EU discussions on definition of "terrorism", update 19.11.01

Council of European Union maintains wider definition of "terrorism"

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The latest version of the Council's (representing the 15 EU governments) discussion on the definition of terrorism shows that it could cover protests and other democratic activity as well as terrorism. The Council definition, as at 26 October, reads as follows:

"Each Member State shall take the necessary steps to ensure that terrorist offences include the [intentional] acts list below, as defined under national law, where unlawfully committed with the aim of seriously affecting, in particular by the intimidation of the population, or destroying the political, economic or social structures of a country or of an organisation governed by public international law" (the brackets [] in original; 12647/1/01)

This version maintains the difference between the Commission's draft and the Council's first draft where the Commission referred to "seriously altering" the Council is maintaining the broader "seriously affecting". The Council's position also maintains the inclusion of international organisations now defined as an organisation governed by public international law".

Four Member States, including Portugal, France and Spain, backed by the Commission want to delete the inclusion of "unlawfully" which would broaden the scope.

However, there are a number of other changes. First the new Council draft changes the controversial Article 3.f (in the Commission's draft). The Commission draft read:

"Unlawful seizure of or damage to state or government facilities, means of public transport, infrastructure facilities, places of public use, and property"

The Council's new draft reads:

"causing extensive damage to public facilities, transport systems, infrastructure facilities, including information systems, or places of public use"

This version removes the term "seizure" and removes the term "property" thus narrowing its scope. However, remains the "terrorist offence" which could embrace protests and other democratic activity. On the positive side there is the removal of: "endangering people, property, animals or the environment" from the Commission draft Article 3.h.

There have been two further drafts of the Council's position and any of the draft positions may change. After the specially called meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on Friday 16 November the press release said that the majority of EU governments favoured the draft on the table (see above) while a minority want to restrict the definition in order to guarantee that trade union activity and anti-globalisation protests were not covered.

Full-text of European Commission proposal: Text (pdf)
Full-text of first Council's reaction (12647/01): Text (pdf)
For full background see: Statewatch "Observatory" in defence of freedom and democracy

European Parliament draft report

The Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights discussed a report covering the Commission's proposed Framework Decision on combating terrorism at is meeting on 12 November (report put to Committee). The report seeks to amend that specific offence in Article 3.f. in order to ensure that it does not cover "protest which is tolerated in the context of political demonstrations".

However, the report is surprisingly silent on the scope, as set out in Article 3.1. of the Commission proposal, which clearly could embrace protests.

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