This site uses technical, analytics and third-party cookies.
By continuing to browse, you accept the use of cookies.

Preferences cookies

Fight against Terrorism

The measures to fight terrorism in Italy

 International cooperation as the linchpin in the fight against terrorism

Starting from September 11, 2001, the international community has launched initiatives to prevent and counter the threat of terrorism by using, depending on the circumstance, military or law enforcement instruments or, in the perspective of prevention, addressing the social and economic conditions liable to favour the spread of extremist propaganda or the recruitment of terrorists.

The European Union underscores the need for an integrated approach in which every component (investigations, intelligence activities, the political and diplomatic dimension, intercultural and interreligious dialogue, the struggle against financing systems, transport safety, the strategy to fight recruitment and radicalisation) plays an essential and synergic role.

An indispensable principle for the European Union – but also acknowledged in relevant acts of the United Nations, such as the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by the General Assembly in September 2006 and renewed every two years – is that the struggle against terrorism must unfold in the respect for international law, human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as for the rule of law.

The response of Italy – Complying at legislative and institutional level

At present, Italy has a legislation in line with the highest international standards in fighting terrorism and violent extremism. Our legal system has gradually abandoned the regulatory framework set up to tackle the threat of terrorism in the 1970s with a view to adjusting to the different challenges posed by the terrorist threats of the subsequent decades, combining repressive measures with the attempt to prevent the phenomenon.

In 2015, with the adoption of Law Decree No. 7 of 18 February 2015 labelled “Urgent measures to counter terrorism, also international (…)”, later enacted by Law No. 43 of 17 April 2015, our Country implemented the United Nations Security Council Resolution No. 2178 of September 2014, which is especially aimed at addressing the phenomenon of the so-called “Foreign Terrorist Fighters” (FTF).

With Law No. 43 Italian legislators further reinforced the mechanisms to fight international terrorism, with a special focus on the phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalist extremism, only a few months after the terrorist attacks in Paris on 7 January 2015.

The Law arose from the need to be able to rely on the most effective legal instruments in combating the phenomenon of FTF and, among these, the so-called “lone wolves”, meaning thereby people, often also second or third-generation immigrants, who autonomously convert to the cause of the “Jihad” and act on their own account. This is a different kind of terrorist than the traditional profile describing him as a member of a criminal organization, also international, as was written in Art. 270-bis and following articles of the Criminal Code (Associations, also international, for the purposes of terrorism).

The counter-terrorism measures identified in Law 43/2015 envisage new incrimination provisions or broadening the scope of existing provisions (incriminating the recruit and not only the recruiter, self-training, organizing transfers abroad to finance terrorist activities) and the adoption of individual prevention measures now comprehensively regulated by the anti-Mafia Code (Legislative Decree No. 159/2011). In this last respect, on the one hand, the Law aims to ban anyone (Italian or foreign) suspected of sympathising with the fundamentalist cause from leaving the Country in order to go fight with the Islamic militias (and then return to our Country with a load of experiences acquired on the battlefield) and, on the other hand, expel from the Country any non-EU citizen suspected of having links with terrorism or who has eventually merely manifested the will to fight in conflicts abroad.

The administrative expulsion of the foreigner for reasons of public order and security provided for under Legislative Decree No. 286/98, is to be promoted by the Minister of the Interior (or by the Prefect upon a mandate from the Minister) and is accompanied by an order motivating the reasons of the danger of the expelled individual for the “security of the State”, as in the case of subjects involved in espionage or terrorist activities. It is a flexible terrorist risk prevention instrument to be used against those citizens who, legally present on the national territory, represent a danger for the State even if they have not committed offences listed in the categories mentioned above.

Law 43 for the first time also assigns a coordinating role in the investigation of terrorism to the National Anti-Mafia Prosecutor’s Office, now renamed “National Anti-Mafia and Counter-Terrorism Prosecutor’s Office”.

Italian legislators came back to the issue of combating terrorism in 2016 with the adoption of Law No. 153 of 28 July of 2017. It adjusts Italian legislation to a number of international commitments on this issue, also making several amendments to the Criminal Code, adding thereto new cases for incrimination such as: a) offences of financing behaviours leading to acts of terrorism; b) the theft of confiscated goods or money; c) acts of nuclear terrorism; and also a new case providing for the mandatory confiscation in connection with all the offences committed for the purpose of terrorism.

On 19 June of last year, the Italian Official Journal published Legislative Decree No. 90 of 25 May 2017 to fall in line with Directive (EU) 2015/849 preventing the use of the financial system for the purpose of laundering proceeds from criminal activities and financing terrorism, amending Directives 2005/60/EC and 2006/70/EC and implementing Regulation (EU) No. 2015/847. Law No. 431/2001 had incorporated in our legal order the Financial Security Committee (CSF) at the Ministry of Economy and Finance with the task of coordinating competent Agencies and Police Forces in fighting terrorism and supervising the activities connected to the implementation of international sanctions. The functions of the CSF were subsequently extended to include money laundering activities.

