Parliamentary Assembly

Terrorism: a threat to democracies

Doc. 10056
27 January 2004

Political Affairs Committee
Rapporteur: Mr Murat Mercan, Turkey, Group of the European People’s Party


Terrorism has become more lethal over the last decade.  The existence of international terrorist networks is now a well established fact.  With increased destruction power they seek to destabilise regimes and undermine democratic values.

After a long period of lethargy, democracies have now begun to show resolve in the fight against terrorism.  National and international measures are on the increase but have not reached an optimal point yet.  There are differences between the partners of the Atlantic Alliance as regards “threat perception” as well as the methods to be used.

The legislative framework is fragmented, incomplete and despite efforts the United Nations have not been able to conclude a comprehensive convention on the fight against terrorism.  The report advocates that the more homogeneous group of states of the Council of Europe should be able to overcome the obstacles, including a definition of terrorism.  The Committee of Ministers is invited to start work without delay on elaborating a comprehensive convention.

I.          Draft recommendation [Link to the adopted text]

1.         The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its previous texts, in particular Recommendations 1534 (2001) and 1550 (2002) and replies of the Committee of Ministers thereon, which were on the whole positive.

2.         It observes that terrorist attacks of particular ferocity have been carried out in different parts of the world since the “September 11” attacks and the existence of a global terrorist threat is now a well established fact.

3.         The Assembly conveys its deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and to all those affected or injured by the recent terrorist bombings in Russia and in Turkey.

4.         Whereas the improvement of international co-operation, the stepping-up of national securitymeasures and the increase in the number of ratifications of various international legal instruments are positive signs in the fight against terrorism, loopholes still exist in legislation, cross-border controls, prosecution and extradition arrangements, and theseare exploited by the terrorists.

5.         In this connection, the Assembly welcomes the setting up of a Counter Terrorism Committee in the United Nations, established pursuant to Resolution 1373 (2001) of the Security Council,the adoption of the Common Position and the Framework Decisions by the Council of the European Union, a rather significant attempt to a structured approach in the fight against terrorism and the setting-up of a Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER) in the Council of Europe, with the aim to reinforce and co-ordinate the Organisation’s action in this field.

6.         The Assembly is convinced, however, that a new impetus is necessary in order to give a clear signal to the public about the importance of multilateral efforts.  The incorporation, therefore, of fragmented legal texts together with the necessary additions in one comprehensive convention would present considerable added value to the fight against terrorism, as it was first expressed in Opinion N° 242 (2003) of the Assembly on the draft Protocol to the 1977 Convention.

7.         Despite the progress so far reached in this regard, the possibility of achieving this in the framework of the United Nations is almost non-existent due to difficulties in defining terrorism. A more homogenous group of states such as the Council of Europe member states should be able to overcome this obstacle.

8.         The Assembly is convinced that the motive behind an act of terrorism does not change the nature of that act.  In democratic countries, terrorism has no justification and it must be considered illegal, abhorrent, unacceptable and a crime against humanity.

9.         As the Assembly has consistently stated in the past, action against terrorism must at all times be consistent with fundamental freedoms and human rights which it is designed to protect.  This is particularly so in the member states of the Council of Europe governments whichshould also be sensitive to the deep-rooted reasons of the changing nature of terrorism and promote dialogue between cultures and religions.

10.       The Assembly is convinced that the root causes providing a fertile ground for the emergence and spread of terrorism should be properly addressed.

11.       The Assembly asks the Committee of Ministers to:

i.          begin work without delay on the elaboration of a comprehensive Convention on Terrorism of the Council of Europe, taking into account the following observations:

ii.         invite, in the meantime, the member states:

a.         to ratify existing conventions, or inform the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly about the grounds for not doing so, in particular: the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism (1977) in conjunction with its Protocol (2003), the Convention on Extradition (1957) and its Additional Protocols (1975) and (1978), the European Convention on the Transfer of Proceedings in Criminal Matters (1972), the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime (1990);

b.         to condemn strongly and introduce economic and other appropriate measures against countries encouraging, helping, providing financial support, or offering safe haven to terrorists;

c.         to promote democracy and human rights in their foreign relations and refrain from complacency towards despotic and obscurantist regimes for reasons of strategic and economic interests;

iii.         study, in consultation with the European Union, the possibility of transforming EUROPOL into an effective pan-European agency, with appropriate means to challenge international terrorism;

iv.         repeat the appeal to the member states, as stipulated in Recommendation 1534, to “give urgent consideration to amending and widening the Rome Statute to allow the remit of the International Criminal Court to include acts of international terrorism”.

