EU launches terrorism register to better identify cross-border suspects and networks

EU launches terrorism register to better identify cross-border suspects and networks
A counter terrorism training exercise. Credit: EUCOM

The European Union has launched a counter-terrorism register at Eurojust, its agency for judicial cooperation among Member States, to collect and share key judicial information in proceedings against suspects of terrorist crimes.

The judicial counter-terrorism register (CTR) was launched by Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens together with six other member countries - France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands - at a ministerial meeting on counter-terrorism in November 2018 in Paris.

The register entered into force this week on 1 September and includes basic information that is regularly updated about suspects and summaries of crime cases. Run around the clock by Eurojust in The Hague (the Netherlands), it will give proactive support and feedback to national judicial authorities and facilitate cross-checks.

The legal basis for the establishment of the register dates back to a Council decision in 2005 but very little information was collected in the first years. It would take the terror attacks in Paris in November 2015 to call attention to the need of data sharing between EU Member States on on-going investigations and prosecutions of terrorist crimes.

Frédéric Baab, until recently French member of Eurojust and one of the initiators of the new register, explained at a press conference in Brussels on Thursday that the national authorities did not trust each-other in the past and wanted to keep control of their cases. The terror attacks in Paris served as an alarm bell.

Since its establishment in 2002, Eurojust’s main task is to assist law enforcing authorities of Member States in dealing with serious cross-border and organised crime. In recent years Member States have more frequently turned to Eurojust for support in investigations into terrorist crimes. In 2018, Eurojust supported nearly 200 cross-border terrorism investigations, incl. 11 joint investigation teams.

Asked by The Brussels Times if the register could eventually also promote harmonisation of anti-terrorism legislation in Member States, Eurojust President Ladislav Hamran replied that the register itself was the result of a harmonised effort to simplify the 2005 Council decision and enable collection and sharing of data on terrorism cases.

“We didn’t want to create just another register but to use it to provide feedback and added value to the Member States,” he said. “Today there is clear political commitment to share information. Member States see the added value of it. For the first time we’ll have an overview of all investigations, prosecutions and trials.”

A spokesperson for Eurojust added that Member States probably will continue to keep their different legal systems in fighting terrorism. “The focus of the register is on collecting and sharing information. There is growing demand for such information to allow quick cross-checks and to see if evidence collected in one country can be used in another country.”

The Brussels Times

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