Seanad Éireann - Volume 168 - 12 December, 2001

EU Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism: Motion.

  Mr. Cassidy: I move:

    That Seanad Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option or discretion provided by Article 1.11 of the Treaty of Amster[1572] dam to take part in the adoption of the following proposed measure:

      a proposal for a Council framework decision on combating terrorism,

  a copy of which proposed measure was laid before Seanad Éireann on 11 December 2001”.

  Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): The initiative for the framework decision on combating terrorism came from the European Commission in advance of the Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers which met on 20 September.

  Mr. Ryan: I apologise for interrupting the Minister. Did we agree to the previous motion? I do not recall that it was put to the House.

  Acting Chairman (Mr. D. Cregan): The motion was put to the House and was agreed.

  Mr. Ryan: I apologise to the Chair. I followed it very carefully but I missed that.

  Mr. O'Donoghue: The JHA Council, in welcoming the proposal, emphasised the need for a common understanding of what terrorism means in order to facilitate cross-border co-operation. The Council also instructed senior officials to forward work urgently so as to enable the Council to achieve significant political agreement at its meeting last week. The European Council, meeting on 21 September, endorsed that approach signifying, in particular, its agreement to the adoption of a common definition of terrorism and asking the JHA Council to flesh out that agreement. Work has been taken forward within the framework of Title VI of the Treaty on European Union on the proposed framework decision. That work has been undertaken in the main by the co-ordinating article 36 committee and COREPER. It also involved two further meetings of the JHA Council, on 16 October and 16 November, prior to last week's meeting on 6 and 7 December. Negotiations continued right up to and during that Council meeting at which political agreement was achieved on the text in the terms in which it has been laid before this House.

  It also involved two further meetings of the JHA Council, on 16 October and 16 November, prior to last week's meeting on 6 and 7 December. Negotiations continued right up to and during that Council meeting at which political agreement was achieved on the text in the terms in which it has been laid before this House. That agreement is provisional in that the text is subject to parliamentary scrutiny reservations by Sweden and Denmark, as well as Ireland, and there is also to be reconsultation of the European Parliament.

  The purpose of the proposed framework decision is to approximate member states' legislation on terrorism in accordance with article 34 of the Treaty on European Union, thus facilitating co-operation between member states at a [1573] number of levels. Article 34(2)(b) provides that the Council may, acting unanimously on the initiative of any member state or of the Commission, adopt framework decisions for the purpose of the approximation of the laws and regulations of the member states. It also provides that framework decisions shall be binding upon the member states as to the result to be achieved but shall leave to the national authorities the choice of form and methods and that they do not entail direct effect.

  The proposed framework decision on combating terrorism will approximate member states' legislation, in particular, by establishing a common definition of a terrorist act and laying down common criminal sanctions. The provisions, which it makes for this purpose, are explicitly stated in article 1b as not being intended to amend the obligation to respect the fundamental rights and fundamental legal principles enshrined in article 6 of the Treaty on European Union. The proposed framework decision accordingly provides as follows.

  Article 1 defines a terrorist act by reference to specified conduct as defined as offences under national law and when committed with the aim of seriously intimidating a population, unduly compelling a Government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act, or seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation. The conduct specified in the article represents the types of acts traditionally associated with acts of terrorism and includes, for example, attacks upon a person's life which may cause death, attacks upon the physical integrity of a person, kidnapping and hostage taking, causing extensive destruction to a Government or public facility, a transport system or an infrastructure facility, seizure of aircraft, ships or other means of public or goods transport, the manufacture, possession, acquisition, transport, supply or use of weapons, explosives or of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, the release of dangerous substances etc. Threatening to commit such offences is also covered. Member states will be required to take the necessary measures to ensure that terrorist offences under domestic law include such offences.

  Article 1A provides that certain other offences, aggravated theft, drawing up false administrative documents and extortion are to be regarded as terrorist linked offences when undertaken for the purpose of committing one of the terrorist acts to which I have referred.

