Factsheet European Database Terrorists

In Europe, terrorist attacks are committed and prevented, and many terrorists are convicted and detained (Europol, 2018). Terrorist fighters return from Syria and Iraq, there are ‘homegrown’ terrorists, and convicted terrorists leave prisons after detention. We need more knowledge about the risk characteristics of European terrorists to improve risk assessment, risk management and risk prevention of terrorism.

Therefore, thorough research on European terrorists with a control group is urgently needed, also to improve the scientific base of the widely used VERA-2R, the violent extremism risk assessment instrument, to improve inter-agency risk communication, and to learn more about risk interventions and recidivism.

The European Database of Terrorists originates from an EU-funded DARE-project of three partners:

  • the NIFP of the Custodial Institutions Agency of the Dutch Ministry of Justice
  • the IKG institute of the University Bielefeld
  • the Penitentiary Services of the Belgian Ministry of Justice.

The aim of the European Database is to map factors related to engagement in terrorist activities.

Research is done in a reliable, long-term, and privacy-proof manner using personal and contextual information and information about terrorist acts in 16 domains from judicial documents of convicted European terrorists of 6 European Member States.

With a Web application, trained European researchers enter data via a digital form at the location of the judicial files in their Member State in an underlying Database. This will lead to a large, unique and strong scientific dataset especially due to the inclusion of a control group of violent offenders which permits to empirically test the distinction between factors that are specific for engaging in terrorist versus non-terrorist crimes.

Five domains are derived from the Violent Extremist Risk Assessment tool (VERA-2R). This tool is used by more than 600 professionals in Europe in prison and probation services. Structural mapping of VERA-2R indicators in the European Database enables to validate the VERA-2R, determine its effectiveness in assessing and managing risks and, if necessary, to improve it.

EU funding of the European Database ends 1 October 2019. Continuation of the European Database as a Monitor is needed for five years to:

  1. Enter data of possibly 600 convicted European terrorists and a comparable control group with possible extension to other European Member States;
  2. Address several research questions about the personal, psychological and contextual risk and protective factors that are related with the engagement and the disengagement in terrorist offenses;
  3. Map and monitor effects of judicial intervention programmes;
  4. Map and monitor recidivism;
  5. Differentiate terrorist offenders;
  6. Validate VERA-2R risk and protective indicators;
  7. Attend to particular needs of participating Member States through specific analyses of the European Database;
  8. Disseminate results to judiciary personnel through workshops.

This will bridge the differences between researchers, policymakers and risk practitioners in the field of terrorism and violent extremism. It will also lead to better empirically substantiated and validated risk assessments, risk management and rehabilitation of terrorists in European Members states.

The EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator and participating European Member States underline the need to continue the European Database of Terrorists and the use of VERA-2R.

Funding European Database of Terrorists and Vera-2r

The European Union has no structural funding possibilities. The NIFP, IKG Bielefeld and EPI Belgium will attempt to finance continuation of the European Database of Terrorists partly through a European call. The possible calls (H2020 or DG Justice) are not specific to a European Database of Terrorists. Also, probability of obtaining subsidy is 10 to 15%, the possible projects only last two years, with starting funding possibilities in 2020.

National funding and data-analysis

The analysis of the standardized judicial data of the European Database of Terrorists is of great importance to the Ministries of Justice, antiterrorism agencies, and secret services of participating European Member States. According to national funding, and the privacy sensitivity of the data, mapping and monitoring results can and will be presented to these organizations. National funding costs of research of every participating European Member State will and can be specified. Access to national judicial data files remains of course necessary.

Monitoring functions can be presented in face to face meetings, with Dashboards and Factsheets. Monitoring judicial interventions for terrorists during and after detention can be included in detail in the Database (plan, process, effect/risk-needs-responsivity). In this way, effectiveness of judicial interventions can be checked and measured. Also, recidivism and/or other outcome measures as disengagement and/or psychosocial functioning can be monitored. This is highly relevant for Justice, security and policy purposes. An improved scientific base of the VERA-2R, the standardized approach for violent extremism risk assessment is also highly relevant.

The Dutch anti-terrorism coordinator and the Dutch Ministry of Justice will finance the central and Dutch part of the Database in the coming years.

Management European Database of Terrorists and Vera-2r

The project organization in the coming years will be organized conform the project management of the actual European Database for Terrorists. The NIFP will provide the project leading and central management of the European Database of Terrorists based on the Dutch national funding in collaboration with IKG Bielefeld and the Belgian Penitentiary Services and participating European Member States.

In the EU DARE-project a steering and international scientific advisory group is employed. For the continuation of the European Database of Terrorists a steering committee of stakeholders and funders, and an international advisory group of scientists will be necessary. This steering and advisory group will not receive a remuneration.

Questions & Contact

Dr. Nils Duits, forensic psychiatrist, NIFP, DARE project leader, n.duits@dji.minjus.nl.

Prof. Dr. Andreas Zick, IKG Bielefeld, zick.ikg@uni-bielefeld.de.

Dr. Arin Ayanian, IKG Bielefeld, arin.ayanian@uni-bielefeld.de.

Astrid Boelaert, forensic psychologist, FOD-EPI, astrid.boelaert@just.fgov.be.