22 January 2005
Challenge of terrorism in Council of Europe member states
Recommendation 1677 (2004)
Reply from the Committee of Ministers
adopted at the 912th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (19 January 2005)
1. The Committee of Ministers welcomes Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1677 (2004) on the challenge of terrorism in Council of Europe member states, which it has transmitted to the governments of the member states.
2. The year 2004 was marked by terrorist attacks with very serious consequences in a number of Council of Europe member states. The Committee of Ministers has given the highest priority to the fight against terrorism and has taken a series of steps to refocus the Organisation’s resources accordingly. It received the Assembly’s proposals for further action in this field precisely at a time when it was conducting an in-depth debate, following the tragic events in Beslan, based on an exhaustive review of activities over the last three years or currently in progress, on how to further the Council of Europe's contribution to international action against terrorism.
3. In the context of the follow-up to the 114th Ministerial Session (12-13 May 2004), the fight against terrorism has been on the agenda of every meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies and a number of important decisions have been taken or are under preparation (cf. document CM/Inf(2004)42). Moreover, on 9 September 2004, the Committee of Ministers adopted a declaration on the terrorist attack in Beslan, condemning the barbaric act, and expressing its determination to advance Council of Europe activities in the fight against terrorism.
4. The Committee of Ministers agrees with the Assembly about the necessity to intensify efforts to establish a common legal area for action against terrorism in Europe, based on human rights and the fundamental values of the Council of Europe. It considers that the Council of Europe’s contribution should be based on four action points: preventive measures against the terrorist threat, the promotion of democratic values and respect for human rights in the fight against terrorism, addressing the root causes of terrorism and measures in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. These activities should include legal cooperation as well as initiatives in other fields, such as the promotion of intercultural dialogue and education for democratic citizenship. In this context, the Committee of Ministers recalls that it has invited all Steering Committees to review how they can contribute to combating terrorism, and to strengthening public condemnation and rejection of terrorism.
5. The Parliamentary Assembly underlines the importance of close cooperation in this field between the Council of Europe and the European Union as well as with the United Nations, the OSCE and other international organisations. The further development of such cooperation has been at the centre of the discussions in the Committee of Ministers. It has recently held an exchange of views with Ambassador Bringéus, Chairman of the OSCE working group on terrorism. It has also held an exchange with
Mr Gijs de Vries, the European Union anti-terrorism Coordinator, in January 2005. It wishes to underline that the European Union participates in the work of the relevant Council of Europe committees, in particular the CODEXTER, and that the Council of Europe participates actively in the work of the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) and cooperates closely with the United Nations Office for Legal Affairs as regards the preparation of new international treaties.
6. In the context of the need to ensure optimum internal and external coordination, which the Committee of Ministers regards as essential, it is to be noted that it also warmly welcomed the appointment, by the Secretary General in the autumn of 2004, of a coordinator of the Council of Europe activities on terrorism, about which he informed the Parliamentary Assembly in his speech at the 4th Part of the 2004 Session. It also welcomed his strategic and pragmatic approach to the Organisation’s action in this field, as set out in document CM(2004)180.
7. The Parliamentary Assembly has on several occasions requested the preparation of a comprehensive Council of Europe convention against terrorism. The Parliamentary Assembly will recall that the Ministers present at the 114th Session expressed their determination to use all means available within the Council of Europe cooperative framework to combat terrorism as effectively as possible. They took note of the work of the Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER) following their decision at their last Session to ask that “the added value of a comprehensive European Convention against terrorism, which could be elaborated within the Council of Europe, with a view to contributing significantly to the United Nations efforts in this field” be considered. No agreement being reached on the necessity of drafting a comprehensive convention, the Ministers decided to give instructions for the elaboration of one or more instruments (which could be legally binding or not) with specific scope dealing with existing lacunae in international law or action on the fight against terrorism, such as those identified by the CODEXTER. This resulted in revised specific terms of reference for CODEXTER adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 11 June 2004. At the 908th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (7 December 2004), the Committee of Ministers authorised consultation of the Parliamentary Assembly on the basis of the draft text resulting from the 6th meeting of CODEXTER (13-15 December 2004) and this text was duly presented to the Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly by the chair of CODEXTER on 16 December 2004. The Committee of Ministers also invited the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights to give an opinion on the text before the end of January 2005.