  Article 2 deals with offences relating to a terrorist group and provides for acts consisting of directing a terrorist group or knowingly participating in the activities of a terrorist group. It will require member states to ensure that these offences are also punishable. Member states will also be required by article 3 to make inciting, or aiding or abetting an offence referred to in articles 1 or 2 punishable as well as attempting to [1574] commit offences covered by articles 1 and 1A with certain limited exceptions.

  Article 4 deals with the penalties which terrorist offences and terrorist linked or related offences should attract. The core principle is set down in Article 4(1), which provides that member states shall ensure that the offences concerned are to be punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties. That article further provides that terrorist offences, including attempting to commit such offences or aiding, abetting or inciting their commission, should be punishable by custodial sentences heavier than those imposed under national law for similar offences committed in the absence of the special intent required by Article 1, that is the intent to seriously intimidate a population, unduly compel a Government etc. That requirement will not apply, however, where sentence imposed under national law is already the maximum possible sentence, which would be the case for us where an offence attracts a possible life sentence.

  Article 4 also requires member states to provide that the offence of directing a terrorist group is punishable by a maximum custodial sentence of not less than 15 years, except where it relates only to threatening to commit terrorist offences in which case the maximum penalty is to be not less than eight years. The offence of knowingly participating in a terrorist group is also to be punishable by a maximum penalty of not less than eight years. There is a related provision in article 6, which will enable, but not require, member states to provide that the maximum penalties to which I have referred will not apply in circumstances where the offender renounces terrorist activity and provides certain specified assistance to the judicial or administrative authorities.

  I referred to Article 1b and the provision it makes to the effect that the proposed framework decision is not intended to have the effect of amending the obligation to respect fundamental rights and fundamental legal principles as enshrined in article 6 of the Treaty on European Union. Senators will recall in this regard that article 6 of the Treaty refers, inter alia, to the fact that the Union is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, and requires the Union to respect fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights and as they result from the constitutional traditions common to member states.

  Article 7 provides for offences committed by legal persons and will require member states to ensure that such persons can be held liable for terrorist offences etc. committed for their benefit by certain persons connected to them.

  Article 8 provides that, as with natural persons, penalties for legal persons must also be effective, proportionate and dissuasive in the case of legal persons and may include fines and other penalties.

  Article 9 will require member states to estab[1575] lish jurisdiction over offences covered by the proposed framework decision in circumstances where the offence is committed in whole or in part on its territory, on board a vessel flying its flag or an aircraft registered in the state involved, the offender is one of its nationals or residents, the offence has been committed for the benefit of a legal person established in its territory, or the offence has been committed against the institutions or people of the member state in question or against an institution of the European Union or an EU body based in the member state, and in respect of any case in which extradition has been refused. Member states may also take jurisdiction in respect of offences dealt with in the proposed framework decision committed in other member states. Provision is made for co-operation between member states where more than one member state has jurisdiction with a view to deciding in which member state proceedings may most appropriately be taken.

  Article 9 will require member states to ensure that they have jurisdiction in respect of offences relating to a terrorist group, that is, directing or knowingly participating in a terrorist group, or inciting, aiding and abetting and attempting to commit terrorist offences where such offences have been committed in whole or in part within its territory and irrespective of where the terrorist group is based or pursues its criminal activities.

  Article 10 deals with the position of victims and is intended to supplement the proposed framework decision on the standing of victims in criminal proceedings by requiring all appropriate assistance to be provided to the families of victims as well as providing that the investigation or prosecution of an offence covered by the proposed framework decision should not be dependent on a report or accusation made by a person subjected to the offence at least in circumstances where that offence has been committed in the territory of the member state.

  Article 11 will require member states to take the necessary measures to comply with the proposed framework decision by 31 December 2002 and provides for the Council to assess the manner in which member states have implemented the measure by 31 December the following year. Article 12 provides for the coming into force of the proposed framework decision following its publication in the Official Journal of the EC.

