The Committee of Ministers has adopted a Recommendation on the use of information collected in conflict zones as evidence in criminal proceedings related to terrorist offences. Prepared by the Committee on Counter-Terrorism (CDCT), the Recommendation provides guidance to member States on the possible use, in national criminal proceedings, of information collected in conflict zones, provided that such information has been collected in accordance with the rule of law and in full conformity with the human rights standards as set by the European Convention on Human Rights.
An increasing number of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) have been returning from Syria and Iraq to their countries of origin where they may pose a serious security threat. It is, therefore, crucial that the relevant national authorities can better understand the roles of individuals abroad to ensure that investigations and criminal proceedings can be initiated against those suspected of involvement in terrorist activity. While civilian criminal-justice actors are usually responsible for gathering evidence in their own countries, access to potential crime scenes in conflict zones is very limited and civilian actors’ investigatory capacity is almost non-existent. Consequently, information collected by military personnel, intelligence services and where necessary, other sources (e.g. non-governmental organisations, media or private companies) not acting in a law enforcement capacity may be of great value as possible evidence before national courts. At the same time, the Recommendation recognises that the collection of information for evidence in criminal proceedings is not the primary task of such actors.
The Committee of Ministers calls on governments to draw on this Recommendation when developing their legislation, policies and practice and to ensure that it is distributed among criminal justice and law enforcement professionals who may benefit from the use of information from conflict zones in their respective cases concerning terrorist offences committed in such zones.