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Just Published: My new research on #terrorist #recidivism, published by @CTCWP, based on a review of literature and analysis of unique dataset of 557 terrorist convicts in Belgium, since 1990 (THREAD) 👇…
This research was triggered by long held assumption that terrorists are likely to reoffend upon release, which seemed confirmed by recent attacks in London by released terrorist offenders (Usman Khan and Sudesh Amman) /1
But how likely are terrorists to reoffend (in terrorism)? Answering this question is important, because policies must be based on evidence, not fears or assumptions. Fact is, there is actually little research available to guide policies... /2
...However, the research available suggests strongly that recidivism among terrorists is quite rare. Across a range of studies, covering different groups/countries/eras, terrorist recidivism is consistently below 5%. See thread below /3
It is important to note at this stage that 'measuring' recidivism is an extremely difficult exercise, and that many studies use different methodologies (with possibly big impact on results), which makes comparisons difficult. I discuss this in my study /4
In 2nd part of study, I analyse a dataset that I have compiled based on all terrorism-related trials in Belgium since 1990. It includes 557 terrorist convicts. This is a unique dataset in size and duration of (potential) terrorist engagement. /5
After discussing my methodology (and caveats), I review general data for all 557 terrorist convicts (gender, age at time of offense, criminal records, type of offense, sentence...). This analysis is valuable in itself, as a profile of the jihadi population in Belgium /6
Then I turn to the analysis of recidivism in itself. I identify two main "rates". 13 individuals recidivated (convicted twice in Belgium for terrorism) (2.3%). 10 more individuals re-engaged in terrorism (not convicted) after/prior a first conviction + 4 unclear cases (4.8%). /7
These low rates of recidivism and re-engagement are surprising and counter-intuitive. But they are in line with the existing literature. Also in line with recent analyses from the Belgian counter-terrorism fusion centre, CUTA. /8
In the study, I also look into more details into the recidivist population (profile, type of offense...), and also the average time-lag between their release of prison and re-engagement in terrorism, which is generally quite short (less than 1 year) /9
The results of this study are clearly worth reflecting upon, by everyone working on terrorism (scholars and practitioners), because it fundamentally challenges some of our assumptions. /10
If terrorists are unlikely to return to violent extremism, should disengagement/deradicalization programs be re-assessed? Are longer sentences or harsher measures justified, as recently done in UK, or are they just going to be counter-productive? /11
To conclude, I emphasize that we should not dismiss the threat of terrorist recidivism (it just takes one). Concern of security services is understandable (it's their job). But we should make sure response is proportionate to threat. Overreaction is to be avoided. /12
Finally, I'd like to thank @CTCWP for publishing my research, @CruickshankPaul for his amazing editing skills (he's tough, be warned!), as well as editorial board+reviewer for helpful remarks. Comments on first draft by @AndrewPSilke and #RikCoolsaet were very helpful. /END
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