  I envisage implementation of the proposed framework decision being achieved by way of primary legislation, which will be brought before the House in the coming year. I intend that legislation will, in addition to addressing the specific requirements arising from the proposed framework decision itself which I have already outlined, also be directed to making any further changes to our law judged necessary for the purposes of dealing with international terrorism. I do not consider that the implementing legislation should present difficulties. Ireland's experience in combating terrorism means that our existing [1576] legislation in this regard is more comprehensive than the provisions of this proposal.

  The events of 11 September represented a defining moment for the world in which we live. Few events have demonstrated so starkly the choice between good and evil as the attacks perpetrated that day in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania by the forces of international terrorism. I am determined that Ireland will respond decisively and comprehensively to the challenge which those events represent and that will be my aim in framing the legislative proposals needed to give effect to the proposed framework decision and related issues.

  Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I again welcome the Minister and I welcome the motion. I welcome his statement that he will introduce primary legislation early next year to cover the details outlined in this framework of the European Council. It is vitally important that a common framework is in place and that there is full co-operation between member states to ensure terrorists are pursued and brought to justice and that the full rigours of the law apply to them. It is also important that we, as a democratic state, fully recognise, appreciate and value the important elements of democracy, particularly human dignity, liberty, freedom of movement and speech and equality regardless of race, class, creed or sex. That is essential for a basic democratic state. It is enshrined in all the European Union treaties and conventions we have signed as a member of the European Union and in the Constitution. I welcome anything which extends that framework. It is vitally important that we improve the position of people and their quality of life.

  I note that the motion outlines the specific details of what is a terrorist offence. We have seen such terrorist actions. The events of 11 September are repeatedly given as an example, but we did not have to wait until then. Serious offences constantly take place in Third World countries and EU member states are indirectly involved. A number of EU member states, particularly France and Italy, manufacture landmines and other weaponry which are used in Third World countries. The Minister needs to address this issue. While it is fine to say it is a wonderful economic Union which has developed democratically, we have moral responsibilities to the less well-off. The Minister should raise the issue at every opportunity with his fellow Ministers in Europe, particularly those from Italy and France which indirectly violate fundamental human rights in countries outside the European Union. There is not any room for duplicity. It is highly commendable that all member states will sign up to this and introduce legislation to deal with it. However, it is hypocritical for them to do so while indirectly providing ammunition and weapons which violate people's integrity and freedom. We should call a spade a spade. These issues must be addressed.

  The specifics of the motion, subsequently intro[1577] duced in legislation, are highly commendable. Although we are a small member state, the Minister has a moral authority given that we have proven our effectiveness in the United Nations. While complying with EU declarations and conventions, he might encourage the United States to fully respect the United Nations charter and not to breach elements of it, particularly in terms of conducting warfare in Iraq, as we heard on the news recently. These issues must be addressed. Like the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister has a role to play in this regard.

  I welcome subsection (5) of Article 9 which deals with jurisdiction and prosecution. It states that the article should not exclude the exercise of jurisdiction in criminal matters as laid down by a member state in accordance with its national legislation. That is important. During the previous debate I requested the Minister to outline the measures under Article 10 which would be provided to protect and assist victims. It states that each member state shall, if necessary, take all measures possible to ensure appropriate assistance for victims' families. Perhaps the Minister could do this when he introduces the legislation early next year.

  I welcome the general tenor of the motion and hope all member states ratify it. It is vitally important that due process is administered across the board. I hope the simplification of procedures does not diminish the protection of constitutional rights of all members of the European Union. Fundamental freedoms are important and must be protected by the rule of law and the administration of justice. It is important to ensure that occurs. Perhaps the Minister might elaborate on the reservations of the Irish delegation.

