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Spain: Criminal Sanctions for Foreign Fighters and Anti-Terrorism Measures Under Consideration

(Oct. 16, 2014) The government is considering an amendment to the Penal Code that would make it a crime of terrorism to participate and fight in armed conflicts abroad on behalf of groups considered to be illegal militias. (Miguel González, El Gobierno Estudia Castigar como Delito el Combatir en el Extranjero, EL PAIS (Sept. 16, 2014); Ley Orgánica 10/1995, de 23 de noviembre, del Código Penal (Organic Law 10/1995, of 23 November, of the Penal Code), BOLETIN OFICIAL DEL ESTADO (Nov. 24, 1995).)

The aims of the proposed legislation are to give domestic courts jurisdiction to prosecute persons joining jihadist groups, deter the flow of foreign fighters into the ranks of the Islamic State (IS), and, most importantly, help control the threat they pose on their return to their countries. (González, supra.)

Spain’s Interior Ministry has identified approximately 50 Spanish citizens who have moved to join the jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, including the IS group. Most of the foreign fighters are from the Spanish-speaking enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco. (Id.)

The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel García-Margallo, announced the amendment proposal as a way of tackling this threat to the security of Spain as the southern border of Europe. Margallo also outlined a list of military measures that Spain could undertake in the fight against the IS jihadists, in cooperation with the Unites States-led coalition, as follows:

· providing use of the military bases in Seville and Cádiz, with the Spanish government’s authorization;

· arranging strategic transport with Spanish planes and crews to move equipment and personnel;

· supplying military equipment, from weapons to helmets and flak jackets;

· providing intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and mid-air refueling of aircraft, but not direct participation in bombing raids; and

· giving advice and training to soldiers in the field. (Id.)