The Council of Europe’s Role in Countering Terrorism Responsibly

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Terrorism forms a real threat to democracy, the rule of law and the enjoyment of human rights in Europe. As such, it must be contrasted through prevention and eradication by the member States of the Council of Europe. However, inadequately implemented or overly Draconian counter-terrorism efforts can be counterproductive. While law enforcement procedures aimed at terrorists are required and justified, counter-terrorism actions should not go beyond what is essential to maintain peace and security, nor should they degrade the rule of law and democracy in the reason of trying to save it.

For over forty years, the Council of Europe has enabled the development and reinforcement of critical legal standards to contain and suppress acts of terrorism. Taking a thorough approach, the Council of Europe functions to help Member States fight terrorism more by maintaining and improving their national legislation and facilitating international cooperation. With full respect for human rights and the rule of law, the Council of Europe is constantly working to improve international cooperation in bringing terrorists to justice.

The Council of Europe Committee on Counter-Terrorism (formerly called the Committee of Experts on Terrorism is the essential coordinating body for the Council of Europe’s actions to combat terrorism. Constructing on the pioneering work of the CODEXTER, the CDCT’s primary purposes are to oversee and ensure the prosperous implementation of relevant Council of Europe legal mechanisms while also providing a means for global experts to analyse and react to developments in the counter-terrorism area, including through international standard-setting.

The Council of Europe’s leading international legal mechanism in counter-terrorism is the 2005 Warsaw Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism and the  Additional Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism. The two deliver criminalisation of several terrorist actions, including taking part in an organisation or group for terrorism, receiving terrorist training, journeying abroad for terrorism and financing or arranging travel for this purpose. They envisage the development of national prevention guidelines, international cooperation on precluding and criminal matters, penalties for legal entities, and principal regulations regarding sanctions. 

In complement to the two treaties, the Council of Europe counter-terrorism framework also entails many issue-specific guidance and guidelines that provide member States guidance for instructing issue-specific prevention, enforcement or adjudication tools. These contain Recommendations on using information collected in battle zones as evidence in criminal proceedings connected to terrorist offences and Procedures on the links between terrorism and transnational organised crime.

These binding and non-binding measures form part of the overarching Council of Europe counter-terrorism policy heightened in the Council of Europe Counter-Terrorism Strategies. The first Counter-Terrorism Strategy was adopted in 2018 and lasted five years. It has recently been substituted with the second Counter-Terrorism Strategy to be implemented from 2023 to 2027. 

The Council of Europe is also developing means to facilitate more practical action against transnational organised crime and share best conventions and common reasonable approaches in the struggle against organised crime and terrorist activity. The Council of Europe’s #NoHateNoFear campaign was desired at online hate speech conducive to terrorism and violent extremism.

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