II.         Explanatory memorandum by the Rapporteur

I.                    Introduction

1.         The 21st Century started off with a wave of terrorism; of particular ferocity due to the availability of a disturbingly wide array of weapons, as well as arms and explosives experts.  The destructive effects of the attacks which we have witnessed since “September 11” have overwhelmed even the most seasoned experts on terrorism.

2.         Vicious acts of terrorism result in the indiscriminate loss of life.  Those who are directly affected are terrorised with a revolting feeling of injustice.  Those who are seemingly at safer distances pray to never meet the hideous face of the scourge of terror.  Hence, terrorists attain their aim: to terrorise.  It targets the very essence of democracy.  Attacks are designed with a view to pressuring the state and its law-abiding citizens to accept political choices which may not be pursued in a democratic manner.

3.         In the aftermath of “September 11”, we defined terrorism as a blatant violation of human rights and reiterated our common resolve to fight this scourge, regardless of its source, cause or aim.  Unfortunately, this common stand has wavered.

4.         The existing alliances were not able to respond swiftly to this security threat.  As a consequence the US developed a new concept of “coalition of the willing” and expressed strong resolve in acting even unilaterally if necessary, to the detriment of the UN, NATO and other formal institutions.  We know the result: tensions between the partners of the Atlantic Alliance, worldwide distress among all those who believed, and still believe, in multilateral action and the supremacy of international law.

5.         It is therefore of crucial importance that democracies discuss together their contingency plans and their common criteria in good time and not when disaster strikes.  The lessons were learned the hard way, now we should look to the future.

II.         The changing nature of terrorism

Is terrorism going global?
Comparison to past terrorist movements
Objective “chaos” / no political agenda / no precise demands / no negotiations
Increase in financial means and destruction power
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and terrorism: will the threshold ever be crossed?

6.         From the 1960’s to the 1980’s terrorism was mainly an offshoot of the Cold War or a result of nationalist as well as separatist and extremistmovements: IRA, ETA, Rote Armee Fraktion (Germany), Red Brigades (Italy), FLNC (Corsica, France) are among the most well known.  Later, with Abou Nidal and Carlos it took on a different dimension and extended its geographic and ideological scope.  It remained nevertheless limited, basically state-sponsored and predictable.  Its primary targets were mostly diplomats, soldiers, policemen and other officials.  Civilians were also victims, but this was rare.

7.         In the 1980’s and early 1990s, with the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East, with the increase of ethnic consciousness throughout the world, with the multiplication of conflicts, terrorist attacks intensified in many countries, in particular in Lebanon, Israel, Pakistan, India, Sri-Lanka and Turkey.  New terrorist groups, such as PKK, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, LTTE, to name but a few, extended their activities.  Moreover, it is also during this period that hijacking emerged as a widely used method of terrorism.  At that time the spectre of terrorism had not been fully grasped yet in Western democracies, and the controversy continued as to the definition of terrorism!  Who was a terrorist?  Who was a liberation guerrilla, a freedom fighter, a lunatic?  In which cases were acts of terrorism reactions to State terrorism and so on.

8.         Meanwhile, with the collapse of communism and the advent of economic globalisation the world faced a new situation: the Cold War had come to an end and the conventional distinction between left and right which characterised terrorism in the past had become blurred.  At the same time, in democratic countries, the protection of minority rights had known an unprecedented imputus thus undermining the arguments of ethnic extremists.  However, the New World order, characterised by the domination of one country and its political and economic ideology triggered off a new type of terrorism: super terrorism or global terrorism.  Its objective is to challenge a super power and a global system.  It sees the Western political system, culture and arrogance as an aggression and tries to destroy its symbols: TwinTowers (World Trade Centre).  Its ambitions are high and it is fuelled by religious ignorance and fanaticism, but also by a growing sense of injustice among Muslim populations because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

9.         Global terrorism is different in many ways to its forerunners:

10.       This last point deserves elaboration: for many decades a delicate balance existed tacitly between terrorist violence and state repression.  Terrorists knew that if they pushed too far the degree of their acts and the number of victims a massive popular reaction would follow, leading to harsh measures by the State and security forces.  Terrorists therefore chose their targets with the purpose of creating fear and panic, hoping to maintain a bargaining position.  The weapons used were limited in destructive power.  The State for its part abstained from massive reactions in general, reluctant to jeopardise constitutional rights, but also as a deliberate policy not to risk alienating moderate critics of the State and increasing the ranks of violent opponents.  This “balance” was upset when suspicions grew that the terrorists were seeking to obtain access to WMDs.  The threshold could be transgressed by either side.

