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Italy: Updated Legislation on Fight Against Terrorism

(Mar. 24, 2015) On February 20, 2015, new legislation amending the Criminal Code with respect to fighting terrorism entered into effect in Italy. (Decree-Law No. 7 of February 18, 2015, Urgent Measures for the Fight Against Terrorism, Including International Terrorism, as well as Extension of the International Missions of the Armed Forces and Police, Cooperation Initiatives for the Development and Support of Reconstruction Processes, and Participation in Initiatives of International Organizations for the Consolidation of Peace and Stabilization Processes [D.L. No. 7], GAZETTA UFFICIALE [G. U.] No. 41 (Feb. 19, 2015), NORMATTIVA (in Italian).)

Objectives of the Legislation

The law’s purposes are described in its preamble. The preamble notes the urgency, in light of recent incidents abroad, to improve the existing legislative and regulatory instruments available to the Italian police and armed forces for anticipating, preventing, and combating acts of terrorism. It states that a key aspect of the new legislation is strengthening police surveillance powers and the handling of personal data. The preamble also mentions the need for an improved criminal punishment framework for individuals or groups involved in acts of terrorism. D.L. No. 7 devotes ten provisions to address the topics outlined in the preamble. (D.L. No. 7, arts. 1-10; for the government’s explanation of the legal ramifications of the new anti-terrorist legislation, see Ministry of the Interior, Varato il decreto legge antiterrorismo (Feb. 15, 2015), YOUTUBE.)

Punishment of Acts in Connection with Terrorist Activities

Persons who are recruited by others to commit acts of terrorism are subject to an increased prison term of a minimum of three and a maximum of six years upon conviction. (D.L. No. 7, art. 1(1).) The legislation punishes those who organize, finance, or promote travel for the purpose of performing acts of terrorism. (Id. art. 1(2).) It also imposes punishment on lone wolves – persons found guilty of training themselves in terrorist methods on their own and carrying out terrorist acts. (Id. art. 1(3).) Penalties are increased when the acts are performed through digital or telecommunications instruments. (Id. & art. 2(1)(a) & (b).)

The law punishes those who, without legal authority, introduce or provide within the national territory substances or mixtures that serve as precursors of explosives. (Id. art. 3(1).) The failure to provide notice to the authorities about the theft or disappearance of such substances or mixtures is also punishable. (Id. art. 3(2).)

The legislation authorizes the government to make members of the Italian armed forces qualify as agents of public security to enable them to exercise preventative police functions in connection with acts of terrorism. (Id. art. 8(2)(b).)

Foreign Fighters

The law makes it a crime to take part in a conflict in a foreign territory in support of a terrorist organization. (Id. art. 4(1)(a).) During criminal proceedings, prosecuting authorities are now granted the power to temporarily withdrawal suspects’ passports. (Id. art. 4(1)(b).) Such action must be communicated immediately to the General Attorney of the Republic, who must obtain validation of the measure by the president of the provincial court of the place where the accused resides. (Id.)

The law authorizes the President of the Council of Ministers, through the General Director of the Department for Security Information, to permit the directors of Italian security agencies to interview detainees for the sole purpose of acquiring information to prevent terrorist crimes of an international character. (Id. art. 6(1)(b).)

Provisions on the Internet and on Personal Data

The Ministry of the Interior is empowered to maintain a list of the websites that are utilized for terrorist recruiting activities. (Id. art. 2(2).) The authorities may instruct Internet service providers to immediately block access to such websites identified by the authorities. (Id. art. 2(3) & (4).)

Concerning the treatment of personal data by the Italian police, the new legislation amends the current Code for the Protection of Personal Data by extending the scope of police powers to gather personal data that is directly related to preventing the perpetration of terrorist crimes. (Id. art. 7(1); Legislative Decree No. 196 of June 30, 2003, G. U. No. 174 (July 29, 2003), NORMATTIVA (in Italian).)

Other Provisions

Finally, the name of the office of the “National Anti-Mafia Attorney General” is changed to “National Anti-Mafia and Anti-Terrorism Attorney General” in the Criminal Code (D.L. No. 7, art. 9), and the Anti-Mafia Code is also amended to change the title of the “National Anti-Mafia Directorate” to “National Anti-Mafia and Anti-Terrorism Directorate.” (Id. art. 10(1); Legislative Decree No. 159 of September 6, 2011, G. U. No. 226 (Sept. 28, 2011) [the Anti-Mafia Code], NORMATTIVA (in Italian).)