Fight against terrorism: state of emergency must be 'short as possible' in time and space

The member States need sufficient legal instruments to combat terrorism efficiently but there is a risk that "counterterrorism measures may introduce disproportionate restrictions or sap democratic control", was the view today from the PACE, whose parliamentarians pointed to recent measures adopted in France and Turkey to express their concern that "the security crackdown might spread to other Council of Europe member States".

Passing a resolution based on proposals from the rapporteur, Tiny Kox (Netherlands, UEL), the Assembly asked the member States to ensure that, when adopting and implementing legislation or other administrative measures, "a fair balance is struck" between defending freedom and security on the one hand and avoiding the violation of those very rights on the other.

The text points out that a state of emergency should be limited "to the shortest possible period of time and space" and law-enforcement bodies should not abuse or circumvent basic legal requirements or disproportionately restrict individual freedoms.

The parliamentarians also asked that there be no "ethnic or racial profiling of suspects" subjected to search and seizure operations, arrests or other coercive measures, and that effective democratic oversight be exercised by both parliament and other independent actors, such as national human rights institutions and civil society.

The text calls on the intelligence services to refrain from indiscriminate mass surveillance, which has "proven to be inefficient", and instead increase collaboration among themselves. Financial lifelines of international terrorism and arms trafficking must be cut off, including through the effective implementation of United Nations and Council of Europe conventions against the financing of terrorism.

The Assembly finally asked the European Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission) for an opinion on the compatibility of the proposed draft revision of the French Constitution - aimed at incorporating rules on the operation of a state of emergency and on the deprivation of nationality into the Constitution - with the European Convention on Human Rights and with Council of Europe standards.