  Mr. Norris: I have divided views on the legislation. I notice there is an inflated rhetoric at the end of the Minister's speech which states that “the events of 11 September represented a defining moment for the world in which we live. Few events have demonstrated so starkly the choice between good and evil as the attacks perpetrated that day in New York.” I am not sure the contrast is that stark. I listened to President Bush making that point, but the actions of the United States subsequently have called this into question, particularly when it has engaged in bombing a prison, when Donald Rumsfeld has spoken about taking no prisoners and military tribunals which carry the death penalty and seriously restrict the rights of citizens engaged in those courts have been established in the United States. I am worried about this. When the President said the reason the United States was attacked was because it was a beacon of democracy, I also raised a question mark. I am not anti-American, but reserve the right to question American foreign policy. That can clearly be done.

  If one looks at the terms under which the Minister introduced the legislation, he stated:

    Article 1 defines a terrorist act by reference to specified conduct as defined as offences [1578] under national law and when committed with the aim of seriously intimidating a population, unduly compelling a Government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act or seriously destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation.

Are the hands of the West completely clean? There is a list of criteria which we should apply to ourselves.

  Let us take the beam from our eye. Let us look, for example, at the situation in East Timor. Documents have emerged this week which indicate that Kissinger was involved. Are we comfortable with this? Was it terrorism? Was the carpet bombing of Kampuchea, a non-combatant in the Vietnam war, an act of terrorism against a civilian population? Who was responsible? Will Kissinger be arraigned before an international war crimes tribunal?

  We talk about attacks upon a person's life which may cause death. I am a strong supporter of the state of Israel but, unfortunately and most regrettably, the blanket term “terrorism,” which can be applied to any community as an easy method of targeting them, has been used unscrupulously by the government of Mr. Sharon to attempt to legitimise what is called targeted assassination. That is regarding murder as a legitimate arm of foreign policy. Is this something we should also question?

  As regards causing extensive destruction of a Government or public facility, let us look again at the Middle East. I am concerned that the inflated rhetoric in which, regrettably, the Minister has indulged will assist unscrupulous regimes in using the label “terrorism” to target people's human rights in these countries. This is a great tragedy.

  Will there be an investigation, under these terms, into the School of the Americas where death squads were trained in the USA? If we are to seriously address the question of terrorism we must establish a level playing field. If principles are involved, they have to be extended not only to the people we are comfortable to have as our allies, but also to protect the human rights of citizens within countries with which we disagree.

  I was interested to see there were difficulties in defining “terrorism”. Ireland could make a contribution in that regard. One can make a stab at defining “terrorism” by saying that it refers to the attempt by a government or an individual to use the fear of physical force or physical force in order to induce a change in government policy. I am sure it would be possible, given the legal minds in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, to come up with such a definition. It is late at night and I am happy to share time with my colleague, Senator Henry.

  Dr. Henry: I agree with what Senator Norris said. It is very worrying that yesterday's terrorists are today's very best friends and that words out of some mouths are considered an incitement to [1579] violence but out of others are considered peaceful. I am delighted that the matters of biological and chemical weapons and the release of dangerous substances have been raised. I hear that whoever is in the Tora Bora caves may be smoked out and, if they are, it will surely be through the use of chemical weapons. Will we criticise that? I certainly would.

  In talking about people aiding, abetting and inciting the commission of various criminal activities which have been described as terrorist offences, we should be careful about the use of phrases like “elimination of people”. Does that refer to their assassination and does it mean that the law can be taken into the hands of the person with the gun in their hand? Senator Norris pointed out that it was said that no prisoners would be taken and this morning I heard Mr. Rumsfeld asked if prisoners taken by British soldiers would be handed over to the USA. In the EU we do not normally hand over people to countries which still impose the death penalty. Mr. Rumsfeld said that British troops would not be in a position to take any prisoners, which is extraordinary.

  There now exists the offence of directing a terrorist group which is punishable with a maximum custodial sentence. Those who have been recognised as members of what could hardly be described as the legitimate government are from the Northern Alliance, which was a terrorist group one day and people we could aid and abet the next. Surely they are little better than the unsavoury Taliban, a group which was recognised as the government so that it could be fought.

