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European Union





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The European Union defines terrorism for legal/official purposes in Art. 1 of the Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism (2002). This provides that terrorist offences are certain criminal offences set out in a list consisting largely of serious offences against persons and property that;

...given their nature or context, may seriously damage a country or an international organisation where committed with the aim of: seriously intimidating a population; or unduly compelling a Government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act; or seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation.

Following this approach, the international community has adopted the following sectoral counter-terrorism conventions, open to the ratification of all states:

The 1963 Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed On Board Aircraft

The 1970 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft

The 1971 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation

The 1979 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material

The 1988 Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation

The 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation

The 1988 Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf

The 1991 Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purpose of Identification

The 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings.

The 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism

The 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism

Analyzing these treaties, Andrew Byrnes observed that:

These conventions – all of which are described by the United Nations as part of its panoply of anti-terrorist measures – share three principal characteristics:

(a) they all adopted an "operational definition" of a specific type of terrorist act that was defined without reference to the underlying political or ideological purpose or motivation of the perpetrator of the act - this reflected a consensus that there were some acts that were such a serious threat to the interests of all that they could not be justified by reference to such motives;

(b) they all focused on actions by non-State actors (individuals and organisations) and the State was seen as an active ally in the struggle against terrorism - the question of the State itself as terrorist actor was left largely to one side; and

(c) they all adopted a criminal law enforcement model to address the problem, under which States would cooperate in the apprehension and prosecution of those alleged to have committed these crimes.[32]

Byrnes notes that "this act-specific approach to addressing problems of terrorism in binding international treaties has continued up until relatively recently. Although political denunciation of terrorism in all its forms had continued apace, there had been no successful attempt to define 'terrorism' as such in a broad sense that was satisfactory for legal purposes. There was also some scepticism as to the necessity, desirability and feasibility of producing an agreed and workable general definition."[33] Nonetheless, since 2000, the United Nations General Assembly has been working on a proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

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