The E.U.’s Definition of Terrorism: The Council Frame-
work Decision on Combating Terrorism
By Eugenia Dumitriu
Terrorist acts have, for a long time, constituted a major concern for the international
Yet the definition of terrorism has represented an area of international
law where the divergence of views between States was significant.
For some, the
protection of the State
and of the democratic values of the society laid at the heart
of the debate, whereas others were more concerned with the risk of an unjustified
repression of “freedom fighters.”
These approaches, although apparently
complementary, have proved to be irreconcilable in practice. At the United
Nations’ level, this division of the international community prevented the
emergence of a consensus over a horizontal definition of terrorism.
Ph.D. candidate (Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva), DEA International Law (Gradu-
ate Institute of International Studies, Geneva), LL.M. European Legal Studies (College of Europe,
For a long period of time, only acts of terrorism targeting States were discussed at the international
Acts of terrorism imputable to States were not part of the debate.
Draft Article 11(4)(b) of the
Draft Code of Offences against the Peace and Security of Mankind (1986 version), which addresses solely
terrorist acts targeting States or international organisations: “The following constitute terrorist acts: (i)
any act causing death or grievous bodily harm or loss of freedom to a head of State, persons exercising
the prerogatives of the head of State, the hereditary or designated successors to a head of State, the
spouses of such persons, or persons charged with public functions or holding public positions when the
act is directed against them in their public capacity; (ii) acts calculated to destroy or damage public
property or property devoted to a public purpose; (iii) any act calculated to endanger the lives of
members of the public through fear of a common danger, in particular the seizure of aircraft, the taking
of hostages and any other form of violence directed against persons who enjoy international protection
or diplomatic immunity; (iv) the manufacture, obtaining, possession or supplying of arms, ammunition,
explosives or harmful substances with a view to the commission of terrorist acts” ( 1 Y.B. Int’l L.
On the 25 September 1972, during the twenty-seventh session of the United Nations’ General
Assembly, the United States of America brought in a draft convention on terrorism (U.N. Doc.
A/CN.6/L.850). The failure of this project is due in particular to the fact that some delegations from
Third World countries insisted on the need of studying the causes of terrorism before drafting a
convention on this issue.