  It is very unfortunate that we cannot debate this more. It is close to inhuman and degrading treatment of legislators that we have to debate the European Convention on Human Rights at 12.35 a.m.

  Mr. Norris: Hear, hear.

  Dr. Henry: I am sorry this legislation is not before the House at a time when we could give it proper consideration.

  Mr. Ryan: I agree with everything my two colleagues said. While nobody, in principle, could disagree with what is in the declaration, an act of monumental hypocrisy is being perpetrated by the EU. I do not include Ireland in that accusation yet. I have been in Brussels and heard senior officials of the Commission and the Parliament say they wanted to put together a European arms industry which could compete with the United States of America. They want to sell arms to the world and we all know that means selling arms to anybody who wants to buy them. If they do not like the Government or the agency involved, the arms are sold through a third party. If the EU, the USA, Russia and China are serious about ending terrorism, the first thing they must [1580] do is deal with the arms trade. Until that is done, this is an exercise in monumental hypocrisy.

  I am not accusing the Minister and I do not want to make a political issue of this, but if we do not deal with the international arms trade, then all this is as hypocritical as failing to deal with the reprocessing of nuclear waste. Anything prohibiting people from putting together weapons of mass destruction is an act of monumental hypocrisy because it says to people that while they must not do this, we will continue making money out of preparing the raw materials from which such weapons can be made. We must make up our minds, once and for all. The arms industry is immoral and profoundly inefficient. However, with the mere seven minutes allotted to me, I do not want to spend all my time on that matter.

  Nobody could disagree with the declaration in principle, but one can argue about many of the phrases in it, as my colleagues have done. I have an argument with Article 1 on page six of the draft declaration. It refers to terrorist offences, but subsection (d) is blank. The Houses of the Oireachtas should not pass draft declarations which have gaps in them. Paragraph 3(d) contains five dots in parenthesis. I am not being trivial; this is the wrong way to approach this matter. We should have a draft which excludes things which are excluded and which does not include things that do not exist. If we are to have parliamentary scrutiny, as we should, it ought to be parliamentary scrutiny of real documents and not rough drafts which will have to be amended. The bracketed dots will have to be taken out of the declaration, yet the Oireachtas will have already given its approval. We ought to conduct our business better, something I have said repeatedly.

  The first paragraph on page 5 of the declaration is described as paragraph 0, which means it was thought up after the rest of the declaration had been drafted. That is not the way we should do business. I do not care that it is called “paragraph 0”, but it should not be there. It should have been written properly. At the end of the page paragraph 11 refers to actions by armed forces during periods of armed conflict governed by international humanitarian law and which are not covered by the declaration. In referring to action by armed forces of a state in the exercise of official duties, is a distinction being made between armed forces and armed forces of the state or is it giving implicit recognition to paramilitary forces in countries where democracy has been suppressed?

  The second question relates to Article 9 about which I am confused, although that could be because of the lateness of the hour or any number of reasons. Does it relate to terrorism within the European Union or terrorism generally? There is no justification for anyone to use any of the devices listed as terrorist offences in any country of the European Union. There never has been nor will there ever be as long as they have been and continue to be democracies. I could argue about the quality of democracy in many member [1581] states, but, ultimately, there is no justification for the use of such devices.

  On the other hand, circumstances are entirely different in Saudi Arabia, Burma or a dozen different countries, and I am not prepared to say that people are not entitled to use the methods the people of this country used to achieve liberation from a system of government which was not one in which they chose to be involved. We should not say to others that they must behave in a different way from the way we did.

  I am glad one of the draft Council statements asserts, correctly, that nothing in this measure should be construed as criticising the conduct of those who have acted in the interests of preserving or restoring democratic values, such as was done in some member states during the Second World War. It is a pity the Minister did not mention this because it is important. They could now be considered terrorists, whereas they were not. Members of the French, Italian and Danish resistance were not terrorists. Let us be very careful about this. The horrors of 11 September were terrorism, but it is extremely important not to be drawn into a position where people who take up arms to resist tyranny are also classified as terrorists. Will the Minister assure me that this legislation applies to criminal acts conducted within the jurisdiction of the European Union and no more?

