(May 30, 2014) On May 27, 2014, Norwegian prosecutors took three Norwegians into custody on charges of preparing to commit terrorist acts. The three men, all Norwegians, one originally from Somalia and two brothers originally from Yugoslavia, are suspected of intending to fight for and financially support ISIL in Syria, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United Nations. According to news reports, two of the men had already previously fought for the group in Syria. (Marit Kolberg et al., Tre personer arrestert for terrorplaner, NRK (May 27, 2014))
The case against the three men will be the first to be prosecuted under Norwegian law for the act of planning to support terrorism in Syria. Prosecution of the offense is carried out under article 147(d) of the Criminal Code, which provides for a prison sentence of up to six years for those “who form, participate in, recruit members, or provide economic or material support to a terrorist organization . . . .” (Almindelig borgerlig Sraffelov (Straffeloven) [Public Criminal Code] (May 22, 1902, as last amended June 21, 2013) LOVDATA.) The provision was implemented on June 21, 2013.
The first time a Norwegian citizen was charged under this new provision of terrorist law, for having actually fought in Syria, was on February 22, 2014. (Martin Herman Wiedswang Zondag & Elise Hazel Asbjørnsen, Norsk-islamist siktet for terror i Syria, NRK (Feb. 12, 2014).) The recent arrests on the basis of accusations of merely planning have caused an uproar among certain Muslim groups in Norway and have even caused Muslims to advise friends against letting people know if and when they are going to Syria. (Kirsti Haga Hooningsøy & Farid Ighoubah, Ubaydullah Hussain på Facebook: – En reaksjon er ytterst nødvendig, NRK (May 28, 2014).)
The number of Norwegians going to Syria to fight the Assad-led regime on behalf of the rebel groups is growing, and the Norwegian security police contend that the groups they are joining are among the more extremist groups, and therefore the Norwegians involved are more likely to get killed than if they joined other opposition groups. (Id.) The security police estimate that at least 40-50 Norwegian citizens are fighting in Syria. The Norwegians are not the only Europeans doing so; in total more than 2,000 Jihadists from Europe are believed to have been engaged in combat in Syria. (Kolberg et al., supra.)
According to international reports, the Norwegians travelling to help the cause in Syria include two under-aged Norwegian sisters who, unbeknownst to their family, left Norway to help fellow Muslims in Syria. (Peter Walker, Norway Issues Global Alert for Syria-Bound Teenage Sisters, THE GUARDIAN (Oct. 21, 2013).)
Views on the Arrests for Planning Terrorism
The father of the two brothers recently arrested has already lost one son in the Syrian war and has reportedly expressed relief that his two other sons are in custody and not on the streets of Syria. (Nina Berglund, Norway Arrests Three for Inciting Terror, NEWS IN ENGLISH.NO (May 27, 2014).) Others have claimed that by arresting individuals who are preparing to go to Syria, the Norwegian security police might inadvertently create further extremism. (Norway Security Police Arrest Jihadi Recruits, THE LOCAL.NO (May 28, 2014).)
The security police in turn are worried that fighters who return to Norway will have become radicalized and might commit terror attacks on Norwegian soil. (Id.)
Prepared by Elin Hofverberg, Foreign Law Research Consultant, under the supervision of Edith Palmer, Chief, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Division II.