Law No. 431/2001, which was approved in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 2011, adopted urgent measures to prevent and combat offences committed for the purposes of committing an act of international terrorism. Among these was the law that punished anyone “promoting, establishing, organising, managing or financing” associations whose aim was to commit acts of violence for the purposes of terrorism or subverting the democratic order.

Within this legislative framework, Legislative Decree No.109 of 2007, which was passed to implement European Council Directive 2005/60/EC, among other things established the Financial Information Unit (UIF) at the Bank of Italy, which replaced the Italian Exchange Bureau (Ufficio Italiano Cambi) in its duty to prevent and combat money laundering and terrorism financing. The people considered in the money-laundering law are under the obligation to adopt measures to freeze and report suspicious operations (the duties to report absorbed by Legislative Decree 231/2007)

With respect to the compensation payable to the victims of terrorist acts, Law No. 206 of 3 August 2004 provides for several benefits, including of an economic nature.

Principal areas of multilateral cooperation against terrorism

The United Nations

By virtue of its universal nature, the United Nations Organization constitutes the principal forum of multilateral cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

On 8 September 2006, the General Assembly adopted by consensus an important document, the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy which sets out four pillars:1) address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; 2) prevent and combat terrorism; 3) build states’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the United Nations system in that regard; 4) ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism.

The Strategy is reviewed every two years in order to have it take into consideration the changes in international scenarios.

In 2017 an important reform was performed to rationalise and to better coordinate the United Nations prevention and counter-terrorism activities.

With the adoption of Resolution 71/291 on 15 June 2017, the General Assembly established the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) directed by the Under-Secretary General of the United Nations.

The UNOCT has five main functions: 1) provide leadership on the General Assembly counter-terrorism mandates entrusted to the Secretary-General from across the United Nations system; 2) enhance coordination and coherence across the 38 Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force entities to ensure the balanced implementation of the four pillars of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy; 3) strengthen the delivery of United Nations counter-terrorism capacity-building assistance to Member States; 4) improve visibility, advocacy and resource mobilization for United Nations counter-terrorism efforts; and 5) ensure that due priority is given to counterterrorism across the United Nations system and that the important work on preventing violent extremism is firmly rooted in the Strategy.

The Global Coalition against Daesh

Following the fall of Mosul in June 2014, the United States promoted the creation of a coalition to counter the self-proclaimed Islamic State (Daesh). From the beginning the Coalition, albeit concentrating on the military emergency, adopted a multidimensional approach structured along five lines of actions: military operations; preventing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters across borders; tackling Daesh’s financing and economic infrastructure; supporting stabilisation of areas liberated from Daesh; and countering the group’s propaganda. The Coalition presently comprises 75 members, including four international organizations (European Union, NATO, Arab League and INTERPOL).

In these past few years, Italy has been actively engaged in all the Coalition’s areas of intervention. In particular, our Country has deployed the second-largest military contingent in Iraq after the one of the United States, for the purpose of training military units (including Kurdish Peshmerga) and the Iraqi police. These last two have been trained by a multinational Task Force led by Italy’s Carabinieri. Italian troops are engaged in protecting the Mosul Dam construction site. Aircraft assets deployed in Kuwait have performed intelligence, surveillance and search and rescue operations. Moreover Italy, together with the United States and Saudi Arabia, co-chairs the Counter-ISIS Finance Group (CIFG) which promotes active cooperation and tangible measures by Member States to eliminate the sources of income of Daesh and its members and to block their access to the international financial system.

The G7

The G7 has systematically tackled terrorism-related issues, which were especially addressed under the G7 Italian presidency in 2017.

The G7 Leaders that met at the Taormina Summit on 26-27 May 2017 adopted a Declaration on preventing and combating terrorism and violent extremism that confirms the Group’s commitment in this respect, which placed a special focus on combating the terrorist groups’ abuse of the Internet; managing the return flows and relocation of FTFs; combating terrorism financing; developing technical instruments to reinforce borders; overcoming the deep causes that often underly the phenomenon.

It meets at the Rome-Lyon Group level, which is the result of the merger decided at the 2002 Kananaskis Summit between the Lyon Group – which dealt with combating organised crime – and of the Group of Rome (established under the Italian Presidency and thus called to acknowledge appreciation for the Italian Presidency’s commitment) which were set up following the 9/11 attacks in 2001 with a specific mandate to combat terrorism.

It is a forum in which to exchange information, examine and promote concertation and cooperation initiatives to combat terrorism and organised crime, that meets twice a year to develop proposals to submit to political approval, as well as best practices and guidelines for the adoption of operational measures by specialised multilateral organizations.