11.       A number of incidents suggested that terrorists did seek to break the taboo.  In April 1998, Asad Al-Tamimi of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, at a memorial service, raised the threat for the first time.  The Sanir gas released in the Tokyo subway by a member of a cult was a serious signal of apocalyptic intentions.  Larry Wayne Harris of the “Aryan Nations” was arrested in 1995 in the USA for possession of Antrax and Bubonic Plague.  Osama Bin Laden, after the Nairobi bombings, claimed that he had been trying to acquire chemical weapons as from 1993 (US Indictment “Detonated an Explosive Devise”, New York Times, November 5, 1998).

12.       Some specialists support the assumption that three factors basically will lead to the escalation of the use of WMDs by terrorists:

13.       However, whether terrorists are capable of obtaining access to WMDs and are able to transport them on the one hand, and whether the use of WMDs is a viable strategy for terrorism, on the other hand, are still doubtful.  A major factor against it remains the cost.  Also, manipulating WMDs requires high skills and involves great risks for those carrying out the task.  It is unsure whether certain local organisations would be willing to co-operate with such plans because of the risk of potential victims amongst their own supporters and kin (For instance, a WMD attack against Israel would cause massive collateral damage amongst Palestinian civilians).  A condemnation by the entire international community is also a disincentive, because it would sever the terrorist organisations from the financial support of its “moderate” sympathisers.  In balance, politically motivated terrorism has little to gain from the use of WMDS.  The same can not be said for obscure religious sects and abnormal individuals[1].

III.        Global threat needs global reaction: success and failure of European and international co-operation

From lethargy to action
Preventive measures and human rights: delicate balance
Necessity for better intelligence activities and early warning systems
Co-operation between the U.S. and Europe: differences in “threat perception”; data protection standards; extradition rules; death penalty
Importance of international solidarity after major terrorist attacks

14.               Terrorism is a global threat.  No one is immune. Terrorism does not have a religion, ethnicity, colour, race or creed.  To counter a global phenomenon of such proportions requires a global effort. International co-operation is a must in the fight against this threat.  This is especially important, because of the distressing efforts to use adjectives along with terrorism, to appropriate these horrible acts with certain groups of people.  This is a pitfall which should be avoided at all times.  In fact, this is one of the aims of terrorism: to divide.  If we apply the famous dictum, against terrorism, united we must stand, divided we willfall.

15.              We must stand firm and show resolve and solidarity.  However, sweeping statements such as “Terrorism can not win” is not sufficient, it can even be misleading at times.  We must analyse well past events and become more vigilant.  But “winning” might mean something else: it may mean gaining time it may mean forcing democracies to negotiate.  No terrorist group has ever conquered political power.  No terrorist group has succeeded in changing the course of history.  But some terrorist groups have succeeded in catching public attention or even partially influencing policy making.  A number of notorious terrorists of the past are now negotiating partners.

16.            It is clear that in an overwhelming majority of democracies ethnic and religious movements have credible channels of protest, lobbying and influence, possibilities to carry out rallies, demonstrations or even political representations locally or in parliament.  Legislative reforms and specific measures (positive discrimination, for example) support improvementpolicies. This is our clear advantage in the fight against terrorism in contrast to authoritarian regimes: liberal democracies enjoy political and moral legitimacy in the eyes of public opinion.  With the full support of the population behind them they can not surrender to terrorist demands.  Yet, their policies must be consistent, coherent and sincere, at home, as well as abroad.  Otherwise, public support might diminish.  In this connection, I can not emphasise enough the importance for democracies to support and promote democratic reforms, wherever they are still needed, and to abandon the old fashioned notion of “friendly despots”.

17.              “Democracy-promotion” however should not be limited to strategic and security needs, but must be genuine.  From the “fight against terrorism” to the establishment of “Worldwide Democracy” the road is long, difficult, and controversial and there is no guarantee of success.  We have witnessed this during the recent war in Afghanistan and Iraq.  How much has been achieved?  Will the regime changes endure?  Will global terrorism survive the apocalypse?  History will be the judge.  One thing is certain: we must continue our endeavours to improve regimes in autocratic countries of the Middle-East, of Central Asia, in Black Africa and in other places.  We must cease to be complacent towards the members of our own family of nations if we want to look more credible.

