Strengthening Juvenile Justice Systems in the counter-terrorism context

Community of practice

New RAN manual tackles EU responses to the return of children involved in conflicts and exposed to terrorist violence

Friday, 1 September, 2017
New RAN manual tackles EU responses to the return of children involved in conflicts and exposed to terrorist violence

The Radicalisation Awareness Network Centre of Excellence (RAN CoE) has recently published a manual with practitioners’ recommendations for EU Member States on how to handle the return of terrorist fighters to their home countries. The manual provides background knowledge on terrorist returnees and concrete examples of how the issue is already being handled across Europe. It includes sections dedicated to the cases of children who have been involved in conflicts and exposed to terrorist violence. 

Many of these children have suffered intense ideological indoctrination, have been recruited to fight or to be involved in other violent actions at a very young age, and are severely traumatised. As one of the focal points, the manual includes recommendations on how to deal with children returning from terrorist-held territories, who have been in contact with extremism and terrorism.

The manual holds that both immediate support and a long-term approach are necessary in order to guarantee the children’s reintegration and rehabilitation.

Key actions to consider include the need to: concentrate on normalisation and resocialisation as early as possible; establish an overview of the existing knowledge of child trauma and indoctrination; ensure training for first-line practitioners; and to give them legal guidance on how to deal with child returnees.

The manual also suggests considering the creation of a specialised risk assessment tool for child returnees, and carrying out an analysis on how existing multi-agency structures and organisations could support these children. 

The International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO) shares the European Union’s concern about EU citizens, especially young people, who return home after having engaged in terrorist activities. Children and adolescents being particularly vulnerable to ideological indoctrination, and strongly affected by traumatic experiences, makes an effective response essential and urgent. The IJJO strongly supports RAN’s work and its contribution to this response through publications such as this.