  Mr. Costello: Taking up the final point made by Senator Ryan, one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. That is the way it has been through the centuries. One will find as many people in the Muslim world who regard Americans as terrorists as one will find people in the western world who regard Osama bin Laden and the Taliban as such. It is a highly emotive and subjective matter and has a great deal to do with social and individual circumstances in a country at a certain time. At the foundation of the State the original Sinn Féin organisation was described as terrorist. In the recent conflict certain sections of various communities would have regarded the party as a terrorist organisation while others would have regarded it as a freedom movement. The various images of Bobby Sands throughout the world demonstrate that the latter impression has been transmitted. Even the Minister's party was described by Seán Lemass as slightly constitutional in its origins and formation.

  This is a very difficult issue to define. Who will say the activities of the United States have not been terrorist in nature? There are people in many countries throughout the world who would say that. In Chile it helped eliminate a democratically elected Government, it invaded the little country of Grenada, the CIA attempted to overthrow the Administration in Cuba, and the American Government's activities in Cambodia attempted to bring it into the Vietnam War. Now a very simplistic approach has been taken to the issues in Afghanistan. Many in other jurisdictions would describe the actions of the United States [1582] as terrorism. I am certainly not anti-American, but it is very difficult to say what is and what is not terrorism.

  I want to raise one or two minor issues relating to the document. Regarding the list of activities in Article 1 described as terrorist offences, I am fascinated by Article 1(h) which concerns the release of dangerous substances which might endanger human life. Dangerous substances have been released from Sellafield for many years. It is a potential timebomb on our doorstep. The legislation goes on to state that we can go a step further in terms of jurisdiction and the prosecution of offences in that each member state may extend its jurisdiction where an offence has been committed in whole or in part in the territory of another member state of the European Union. If we sign up to this and can extend our jurisdiction to another member state if the offence has been committed in its territory, and if the offence in question is the release of dangerous substances, something which has often occurred through the extreme neglect and negligence of British Nuclear Fuels Limited, can we make a case that this is covered by the framework decision document and seek remedy by prosecution? That would certainly be very valuable.

  It is a shame we must discuss something as fundamental as this in this manner. This is at the heart of the response to the events of 11 September, and how we deal with it is extremely important. We saw how the Offences Against the State Act was abused by extending it to include so-called linked offences. Something like this framework decision document deserves a thorough teasing out and discussion which we cannot possible give it.

  Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): I thank Senators for their contributions to the debate on this important motion. I am gratified, although not surprised, by the consensus on the need for concerted, strong and effective action to counteract international terrorism to ensure that to the greatest possible extent the horrific scenes we witnessed on 11 September are never repeated. This proposal for a framework decision on combating terrorism is proof of the ability of European Union member states to act together in a decisive manner to uphold democratic values common to us and to further the Union's stated aim of creating an area of freedom, security and justice for all its citizens. Unfortunately, we, in Ireland, have had long experience of dealing with terrorism. We have been able to contribute, therefore, in a positive way to the development of this framework decision. It has helped us to develop these proposals into effective tools which can be used against those who engage in or assist terrorism.

  It will be necessary to enact legislation to give effect to this proposed framework decision in due course. As I indicated, this should not present great difficulties as Ireland's legislation is very comprehensive as it stands.

[1583]   In the aftermath of the Omagh bombing, this House passed the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act which in legal terms represented a significant enhancement of the previous offences against the State legislation. In moral terms it represented our determination to protect lives and democracy itself. It is the case that the capacity of the criminal law to respond to atrocities such as that in Omagh is kept under constant review in the light of experience, and the Government will not hesitate in bringing to this House further proposals it considers necessary.

