Italy - new anti-terrorist law decree

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A law decree amending anti-terrorist legislation to introduce the new criminal category of "association with the aim of international terrorism" was approved by the Berlusconi government on 18 October 2001. It will affect people who "promote, establish, organise, direct or finance, including indirectly, associations" intending to commit acts of violence on persons or things abroad, or for the detriment of a foreign State, institution or international organisation for terrorist scopes. The punishment for such offences ranges from seven to 15 years, whereas five to ten year sentences are applicable for participation in such an association.

Offering refuge, hospitality, means of transport or instruments for communication to persons participating in such associations are offences carrying sentences of up to four years in prison. The main developments are the extension of anti-terrorist powers to international terrorism and the financing of terrorist associations.

The description of what constitutes international terrorism follows the approach in the UK Terrorism Act (2000) in that it makes no distinction between the nature of foreign states against which "terrorist" activities are conducted.

This idea was also taken up in the Conclusions of the EU summit which followed the 11 September attacks in New York and Washington, despite concerns expressed in the European Parliament Committee on the Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs' report on combating terrorism. The report, adopted on 5 September by the European Parliament, said that a distinction should be made between acts of terrorism and:
acts of resistance in third countries against state structures which themselves employ terrorist methods.

The inclusion of acts of violence to the detriment of "a foreign State, institution or international organisation" could also be used against protest movements. Such legislation could be applied to demonstrations against EU summits or meetings of organisations such as the IMF and G8, if they are characterised by violence.

Anti-terrorist powers in Italy include the possibility of preventative detention during preliminary investigations for a period which was extended from 18 to 24 months on 7 May 2001 by the previous government. The decree also envisages the possibility of undercover activities, whereby there would be no sanctions against agents whose actions are covered by previous judicial authorisation, and preventative surveillance in the form of interceptions of telecommunications (including e-mails). These interceptions must be authorised by a magistrate for a maximum period of forty days, which can be extended by a further twenty days.

Sources: European Parliament report on the role of the European Union in combating terrorism (2001/2016(INI)), Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs; "Disposizioni urgenti per contrastare il terrorismo internazionale" - Urgent measures to combat international terrorism, d.l. 374/2001;; "Terrorismo, tempo piu lunghi per le indagini", d.l. 98/2001.

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