Al-Shabaab Terrorist Who Killed 500 Sentenced to Death - But That Will Only Make Things Worse

The moment hardcore jihadist ideologues dedicate their lives to targetting everyone considered as an enemy to their version and interpretation of Islam, they accept that life in the hereafter is worth a thousand times more than life on Earth. Especially when death comes as a result of their direct or indirect involvement in jihadist activities.

When states react by enacting anti-terrorism legislation that pronounces death sentences against anyone who falls foul of the law, courts employ a dangerous and counter-productive strategy of 'they kill, we kill' tactics.

The result plays right into the hands of jihadists left behind. Rather than scare them, the death penalty increases their desire to carry out further attacks, more daring and more catastrophic in nature.

This is the case with the Al-Shabaab-linked jihadist Hassan Adan Isaq, who was sentenced to death for his role in the Mogadishu truck bombing that killed more than 500 people last October, bringing immeasurable damage to property and an everlasting psychological impact to the community in the Somalian capital.

The death sentence will not deter terrorists from carrying out other attacks. On the contrary, it might exacerbate violence.

There is no iota of evidence, especially in terms of terrorist attack frequency or lethality, that demonstrates an increase in dishing out death sentences to convicted jihadists reduces the desire for more people to join terrorist groups and carry out further attacks.

A death sentence may scare a conventional criminal group that is linked to supplying logistics to a terrorist group, but as far as jihadists are concerned, a death sentence helps their cause of martyrdom.

The most affected victims of any death sentence through a state court are the young men, children and women who are coerced or forcefully recruited into jihadist ranks. There, they are drugged and forced to embark on suicide missions or take part in the planning and preparation of terrorist-related activities.

These people become double victims as they get caught in the middle of two wrongs—the terrorist group that has sentenced them to death and the state court that will do the same.

For these victims, the choice is between six on one hand and half a dozen in the other. The typical ideologues are not deterred by a death penalty from a state. There is hardly any amount of punishment that will frighten a jihadist begging for their death.

Jihadists, like everyone else, would surely experience pain in the process of dying, but death is their wish and not their concern.

Al-Shabaab group
Somalian security personnel look towards burning vehicles as they secure an area in Mogadishu on July 30, 2017, after a car bomb explosion in the Somalian capital. At least five people have been killed and ten wounded in Somalia's capital Mogadishu when a car bomb detonated on a busy road, the security ministry said. There was no immediate claim of responsiblity but the bombing fits the pattern of Al-Qaeda linked Shabaab Islamists, who have carried out numerous suicide bombings and raids in the capital targeting civilian, government and military targets. STR/AFP/Getty Images

Governments should kill jihadists' ideology

The frequent use of the death sentence as a deterrence against captured jihadists, common in Chad, Cameroon and Iraq, is an indication that governments do not have a better alternative on how to deal with convicted jihadists, or they lack the required structure and subject matter expertise to implement a comprehensive DDRR (Disengagement, Deradicalization Reintegration and Rehabilitation program) within correctional facilities and prisons.

But sentencing jihadists to death does not kill their ideology.

Rather, governments should apply life sentences in place of a death sentence and initiate a tailored DDR (Disengagement, Deradicalization and Rehabilitation ) program for convicted jihadists serving life sentences.

If well managed, this process will allow a deep understanding of what goes on the mind of a jihadist.

The DDR/DDRR initiative is an expensive and long-term strategy worth investing resources on.

The goal is to develop a comprehensive and a sustainable counter-narrative for the future generation of solution practitioners.

Without adequate structure and relevant expertise to set up and manage these programs, governments and courts will only be left with an option to kill men and women who are happy to die for what they believe in.