The European Union

The European Council Conclusions on the European Union’s external action to combat terrorism approved by the Council on 19 June 2017 describe the broad scope of activities performed by the European Union in preventing and combating terrorism and violent extremism.

The principles underpinning the EU’s action are still those laid down in the European Union Counter Terrorism Strategy of 2005, which takes into account, in a coordinated approach, the internal (intra-EU) and external (extra-EU) aspects of the phenomenon, on the basis of 4 pillars (prevent, protect, pursue, respond).

The EU’s external action is high-profile: EU institutions have developed targeted dialogue processes on security and counter-terrorism with the MENA Region Countries and with the principal International and Regional Organizations (League of Arab States, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the G5 Sahel). The EU participates in the Global Coalition against Daesh (playing a role in the Working Groups on FTF, stabilisation, strategic communication and terrorism financing) and co-chairs the Global Counter Terrorism Forum dedicated to capacity building in Eastern Africa.

As for its geographical priorities, the European Union has followed with special attention the start of the transition process in Syria and the stabilisation process in Iraq – as the self-acclaimed Islamic State recorded a succession of defeats – which raise the issue of the return to Europe of FTFs from the theatres of war in Syria and Iraq. The European Union fosters a broad-scope approach that not only envisages repressive interventions but also providing support for the social reinsertion of these individuals.

The EU also performs capacity building actions in several partner Countries, generally putting the emphasis on building the local community’s capacity of being resilient in fighting terrorism and violent extremism and in training officials to combat terrorism in the priority Countries of the aforesaid regions.

The EU fosters the introduction of technical instruments to more adequately control European borders such as the “EES” (Entry Exit System); track the entry and movements in the Schengen area through the “PNR” (Passenger Name Record), including of those who do not require visas through the “ETIAS” (European Travel Information and Authorization System).

As for top priority issues, note should be taken of the European Commission’s commitment in the aviation safety sector, with particular attention on cargo, thanks to the adoption of the UNSCR 2309. In the civil aviation sector, in 2016 the Commission launched a 6-million-euro programme aimed at supporting the initiatives of Member States to assure safety standards in the sector.

In May 2016, the European Commission and 4 Internet service providers (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft) developed a code of conduct to combat the use of the Internet by terrorist groups. The aforesaid companies have committed to remove the disputed contents 24 hours after receiving a valid report. The “EU-Internet Forum”, which aims at improving public-private sector interactions, meets on an annual basis.

Among the initiatives to combat radicalisation, in 2015 the EU set up the “RAN” (Radicalisation Awareness Network), which aims to enable local players to share good practices on what has proven to be effective in combating radicalisation.


Fighting terrorism is nothing new for the Alliance. Following the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers, for the first time, it applied Art. 5 of the Treaty of Washington on the Members’ self-defence; also the Alliance’s Strategic Concept envisages responding to a terrorist threat.

The Alliance has gradually reinforced its role in this respect, especially in the seven areas of action: 1) intelligence and analysis; 2) preparedness and responsiveness; 3) developing capacities; 4) capacity building and partnerships; 5) operations; 6) governance within NATO and 7) strategic communication.

The NATO has formally joined the Global Coalition against Daesh, to which the Alliance already contributed mainly through the exchange of intelligence and monitoring activities with AWACS aircraft.

From Italy’s perspective, the Alliance’s efforts to combat terrorism must be part of a broader attention for emerging and asymmetric security challenges coming from all strategically relevant directions (including the South), with a truly all-inclusive scope.

Trends in international cooperation in fighting terrorism

At present, the very topical issue of managing the flow of foreign fighters returning to the territories of origin or directed elsewhere is relevant from the security, political, legal and social point of view.

The phenomenon, to which Italy dedicated special attention during its 2018 Chairmanship of the OSCE, also includes the sensitive issue of the families of returning fighters and their children and highlights the opportunity to actively integrate schools, medical facilities and, where possible, local communities in the strategy to avoid the further spread of radicalisation and pave the road for their social reinsertion.

Generally speaking, the opportunity of further developing international cooperation to prevent and combat terrorism is widely supported, especially through the exchange of information that might be useful to prosecute, in the full respect for human rights, the people suspected of terrorism and prevent new attacks.

International cooperation will also continue to develop from the point of view of combating the abuse of the Internet by terrorist groups and terrorism financing, two contexts in which a concerted response by the entire international community is imperative. In respect of international cooperation against terrorism financing, the FATF – Financial Action Task Force has developed 9 Special Recommendations against terrorism financing (which add on to the pre-existing 40 Recommendations against money laundering). In the past few years, the FATF cooperation model has been extended to similar regional organisations with a view to universally applying the FATF-developed standards and harmonising national legislations in this respect.

The FATF’s new operational programme to combat terrorism financing, which was adopted in February 2018, focuses on the currently continually evolving risks of terrorism financing in order to assure that the effective implementation of the Group’s global standards may contribute to preserve the security of the financial system.