18.              To do so, first and foremost, democracies must present a common front.  The United States of America and Europe, together with other democracies, in particular those which have observer status with the Council of Europe, constitute the hard core of the democratic front.  Since “September 11”, however, a lot of things have goneawry.  Pretending that the divergences were minor would be wrong, as it would be equally false, even dangerous, to say that the foundations of the Atlantic Alliance where shaken irredeemably.  Terrorists should have no illusions; differences will be patched up, and we will stand, once again, united and strong.  The United States of America and Europe need a lucid analysis of what happened and to engage in an open discussion about respective positions and preoccupations.

19.              To begin with, both the US and Europe generally speaking, in matters of terrorism, lived in a relative lethargy for many decades.  The US was considered as a remote, inaccessible “fortress”.  As for Europe, many countries, with the exception of those touched directly by recurrent acts ofterrorism, preferred to look the other way and when possible “evacuate” terrorism out of their frontiers. Some governments made a distinction between “good” (!) and “bad” terrorists and even, in certain cases, offered them asylum.  There were serious problems as regards prosecution and extradition. The distressful episode during which the former Head of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, found temporary refuge in several European countries illustrates well this point.  Parts of these questions are now in the process of being discussed either bilaterally or within the framework of European instruments.  It is to be hoped that reluctance and circumspection will give way to the principles of solidarity and efficiency.

20.              The major difference between the US and Europe is “threat perception”.  While the US, under the impact of “September 11”, is now developing a comprehensive and preventive approach, with a huge budget of more than 40 billion USD, in Europe the approach to terrorism is threat-based, supported by current intelligence and organised in a remedial, sporadic, piece-meal way.  The very strict data protection standards in Europe somewhat impede intelligence sharing. The same applies to extradition rules concerningcountries where the death penalty exists.  The diversity of laws made impossible the rapid establishment of a “European arrest warrant” in the aftermath of the events of “September 11”.  Whereas airport security in Europe was hitherto far superior to that of the US, in this area also the US is changing their rules and introducing drastic measures, some of which may seem exaggerated.  The latest initiative to man all planes flying to the United States witharmed marshals is likely to trigger off huge controversy.

21.              Technical co-operation between Europe and the US is improving.  There are, of course, some areas where national legislations still constitute an impediment to quick progress.  One of these areas is shipping security.  Under the Container Security Initiative the US sought permission from important European ports to deploy specially trained agents.  This requestwas granted.  However, most European governments did not accept background checks and biometric devices for seafarers, under existing data protection principles.  Adversely, the 1st amendment of US Constitution does not allow restrictions on the use and control of the internet.  The US has therefore become a haven for terrorist websites and propaganda instruments togetherwith other subversive, racist organisations.  Again, in Europe, all covert intelligence activities must be carried out in conformity not only with national law but also with the provisions of the ECHR, this imposes constraints on the co-operation of respective European and American intelligence agencies.

22.              With the US trend to increasingly impose protection measures against terrorist attacks over the coming years, the attention of terrorists could quite easily be diverted to Europe as an easier target.  However, some European governments are wary of engaging enormous sums of money into the fight against a potential terrorist risk.  They prefer acting post de facto if anything happens.  While others are inclined to make a distinction between “political wings and military elements”[2] of terrorists, thus leaving a door open for deals, or hoping to control them through political means.

23.              Under the assumption that Europe might became an easier target in the future raises the following question: should Europe develop its early warning system by investing more in a European version of the FBI or continue to rely on national intelligence systems?  At present, EUROPOL, the multinational Police Office, has approximately 300 staff and a budget of 60 million €. Counter-terrorism is only one amongst its several activities and only since 1998.  It has no enforcement powers.  Its membership is limited to European Union countries but may soon accept additional members.  If terrorism is becoming international in character should the pan-European intelligence services not match this challenge?