  The proposed framework decision is only one measure, albeit a significant one, taken at European level to combat terrorism. The European Council held an extraordinary meeting on 21 September to consider measures to progress the fight against international terrorism and set out a plan of action which included the introduction of the European arrest warrant, a measure already discussed, and also the adoption of a common definition of “terrorism.” The Government is satisfied that these measures strike an appropriate balance between taking strong action against terrorism and at the same time ensuring the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.

  The attacks on the United States on 11 September were unprecedented. They force civilised societies to think again about the measures, legislative and others, in place to deal with the scourge of terrorism. Rarely has the choice between good and evil been put into such stark relief as by the attacks carried out that day in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania by the forces of international terrorism with their consequent tragic loss of life.

  It is in this context that Ireland is determined with our partners in the European Union to frame a decisive and effective response to those who would perpetrate such attacks. That would be the aim in framing the legislative proposals needed to give effect to this proposed framework decision and related issues.

  Senator Taylor-Quinn raised the question of arms control. Ireland has a long and proud tradition on the international stage in promoting disarmament, notably at UN level. The Government has demonstrated its commitment to the decommissioning of arms on our own island. Ireland continues at every opportunity to keep the issue of the arms trail proliferation in all weapons at the top of the agenda. In regard to article 10 and the whole question of victims, to which Senator Taylor-Quinn referred, the framework decision on the standing of victims, which I have undertaken to provide, makes a range of provisions to respect the status of the victim of an offence in criminal proceedings, for example, providing information on proceedings to the victim and encouraging support mechanisms and so on. The full details are in the instrument which I will provide to the Senator.

  Senator Norris referred to the situation outside the European Union. The issues he raised go far [1584] beyond the terms of this framework decision. This instrument deals with terrorist offences committed in the territory of an EU state. He referred also to the ills of the world. I would not suggest, nor would any Senator, that this measure is a panacea for all ills in all countries by all actions at all times. However, what we must seek to do is to take effective and achievable action where it is possible for us to do so, that is, in the European Union.

  In response to Senator Ryan, paragraph 11 of the preamble refers to armed forces. These are armed forces of the member states of the EU. No Ireland forces are envisaged. With regard to the textual corrections, there is a time factor involved which is undesirable. This is a JHA Council document which was discussed as late as last week. I agree with the Senator that it is not ideal. It will have to be tidied up by the Council secretariat in due course. If there were to be substantive change to the actual text, it would have to return here, but this would not relate to technical changes.

  With regard to the question of the framework decision, it can only be utilised in the fight against terrorism, not in relation to other matters. We discussed the issues referred to by Senator Costello, the question of one man's terrorist being another man's freedom fighter. I recall saying at a Council meeting that it is even true that one man's beer is another man's water. The Council stated that the framework decision on the fight against terrorism covers acts which are considered by all member states of the European Union as serious infringements of their criminal laws committed by individuals whose objective constitutes a threat to their democratic societies' respect for the rule of law and civilisation upon which these societies are founded. It has to be understood in this sense and cannot be construed so as to argue that the conduct of those who have acted in the interests of preserving or restoring these democratic values, as was notably the case in some member states during the Second World War, could now be considered as terrorist acts, nor can it be construed so as to incriminate on terrorist grounds a person exercising his or her fundamental right to manifest his or her opinions, even if in the course of the exercise of such right, he or she commits offences. This obviously was to preserve the right to freedom of expression of opinion, the right, for example, to protest and obviously the right of assembly in that respect.

  I reject Senator Costello's assertion that the passing of these framework decisions is in some way related to the Taoiseach deciding to go on some glory trail – far from it. If Senator Costello was aware of the amount of work which the Taoiseach and the Government put into these framework decisions in the interest of Ireland's people and Ireland's standing internationally, he would know that such comments are misguided.

  I thank all Senators across the spectrum for the constructive manner in which these framework decisions have been discussed. I realise the cir[1585] cumstances under which we are discussing them is not ideal. The committee of Europe will have to sit down one of these days to see whether it can arrive at a framework for framework decisions.

  Question put and agreed to.