Wednesday, February 4, 2009

2008 Audit of EU Human Rights Protections by Human Rights Watch

In its 2008 “country summary” of the EU, published in January 2009, Human Rights Watch (HRW) notes that the EU and its Member States “continue to pursue counterterrorism measures that violate human rights.” The report, in particular, refers to a proposal for a Council Framework Decision amending Framework Decision 2002/475/JHA on combating terrorism, which became “law” last November (the full text is available here).

The main objective is to harmonize national criminal provisions by defining three new categories of criminal offence at EU level: public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, recruitment for terrorism and training for terrorism. The Member States have until December 2010 to take the necessary measures to comply with this Framework Decision.

In agreement with HRW, I think this new legislation gives rise to legitimate concern about an eventual criminalization of speech with little connection to terrorism. In particular, the broad character of the concept of provocation to commit a terrorist offence is worrying. Indeed, it does not appear to require a direct encouragement to commit terrorist acts. Instead, the new EU legislation would seem to authorize prosecution of any statement which creates a “danger” of such acts being committed. I’m currently assessing the implications of this proposed new EU legislation on the right to free speech. I will keep the readers informed when my paper is published.


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