24.       Co-operation within Europe is also improving.  There is increasingly more research into the roots of terrorism and on the understanding of terrorist behaviour and psychology beyond political, religious and social dynamics.  Task forces and working groups are set up, organisations such as the EU, the Council of Europe and the OSCE launch special programmes and hold debates.  There are still some bureaucratic inefficiency hindering progress and sometimes not sufficient haste among authorities.  A good example of this was the lengthy talks and procedures between France and the UK for the closure of the Sangatte refugee camp near Calais which constituted a potential danger of terrorist infiltration.  At times a failed judgement and decision can also give the wrong message to the terrorists by undermining our resolve and solidarity.  The best illustration of this occurred in the weeks following the recent bomb explosions in Istanbul, in front of two synagogues, the Consulate of the United Kingdom in Istanbul and a British bank: the rhetoric on terrorism was not followed by acts, because some governments issued warnings to their nationals about not going to Turkey. International congresses planned months ahead were cancelled and the prestigious UEFA decreed that the European Cup matches of two Turkish football teams with their European opponents scheduled to take place in Turkey should be moved to another European country. This was a poor performance as regards a show of solidarity.

IV.        Europe and the fight against terrorism

Legal framework
Is a common definition of terrorism possible?
Current efforts in the EU and the “Framework Decision
Previous PACE and Committee of Minister’s texts and positions
Council of Europe’s contribution: a comprehensive convention?
Council of Europe’s role in averting the creation of cultural, social and religious fault lines

25.       Effective international co-operation depends on concerted action of like-minded states. A common ground is necessary to serve as a platform for international co-operation.  The UN was only partially successful in providing this common ground.  Twelve UN Conventions (See Appendix I) have been adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly.  In the post “September 11” period, the UN Security Council adopted numerous resolutions (Resolutions N°: 1368, 1373, 1377, 1390, etc) as well as setting up a Counter-Terrorism Committee to give a new impetus to co-operation.  However, the UN was not able to muster universal support for a comprehensive convention.  The chances of successfully concluding the negotiations on a comprehensive convention on terrorism in the UN are almost non-existent, due to insurmountable difficulties in finding a definition for terrorism which can be acceptable to all.  However, recently there has been a considerable increase in the number of states which are parties to the conventions, especially the one on Financing of Terrorism (1999) and the one on the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997).  The UN admitted the fundamental role that regional organisations could and must play, encouraged them and co-operated in their work.

26.       A generic definition of terrorism that is acceptable to all is a major challenge.  However, without a definition it becomes arbitrary if not outright impossible to define an offence as an act of terror and those who perpetrate it as terrorists.  In practice, all acts which are present in the arsenal of the terrorists are already listed as punishable offences in penal codes.  What makes a terrorist offence different from a criminal offence?  A widely accepted definition describes terrorism as the use of, or the threat of the use of violence, a method of combat, or a strategy to achieve certain targets, which aims to induce a state of fear in the victim, which is ruthless and does not conform with humanitarian rules, and that publicity is an essential factor in the terrorist strategy.  One way to define a terrorist act may be to identify the motive. Terrorism is not a senseless use ofviolence, it does have a purpose. Terrorists aim to seize power, control target groups, cause a polarisation and radicalisation among the public, deliberately provoke repression, disrupt government processes, immobilise security apparatus, erode democratic institutions and impose domination, etc. However motives are related to causes and causes are used in theories to explain phenomena. Legal definition is not a theory. Motives are also used to justify the acts of terror, and must be avoided at all costs. We must not forget that a motive behind an act does not change the nature of the act, which is abhorrent, unacceptable and illegal. Therefore, motives cannot be part of a definition.

27.       When the Council of Europe drafted the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism in 1977 the focus was put on specific acts and offences, such as hijackings, hostage-taking and use of weapons rather than a definition in the proper sense.  Besides traditional terrorism categories (Ethnic, political and religious) new forms of violent acts have emerged, carried out by unlikely groups of animal rights defenders, anti-abortion organisations, ecologists, skinheads as well as local racist and anti-Semite groups.  Some of their actions cause not only damage to property but also loss of human life as collateral effect.  Should their acts be also considered as terrorism?  This and many other questions must be tackled when a comprehensive effort is engaged.  The EU for its part, in its Common Position, has set out a part-definition, consisting of the context of an action, its aim and the specific acts committed.  In summary, a terrorist act is an “international act”, “…seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or structures of a country or an international organisation”.  The notion of “extensive destruction” and “endangering human life” is also included.[3]  I personally believe that any definition in the context of global terrorism must include the notion of “indiscriminate violence”, precisely because global terrorists do not discriminate among the targets, nor do they discriminate in the amount or impact of that violence.