8. The CODEXTER approved, at the first reading, a draft convention on the prevention of terrorism on 15 December 2004. In accordance with a decision taken by the Committee of Ministers on 7 December 2004, the draft was transmitted to the Assembly and to the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights for an opinion. Moreover, the Committee of Ministers had authorised the participation of a representative of the Assembly in the work of the CODEXTER as an observer. The Committee of Ministers expects to be able to adopt the new instrument in March 2005 and to open it for signature on the occasion of the forthcoming Summit.
9. As the Assembly is already aware, there is also significant progress in the preparation of a new draft Convention against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, transmitted to the Assembly for an opinion in October 2004. In this context, the Committee of Ministers wishes to draw the Assembly’s attention to the agreement of the Select Committee of Experts on the evaluation of anti-money laundering measures (MONEYVAL) to include in mutual evaluations terrorist financing issues.1
10. In addition, three recommendations of the Committee of Ministers dealing respectively with protection of witnesses and collaborators of justice; special investigation techniques and identity documents and terrorism, are being drafted and are expected to be adopted by the Committee of Ministers in March 2005. It should be noted as regards witnesses and collaborators of justice that a report identifying issues that should be addressed by means of international binding and non-binding instruments in particular concerning international cooperation in this area is also under preparation.
11. The Parliamentary Assembly has also asked the Committee of Ministers to analyse the effectiveness of Council of Europe conventions and other international instruments on combating terrorism. In response it wishes to emphasise that this work has been carried out by the CODEXTER, which has considered the functioning and operation of existing international instruments and in particular Council of Europe instruments and identified existing lacunae in international law and action on the basis of an expert report. It was as a result of that work that the Committee of Ministers gave revised terms of reference to the CODEXTER for the preparation of the international instrument(s) detailed in paragraph 7 above on the prevention of terrorism. Furthermore, the Committee of Experts on the operation of European Conventions in the penal field (PC-OC) has considered the effectiveness and ability to respond of Council of Europe instruments on combating terrorism and concluded that the problem with the fight against terrorism lay not with the cooperation mechanisms and instruments available, but rather with the general attitude towards cooperation. The PC-OC considered that the effectiveness and ability of conventions to combat terrorism could, in particular, be facilitated by identifying ways to reduce delays in answering cooperation requests, encouraging states to withdraw reservations and to use the mechanisms contained in the Second Additional Protocol to the Mutual Assistance Convention ETS No. 182.
12. In December 2004, the Committee of Ministers examined a list of possibly problematic reservations to international treaties applicable to the fight against terrorism, identified by the Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law (CAHDI) and invited the member states concerned to consider withdrawing their respective reservations. It also invited the Secretary General to notify the non-member states concerned of the conclusions of CAHDI with regard to their respective reservations and invited member states to volunteer to approach the non-member states on the same subject.
13. In the context of a related issue, in the autumn of 2004, the Committee of Ministers took note of the report on the efficiency of the national judicial systems in their responses to terrorism, elaborated by the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice and decided to forward it to CODEXTER, as a contribution to the work of the Council of Europe in the field of terrorism, in conformity with Resolution No. 1 adopted by the European Ministers of Justice at their 25th Conference (Sofia, October 2003).
14. The question arising from the adoption of the European arrest warrant (EAW) about its coexistence with the Council of Europe European Convention on Extradition (ETS No. 024) and the possibilities of future action in the Council of Europe in this respect are under examination by the PC-OC. Other proposals made in the Assembly’s Recommendation are being studied by the competent bodies.
15. With respect to the question of a homogeneous definition of acts of terrorism in the laws of member states and at international level, the Committee of Ministers has taken due note of the debate in the Assembly on a legal definition to be prepared within the Council of Europe. It underlines that the CODEXTER has taken account of such considerations in its ongoing work relating to the preparation of a convention on the prevention of terrorism.
