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Terrorist offences

Since the attacks of 11 September 2001, the European Union (EU) has been determined to step up the fight against terrorism. With this in mind, it has adopted a framework decision urging EU countries to align their legislation and setting out minimum rules on terrorist offences. After defining such terrorist offences, the framework decision lays down the penalties that EU countries must incorporate in their national legislation.

ACT

Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism [See amending act(s)].

SUMMARY

The framework decision harmonises the definition of terrorist offences in all EU countries by introducing a specific and common definition. Its concept of terrorism is a combination of two elements:

  • an objective element, as it refers to a list of instances of serious criminal conduct (murder, bodily injuries, hostage taking, extortion, fabrication of weapons, committing attacks, threatening to commit any of the above, etc.);
  • a subjective element, as these acts are deemed to be terrorist offences when committed with the aim of seriously intimidating a population, unduly compelling a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act, or seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation.

The framework decision defines a terrorist group as a structured organisation consisting of more than two persons, established over a period of time and acting in concert, and refers to directing a terrorist group and participating in its activities as offences relating to a terrorist group.

Furthermore, EU countries must ensure that certain intentional acts are punishable as offences linked to terrorist activities even if no terrorist offence is committed. These include:

  • public provocation to commit a terrorist offence;
  • recruitment and training for terrorism;
  • aggravated theft, extortion and falsification of administrative documents with the aim of committing a terrorist offence.

To punish terrorist offences, EU countries must make provision in their national legislation for effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties, which may entail extradition. In addition, EU countries must ensure that penalties are imposed on legal persons where it is shown that the natural person has the power to represent the legal person or authority to exercise control within the legal person that has committed a terrorist offence.

EU countries must take the necessary action to:

  • establish their jurisdiction with regard to terrorist offences;
  • establish their jurisdiction where they refuse to hand over or extradite a person suspected or convicted of such an offence to another EU country or to a non-EU country;
  • coordinate their activities and determine which of them is to prosecute the offenders with the aim of centralising proceedings in a single EU country, when several EU countries are involved.

They will also ensure appropriate assistance for victims and their families (in addition to the measures already provided for in Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA).

Background

The terrorist attacks of September 2001 have led the EU to step up action in this field. This framework decision is thus designed to make the fight against terrorism at EU level more effective. This problem was already discussed at the European Council meetings in Tampere in October 1999 and in Santa Maria da Feira in June 2000.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA

22.6.2002

31.12.2002

OJ L 164 of 22.6.2006

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Framework Decision 2008/919/JHA

9.12.2008

9.12.2010

OJ L 330 of 9.12.2008

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission of 6 November 2007 based on Article 11 of the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism [COM(2007) 681 final – Official Journal C 9 of 15.1.2008].
This second report notes that most EU countries evaluated for the first time have satisfactorily achieved implementation of the main provisions contained in the framework decision. Nevertheless, some major issues stand out. Concerning the EU countries evaluated for the second time, the additional information they have sent has allowed the Commission to generally conclude that there is a higher level of compliance. However, most of the main deficiencies identified in the first evaluation report remain unchanged.
The main concerns of the Commission are the deficient implementation, by some EU countries, of the provisions that establish a common definition of terrorism and the harmonisation of penalties for offences related to a terrorist group and of criminal liability of legal persons for terrorist offences.

Report from the Commission of 8 June 2004 based on Article 11 of the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism [COM(2004) 409 final – Official Journal C 321 of 28.12.2004].
This report reviews the measures taken by EU countries to comply with the framework decision on combating terrorism. According to it, most EU countries have taken the necessary measures to comply with the main provisions of this legal instrument. However, certain deficiencies were pointed out.

Last updated: 18.08.2010
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