28.       The Council of Europe’s aim is “to achieve greater unity between its Members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress”.  A group of states, departing from such an aim and sharing common values and principles should be able to overcome existing difficulties.  The Council of Europe provides the perfect platform, on a regional basis, for the provision of such an instrument which would facilitate the legal ground for international cooperation in the fight against terrorism.  A definition agreed upon among the like-minded states of the Council of Europe would facilitate its defence withinthe UN framework.  It may even set an example for others.  In its Resolution1258 on “Democracies facing terrorism”, adopted on 26 September 2002, the Assembly supported the idea that any “international convention” “should contain a comprehensive definition of international terrorism…”.

29.       The Multidisciplinary Group on International Action against Terrorism (GMT) that prepared the Amending Protocol to the 1977 Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism has completed its job. The Committee of Ministers replaced the GMT with a Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER), which in accordance with its specific terms of reference, considers the implementation of Council of Europe’s priority counter-terrorism activities, among which we find the possibility of preparing a comprehensive convention on terrorism.

30.       The CODEXTER has already considered, in October 2003, the added value of a possible comprehensive convention on terrorismto be concluded in the Council of Europe and agreed to continue its examination on the basis of a scientific study to be prepared.  It will pursue its consideration at its next meeting in late March 2004.  This is a welcome development. The Assembly must support this initiative and provide the Committee of Ministers with specific recommendations to guide it in this exercise.

31.       One of the issues for which the Assembly must provide guidance is that of definition. The European Council Common Position of 27 December 2001 (2001/931/CFSP) on the application of specific measures to combat terrorism contains a thorough definition of acts of terror. This definition was previously recommended by the Assembly[4] to be considered during the preparation of the Amending Protocol to the 1977 Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, to no avail. The Assembly must request the Committee of Ministers to reconsider the definition of terrorism adopted by the European Union in the work for a comprehensive convention (draft recommendation).

32.       The expert group which drafted the text adopted a realistic and pragmatic approach.  This is to say that certain negotiators thought that a comprehensive overhaul of the 1977 Convention would be too difficult and not indispensable.  Hence, instead of an instrument which could have made a difference, they would settle for something less.  This “realistic and pragmatic approach” must not be adopted once again in the drafting of the comprehensive convention.

33.       To put it straight, the sine qua non element of an instrument aimed at facilitating international cooperation against terrorism is "depolitisation" of terrorist offences. The 1977 European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, and the Amending Protocol to the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism provide such a framework, however this principle is not expressed forcefully enough.

34.       It is generally believed that a comprehensive convention concluded in theCouncil of Europe could bring added value inter alia, with the following issues: definition of terms, scope of the convention and exclusions, definition of terrorist acts / actions or offences, obligation to establish as criminal offences and provide an adequate sanction, ensuring full compatibility with EU and UN texts, aiding and abetting, funding of terrorism, obligation to prosecute or extradite, exclusion of the political offence exception, obligation to establish jurisdiction, articulation of this convention with other existing conventions (universal and regional, general and special) and bodies of international law including international humanitarian law, regulation of extradition procedures and grounds for refusal, regulation of mutual assistance and grounds for refusal, exchange of information; special investigation techniques, protection of witnesses and other forms of international co-operation.

35.       A comprehensive convention should not grant contracting parties the right to make reservations which can defeat the purpose of the convention as in the case of Article 13 of the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism.  The Assembly should urge the Committee of Ministers to proceed without delay to the elaboration of a comprehensive convention.  Such a convention must have a monitoring mechanism, as in the case of all serious systems.  Such a mechanism will not only provide dynamism to the convention, it will also ensure the correct, effective and swift implementation of the system.  The Parliamentary Assembly and its members should exert political pressure on unwilling states to convince them into pursuing a more supportive position for the comprehensive convention.

36.       Moreover, from a political point of view, it would allow Europe to convey its view on how an efficient fight against terrorism can be conducted while obeying the requirements of the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.  It would also provide a strong signal to the international community about the usefulness of normative multilateralism.

37.       A close co-operation with the EU would be necessary for accomplishing this task.  The EU has proceeded to a serious and courageous reflection on the matter of terrorism in the aftermath of “September 11”, to complement its already existing measures on criminal matters.  The Framework Decisions, defining and punishing terrorism and establishing a European arrest warrant is a significant attempt to construct a broad and defensible concept that builds upon fragmented initiatives in the UN.  It also contains adequate protection for human rights.  However, the EU guidelines do not solve the problem of conflicting applications of the territoriality principle when a crime was planned in one jurisdiction and was carried out or had effect in another.  It is also vague on to what extent violent political activity could be considered legitimate or should be treated as terrorism[5].  Nonetheless, the Framework Decision contains a list of about 24 groups and 26 individuals as terrorists[6].