16. Concerning a possible European register of national and international standards so as to provide a system for computer access to the law of member states of the Council of Europe and other European organisations and for the exchange of legal information, the Committee of Ministers wishes to inform the Assembly that under the CODEXTER's aegis National Country profiles are being drawn up on counter-terrorism legal and institutional capacity. These profiles are posted in the website of the Council of Europe www.coe.int/gmt. Furthermore, in implementing this activity, the Council of Europe cooperates with OSCE/ODIHR and links its own webpage to that of ODIHR "legislationline" which contains the legislation on terrorism.
17. In addition, with respect to persons with operational responsibilities in the member states for handling concrete crisis situations, the newly created Council for police matters (PC-PM) as well as the Conference of Prosecutors General of Europe (CPGE), are paying special attention to need for the fullest possible cooperation amongst all those involved in investigating and prosecuting terrorist offences. One priority in this area is the development of effective networks which would allow for practical cooperation and information sharing as referred to by the Assembly.
18. The Assembly will be pleased to note that the draft guidelines on the protection of victims of terrorist acts prepared by the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) have been transmitted to the Ministers’ Deputies and are under active consideration. Moreover, the CDDH has noted with interest the idea put forward in the Assembly’s Recommendation of a “forum for the exchange of good practice and training experiences between member states” and has decided to include this item in the programme of the seminar it is organising on 13 and 14 June 2005 on the implementation of the Guidelines on Human Rights and the Fight against Terrorism.
19. The Committee of Ministers has furthermore adopted terms of reference for a Group of Specialists whose mandate is firstly to give priority to assistance to the victims of terrorism, and subsequently, to review the wider aspects of assistance to victims.
20. The Assembly has also asked the Committee of Ministers to undertake a study on the acceptable limits of freedom of expression and the possible abuse of that freedom by terrorists. In this respect, the Committee of Ministers draws the Assembly’s attention to the draft declaration on freedom of expression and information in the media in the context of the fight against terrorism, prepared by the Steering Committee on the Mass Media (CDMM) which is currently under consideration by the Committee of Ministers. The declaration, once adopted, will represent a specific contribution – from the perspective of the role, rights and responsibilities of the media in a democratic society – to the broader efforts of the Organisation to safeguard Council of Europe values and principles in the fight against terrorism.
21. Furthermore, it should be noted that one of the three main themes of the 7th European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy, which will be held in Kyiv on 10 and 11 March 2005, will be “Freedom of expression and information in times of crisis”. This will include the question of terrorism. A group of experts will explore the different aspects of this issue with a view to suggesting regulatory or other responses in order to strike a proper balance between security considerations and the right to freedom of expression and information.
22. The Committee of Ministers also underlines that issues relating to the freedom of expression are integrated in the ongoing work of the CODEXTER regarding the drafting of the new convention on the prevention of terrorism, which contains a provision on "Public provocation to commit acts of terrorism".
23. The Committee of Ministers has on a number of occasions called on states that have not yet done so to become Parties to the Protocol amending the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism (2003) in order that it may enter into force as soon as possible. It regularly organises “tours de table” on the signature and ratification of the Protocol. It also invites member states to sign and/or ratify, if they have not yet done so, the other Council of Europe’s conventions on action against terrorism.
24. The Committee of Ministers reiterates the need to reinforce intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and emphasised the important role of the Council of Europe in building confidence and mutual understanding within and beyond the continent. With this in mind it has instructed its Rapporteur Group on Education, Culture, Sport, Youth and Environment (GR-C) to work in consultation with the Ad hoc Committee of Experts for the "European Year of Citizenship for Education" (CAHCIT) so that the terrorism dimension is taken into account in the framework of the "Year". The Committee of Ministers has also invited the Executive Council of the North/South Centre to examine how the Centre could best contribute to furthering the intercultural and inter-religious dialogue and to report back as soon as possible. Finally, the Committee of Ministers would like to emphasise the strong need also to address the root causes of terrorism.
25. The Committee of Ministers will continue to keep the Assembly fully informed about Council of Europe activity in this field, in particular in the run-up to the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe, as the fight against terrorism, as one of its main concerns, figures among the items that have been proposed for the agenda.
1 It will be using the new comprehensive Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Terrorist Financing (AML/CFT) Methodology which has been negotiated between the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and FATF-style regional bodies (FSRBs).