from IS women on the Zwolle terrorism wing

Since the rise of IS, an estimated three hundred followers from the Netherlands have joined terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq. According to the ICCT, a third of them are women. Ten people from this group died and 41 returned to the Netherlands. A small number have sought refuge in other countries. 12 women are still waiting for repatriation to the Netherlands.

Marriage to IS fighter

Prosecution is complicated because it is difficult to determine exactly what the women abroad have done. The suspects themselves are extremely reluctant to provide information about what they did with IS. Does housework suddenly count for IS women? For the Public Prosecution Service, a marriage to an IS fighter and running a joint household is now sufficient to consider membership of a terrorist organization proven.

This is also visible in the punishment. The women who returned between 2014 and 2018 received sentences of an average of eight months. For the second group, after 2018, it was from thirteen months to even six years. Since 2021, a stricter penalty regime has also applied. Convicted IS sympathizers are no longer automatically released after serving two-thirds of the sentence. It is up to the judiciary to look at this on a case-by-case basis and possibly impose stricter conditions on release.

On the terrorism list

Administrative sanctions can also be imposed on IS sympathizers. Persons known to have left for Syria or Iraq with terrorist motives are placed on a national terrorism list. They are no longer allowed to bank and can no longer simply attend education. Most convicted IS women were originally also on the terrorism list, but have since been removed from it. In addition, it is possible to revoke the passport of someone convicted of involvement in terrorism. This happens almost automatically if the convicted person has a second nationality. These persons must leave the Netherlands.