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Summaries of EU Legislation

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EU rules on terrorist offences and related penalties

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EU rules on terrorist offences and related penalties

This framework decision (2002/475/JHA) and amending decision (2008/919/JHA) require EU countries to align their legislation and introduce minimum penalties regarding terrorist offences. The decisions define terrorist offences, as well as offences related to terrorist groups or offences linked to terrorist activities, and set down the rules for transposition in EU countries.

ACT

Council Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism.

SUMMARY

This framework decision (2002/475/JHA) and amending decision (2008/919/JHA) require EU countries to align their legislation and introduce minimum penalties regarding terrorist offences. The decisions define terrorist offences, as well as offences related to terrorist groups or offences linked to terrorist activities, and set down the rules for transposition in EU countries.

WHAT DO THESE FRAMEWORK DECISIONS DO?

The decisions define the following.

The notion of terrorist offence as a combination of:

objective elements (murder, bodily injuries, hostage taking, extortion, committing attacks, threat to commit any of the above, etc.); and

subjective elements (acts committed with the objective of seriously intimidating a population, destabilising or destroying structures of a country or international organisation or making a government abstain from performing actions).

A terrorist group as a structured group of two or more persons, established over a period of time and acting in concert to commit terrorist offences.

They also require each EU country to:

criminalise preparatory acts as offences linked to terrorist activities - examples include public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, recruitment and training for terrorism and theft, extortion or forgery with the aim of committing terrorist offences;

criminalise inciting or aiding or abetting, as well as attempting to commit certain types of offences;

establish criminal liability for legal persons and set rules and thresholds for penalties and sanctions;

establish jurisdiction regarding terrorist offences when the offence is committed in its territory or on board a vessel or aircraft flying its flag;

establish jurisdiction if the offender is one of its nationals or residents, the offence is committed for the benefit of a legal entity established in its territory or the offence is committed against the EU country’s people or institutions or against an EU institution based in that country;

establish jurisdiction in cases when it refuses to hand over or extradite a person suspected or convicted of a terrorist offence;

cooperate with other EU countries and decide which one takes jurisdiction when multiple countries are involved in a given case;

adopt measures to ensure appropriate assistance for victims’ families.

KEY POINTS

In its September 2014 report on the implementation of the 2008 framework decision, the European Commission notes that most EU countries (apart from Ireland and Greece) have adopted measures to criminalise the newly introduced offences of public provocation, recruitment and training to terrorism.

There remain some open questions on how the implementation of this framework decision in EU countries’ national laws will affect ‘indirect provocation’* and the criminalisation of acts committed by so-called ‘lone actors’**. However, the European Commission invited EU countries to clarify issues allowing it to complete its assessment.

The report stressed the need for a more comprehensive approach for law enforcement to focus on early prevention of radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism.

The report encourages EU countries to monitor and evaluate the application of criminal law measures on terrorism, giving due consideration to the protection of fundamental rights.

A more detailed overview of the transposition measures in EU countries is contained in the Commission staff working document issued to accompany the report.

In 2015, the Commission is to carry out an impact assessment with a view to updating Framework Decision 2008/919/JHA in 2016. This would be with a view to ensuring the coherence across the EU of laws against foreign terrorist fighter-related offences.

The Council is considering the signature on behalf of the EU of the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism (CETS No 196) and the Additional Protocol thereto. The latter addresses the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters while having regard to UN Security Council Resolution 2178 (2014) of 24 September 2014.

BACKGROUND

In line with the conclusions of the Tampere European Council in 1999, which identified terrorism as one of the most serious violations of fundamental freedoms, human rights and of the principles and following the action plan endorsed by the extraordinary European Council meeting on 21 September 2001, Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA was adopted to more effectively tackle terrorism.

KEY TERMS

* Indirect provocation: speech that only indirectly incites or risks inciting terrorist acts, e.g. where previous statements made by a terrorist could be understood by supporters as an appeal to continue terrorist activities.

** Lone actors: terrorists acting alone.

For more information, see the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs.

REFERENCES

Act

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA

22.6.2002

31.12.2002

OJ L 164, 22.6.2002, pp. 3-7.

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Framework Decision 2008/919/JHA

9.12.2008

9.12.2010

OJ L 330, 9.12.2008, pp. 21-23.

RELATED ACTS

Report from the Commission based on Article 11 of the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism (COM(2007) 681 final of 6.11.2007).

Report from the Commission based on Article 11 of the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism (COM(2004) 409 final of 8.6.2004).

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of Council Framework Decision 2008/919/JHA of 28 November 2008 amending Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA on combating terrorism (COM(2014) 554 final of 5 September 2014).

Commission staff working document accompanying the document ‘Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of Council Framework Decision 2008/919/JHA amending Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA on combating terrorism’ (SWD(2014) 270 final of 5 September 2014).

Last updated: 02.06.2015

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