Action against Terrorism

"Apologie du terrorisme" and "Incitement to terrorism"

The GMT identified the study of the concepts of "apologie du terrorisme" and incitement to terrorism as one of the priority areas for the Council of Europe's action in the fight against terrorism and stressed the need to identify, inter alia, the proper balance between freedom of expression and the need to prevent terrorism.

In order to implement this activity, a scientific report on this topic was commissioned from the T.M.C. Asser Institute of The Hague (The Netherlands). The report was based on research conducted on relevant legislation and case-law in Council of Europe member states, the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and other appropriate sources. It contained a descriptive part on the situation in member states of the Council of Europe and an analytical part on the basis of the information gathered, including, where appropriate, suggestions to improve the situation.

The report was presented at the second meeting of the Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER), which decided to create a Working Group, the CODEXTER-APOLOGIE, to analyse in detail the conclusions of the report and to present proposals for follow-up to the plenary of the CODEXTER.

The CODEXTER-APOLOGIE decided to focus on:

  • public expressions of support for terrorist acts and/or groups;
  • causality links – direct or indirect – with the perpetration of a terrorist act; and
  • temporal connections - ex ante or ex post - with the perpetration of a terrorist act.

It was furthermore decided that these questions should be dealt with mainly bearing in mind the objective to be reached, that is to say the consequences that the criminalisation of incitement and/or "apologie" should aim at preventing, namely:

  • the recruitment of terrorists and the creation of new terrorist groups;
  • the strengthening of the ethnic and religious tensions which can provide a basis for terrorism;
  • the dissemination of "hate speech" and the promotion of ideologies favourable to terrorism.

The CODEXTER-APOLOGIE also stressed that particular attention should be paid to the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights concerning the application of Article 10.2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and to the experience of states in the implementation of their national provisions on "apologie du terrorisme" and/or incitement to terrorism in order to carefully analyse the potential risk of the restriction of fundamental freedoms.

The CODEXTER endorsed these conclusions and recognised the existence, at this stage, of lacunae in international law as far as the treatment of "apologie du terrorisme" and/or incitement to terrorism was concerned. It further included this issue in the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism (CETS 196), in Article 5 – Public provocation to commit a terrorist offence.


Developments in the Case-Law of the European Court of Human Rights in connection with the cases concerning “apologie du terrorisme”