"Deny terrorism a second victory"
01 September 2001
Summary: The Belgian League of Human Rights (Ligue des droits de l'Homme) issued a press statement on 25 September 2001 entitled "Deny terrorism a second victory" in which it warns of the risk that some may attempt "to harden European criminal policy in an inconsiderate manner under the pretext of combating terrorism, while actually going further". Full press release: Ligue des droits de l'Homme
It says the Commission proposal for a framework decision on the harmonisation of legislation in the field of terrorism is worrying for a number of reasons. Firstly, the scope of the offences defined as terrorism, that is, "the aim to seriously prejudice the political, economic or social structures of a country", could cover acts "which have nothing to do with terrorism" and could apply to social movements demanding radical changes. The offence of belonging to a "terrorist group" is unclear, circular and causes concern as to how it would be applied: a clear legal definition is required. The Council's request that the Commission review all European legislation to ensure that it assists repressive efforts is explicitly directed at criminal law in general, rather than the fight against terrorism. Likewise, the scope of the European arrest warrant is general, so the Ligue des droits de l'Homme asks why it is so urgent, or whether the present climate is being used as a pretext to abandon the 'dual criminality' rule (which means both cooperate states must recognise and penalise offences).
The negotiatiation of an agreement with the US on the exchange of personal data for criminal investigations proposed by the Council is also criticised on a number of grounds. It seems inappropriate to make concessions in a field where the US have refused the level of protection demanded by the relevant EU provisions. The fact that the Europol director is in charge of opening the negotiation is another cause of concern, and the Ligue des droits de l'Homme calls for the implementation of democratic controls on Europol, whose proposed powers for the fight against terrorism require greater legitimacy.
The Ligue des droits de l'Homme calls on the Belgian presidency to ensure that debate on these measures is responsible rather than hurried, in an attempt to make a political statement. The failure to consider implications for people's fundamental rights and their erosion would result in a second victory for the terrorists.