38.       Finally, I should like to point out that one of the initial reflexes of post-"September 11" was to identify terrorism along cultural and religious lines. Deep-rooted prejudices surfaced and deeper fault-lines of global nature were encouraged. The tension which ensued from the “September 11” demonstrated the need to promote a genuine dialogue among cultures and religions.  The Council of Europe has a major role in fostering social cohesion; paying particular attention to cultural and religious diversity. This Organisation has the ability and know-how to develop and implement programs aimed at promoting multicultural and inter-religious dialogue. We must welcome the general interest paid to the situation of migrants. Most of the time, these people represent "the Other" and are subjected to racism, xenophobia and intolerance. Special attention to the fundamental rights of these persons will help bridge the cultural divide.

39.       Due attention should be allocated to achieving and maintaining social cohesion in the face of the fault-lines that may be created by terrorism. The Committee of Ministers must allocate necessary funds for the organisation of activities to this aim.[7]

V.         Conclusions

40.       When Samuel Huntington’s book “The Clash of Civilizations” appeared it created an outburst of controversy, criticism and surprise.  No one was prepared to accept the theory that “the fault-lines between civilisations would be the battle lines of the future”.  Simplistic interpretations of the book reduced its message wrongly to an unavoidable clash between Islam and Western civilisation.  We are now beginning to understand that the main merit of the book was to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the changing causes of violence.  In future years, an important part of violence and terrorism will stem not from ideological or economic sources but will be the result of factors based on cultural values, self-identification and psychology.  These can perhaps be defined as “way-of-life” issues.  We will have to bear in mind this view in our handling of violence and terrorism.

41.       International rules developed over centuries on armed conflicts between nations.  According to a traditional notion a “war” necessarily involves states and regular armies.  The introduction of “carpet bombing” in World War II caused severe breaches to this principle.  Later on in other subsequent conflicts in Vietnam, the Middle East, and Yugoslavia the frontiers of “indiscriminate” violence was blown-up totally.  In Cambodia and Africa entire populations were massacred, Saddam Hussein gassed his own citizens.  The seeds of violence had taken root in the entire planet.  Now, unfortunately terrorist violence strikes civilian populations “indiscriminately”.  The ancient distinction between “enemy” and “criminal” has disappeared, and a “war” no longer involves states and armies only!  Although it may sound harsh, we must face the fact that the civilised world is at “war” against terrorism, declared by this latter.

42.       The question is however, that the set of rules which apply to democracies in this “war” are those which govern democratic states, respectful of fundamental rights and freedoms.  All action against terrorism should be consistent with the requirements of the rule of law and international treaties.  This must be done however, without giving the impression to the person in the street, and in particular to the families of victims, that we are spending more energy in protecting the rights of terrorist individuals instead of combating terrorism in all its forms and by showing concern to the security needs of the populations.

43.       The fight against terrorism is a complex, multidimensional question.  Among many aspects “intelligence” plays a crucial role.  Better intelligence and early warning could spare many lives and dramatic consequences.  More than material intelligence however, the democratic states need a better reading of the intentions of potentially dangerous and vulnerable groups, evaluate if and when they reach a desperation point.  This is particularly important in judging whether terrorist groups, one day, may reach the threshold for ultimate means: WMDs.

44.       Another very important dimension in the fight against terrorism is that of the legal framework and co-operation.  In this context one observation seems of utmost importance: criteria and measures to be applied to terrorism should not be diluted in other forms of violence and crime.  We are all aware of the links between terrorism, arms and drug-trafficking and other similar criminal activities.  Terrorism, unlike other violent activities, aims at destroying our political and social system, and causes thousands of civilian victims.  It should therefore be treated as a separate issue.  This would also have a psychological effect by showing the determination and preparedness of democracies.  The Assembly should give its full support to the elaboration of a general convention on terrorism by the Council of Europe and follow-up its progress closely.



Convention on the prevention and punishment of crimes against internationally protected persons, including diplomatic agents (with resolution 3166 XXVIII) of the General Assembly of the United Nations).  Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, at New York,  on 14 December 1973.

International Convention against the taking of hostages.  Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 17 December 1979.

International Convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings.  Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 15 December 1997.

International Convention for the suppression of the financing of terrorism.  Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1999.

Convention on offences and certain other acts committed on board aircraft.  Signed at Tokyo on 14 September 1963 (Registered by the International Civil Aviation Organization on 22 December 1969)

Convention for the suppression of unlawful seizure of aircraft.  Signed at The Hague on 16 December 1970

(Registered by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America on 8 March 1973)

Convention for the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of civil aviation.  (with Final Act of the International Conference on Air Law held under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization at Montreal in September 1971).  Concluded at Montreal on 23 September 1971.

(Registered by the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on 18 July 1975)

Convention on the physical protection of nuclear material (with annexes).  Adopted at Vienna on 26 October 1979 and opened for signature at Vienna and New York on 3 March 1980.

(Registered by the International Atomic Energy Agency on 23 February 1987).

Protocol2 for the suppression of unlawful acts of violence at airports serving international civil aviation, supplementary to the above-mentioned Convention (with Final Act).  Concluded at Montreal on 24 February 1988

(Registered by the International Civil Aviation Organization on 22 December 1990)

Convention for the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of maritime navigation. Concluded at Rome on 10 March 1988.  Protocol1 to the above-mentioned Convention for the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of fixed platforms located on the continental shelf.  Concluded at Rome on 10 March 1988.

(Registered by the International maritime Organization on 26 June 1992.

Convention on the making of plastic explosives for the purpose of detection.


see pdf document



see pdf document

Reporting Committee: Political Affairs Committee

Reference to Committee : Reference 2908 of 26 January 2004, on urgent procedure

Draft Recommendation: adopted  unanimously by the Committee on 26 January 2004 .

Members of the Committee : Jakic (Chairmain), Rogozin (Vice-Chairman), Spindelegger (Vice-Chairman), Ates (Vice-Chairman), Aguiar, Akhvlediani, AtkinsonAzzolini, Banáš, Berceanu, Bianco (alternate : Danieli) Blankenborg, Van den Brande, Cekuolis, Davern, Dreyfus-Schmidt, Druviete, Duivesteijn, Durrieu, Elo, Feric-Vac, Glesener, Goulet, Gross (alternate : Reimann), Hedrich, Henry (alternate : Goris), Hörster, Iwinski, Judd, Karpov, Klich, Koçi, Kostenko, Linblad, Lloyd (alternate : Chapman), Loutfi, Magnusson, Margelov, Martinez-Casan, Marty ; Medeiros Ferreira, Mercan, Micunovic, Mignon, Mihkelson, Muratovic (alternate : Advic), Nemcova, Nemeth, Oliynyk, Ouzky, Pangalos, Petrova-Mitevska, Petursdottir,  Pintat Rossel (alternate : Daban Alsina), Popov ; Pourgourides, Prentice (alternate :Kilclooney), Prica (alternate : Kalezic), Prijmireanu ; Prisacaru, de Puig, Pullicino Orlando, Ranieru, Roth, Severin, Severinsen, Seyidov (alternate : Sofiyeva) ; Tabajdi, Tekelioglu, Torosyan, Toshev ;Tritz, Vakilov, Voulgarakis, Wielowieyski, Wohlwend, Wurm, Zacchera, Ziuganov.

Ex-officio: Atkinson, Davis, Eörsi, Einarsson, van den Linden ; Russell-Johnston

N.B. : The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in italics

Secretariat of the Committee : M. Perin, Mme Ruotanen, M. Chevtchenko, M. Dossow.

[1]The Future of Terrorism, collected papers of a conference on terrorism in the University of Cork, 1999.  Editors: Max Taylor and John Horgan.  Cass Publication, London.

[2] Jonathan Stevenson – International Institute for Strategic Studies, London – « How Europe and America defend themselves ». Foreign Affairs Revue, April 2003

[3]Common Position (7 December 2001) on the application of specific measures to combat terrorism (2001 /  / CFSP)

[4] Recommendation 1550 (2002) adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly on 24 January 2002, in the context of the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights by Mr Michel Hunault  (Combating terrorism and respect for human rights, Doc.9331).

[5] EU Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism (See Appendix II)

[6] EU Council Decision of 22 December 2003 (See Appendix III)

[7]A full list of Council of Europe activities, texts, conventions and state of ratifications are reproduced in a report presented by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Ministers of Justice (Sofia, October 2003) Doc MJU-25 (2003) 2.