Action against Terrorism

The Multidisciplinary Group on International Action against Terrorism (GMT)

Following the terrorist attacks of unprecedented violence committed in the United States of America on 11 September 2001, the Council of Europe response has been both firm and immediate. In its Declaration dated 12 September 2001 the Committee of Ministers immediately condemned "with the utmost force the terrorist attacks" committed against the American people and expressed them "sympathy and solidarity". It also started consideration of the specific actions which could be undertaken by the Council of Europe to counter, within its field of expertise, "such monstrous acts". With this in mind, on 21 September 2001, the Ministers' Deputies "noted with interest a proposal for the establishment of a Multidisciplinary Group on Terrorism (GMT) dealing with criminal, civil and administrative matters" and "invited the Secretary General, after evaluation of the various options, to propose inter alia draft terms of reference for such a group".

In September 2001, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe also condemned "in the strongest possible terms these barbaric terrorist acts" and adopted two important Resolutions on Democracies facing terrorism (Resolution 1258 (2001) and Recommendation 1534 (2001)). The Assembly underlined, inter alia, that "these attacks have shown clearly the real face of terrorism and the need for a new kind of response" and made a number of important suggestions to be considered to strengthen the international fight against terrorism.

The European Ministers of Justice, at their 24th Conference in Moscow in October 2001, adapted their agenda at the last moment in order to tackle terrorist issues and stressed that the Council of Europe should take immediate action to combat "all forms of terrorism", with a view to preventing in the future "the loss of life and the injuries suffered by thousands of innocent people". The Ministers of Justice also agreed on the need for a multidisciplinary approach to the problem of terrorism, involving all relevant legal aspects.

It is against the background of these strong and unconditional political commitments that the Committee of Ministers, at its 109th Session in November 2001 took steps to increase the effectiveness of the existing international instruments within the Council of Europe on the fight against terrorism by, inter alia, setting up a Multidisciplinary Group on international action against Terrorism (GMT) (GMT terms of reference).

The multidisciplinary nature of the GMT showed wide consensus on the fact that a sectorial approach would not be conducive to adequate and prompt results to solve the problems posed by the new forms of terrorism. Indeed, there was a need for a comprehensive approach, comprising criminal, civil, commercial, administrative and other legal issues. A multidisciplinary group which would take the activities of other relevant bodies into account, appeared to be best suited to deal with this urgent and essential task.

When carrying out its work in a multidisciplinary manner, the GMT took account of the relevant Declaration and decisions of the Committee of Ministers, of the Resolutions of both the Parliamentary Assembly and the European Ministers of Justice Conference on the fight against terrorism, as well as of the Council of Europe standards in the Rule of Law and Human Rights fields. The GMT also took due account of the activities of other international institutions and of other relevant Council of Europe committees and groups.

The work of the GMT did not start from scratch. On the one hand, a number of measures already existed or were being elaborated at a national and international level to fight terrorism and the GMT followed very closely this work. On the other hand, much work was going on at the Council of Europe on this question and the Report on Terrorism presented by the Secretary General to the 109th Session of the Committee of Ministers, as well as the Final Communiqué of this Ministerial Session, contained a clear description of the present and future Council of Europe contribution to the international action against terrorism.

At its 1st meeting in December 2001, the GMT set up two working parties in order to assist it respectively in considering Council of Europe instruments relevant to the fight against terrorism (GMT-Rev) and preparing a report for the Committee of Ministers including the additional actions that the Council of Europe could implement in order to contribute to the international fight against terrorism (GMT-Rap/Suivi).

The GMT had 6 meetings and submitted the result of its work to the Committee of Ministers at its 111th session at ministerial level on 6-7 November 2002.

(i) Priority areas

The GMT identified a number of priority areas for action by the Council of Europe, namely:

  • research on the concepts of “apologie du terrorisme” and “incitement to terrorism”;
  • special investigation techniques;
  • protection of witnesses and collaborators of justice;
  • international co-operation on law enforcement;
  • action to prevent terrorists from accessing funding sources;
  • questions of identity documents which arise in connection with terrorism.

These priorities were endorsed by the Committee of Ministers in November 2002 for implementation, in most cases through governmental committees of experts.

In addition, the GMT proposed to set up a CODEXTER responsible for coordinating and following up the counter-terrorist activities of the Council of Europe in the legal field.

(ii) Reviewing applicable Council of Europe international legal instruments

The GMT completed the updating of the 1977 European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism (European Treaty Series – ETS No. 090) with the elaboration of an Amending protocol (ETS No. 190) adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 13 February 2003 and opened to signature on 15 May 2003.

See GMT working documents