Legislative proposal: maximum sentence for participation in a terrorist organisation from 15 to 20 years

Terrorism poses a significant threat to the democratic rule of law and hence to the Netherlands. Over the past decades, participants in terrorist organisations have proven themselves willing to commit the most serious crimes. They are the driving force behind these organisations. The government believes that the sentence should match the crime. In this instance, it should better reflect the responsibility that participants in terrorist organisations bear for crimes of such a serious nature. Minister of Justice and Security Yeşilgöz-Zegerius today submitted a legislative proposal to this effect for consultation. The legislative proposal follows from the coalition agreement.

Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius:

‘In recent years, we have seen what kind of gruesome crimes terrorist organisations are capable of. Given the crucial role they play in preserving terrorist organisations, persons who willingly and intentionally join such organisations must share responsibility for these crimes, with a maximum sentence to match. Raising the maximum prison sentence to 20 years is therefore an important signal.’

The role of participants

The tremendous pull that terrorist organisations exert motivates persons to join them and commit serious crimes in their name. Terrorist organisations have a great many deaths on their conscience and are responsible for atrocities in conflict zones as well as attacks in countries that do not share their ideologies. The suffering this has caused is beyond measure. To attain their goals, terrorist organisations rely on their participants, who make an indispensable – and unmistakable – contribution towards achieving their destructive aims.

For these reasons, the government is actively pursuing policies in multiple areas to mitigate the threat and reduce the appeal of terrorist organisations. The criminal justice system plays a central part in this effort. While the government’s first priority is to avoid terrorist violence, it is important that the suspects of any attacks that do take place are pursued and handed sentences that reflect the gravity of the crimes they committed, the suffering they caused and the responsibility they bear.

Maximum sentence of 20 years

The current maximum sentence for participation in a terrorist organisation is 15 years’ imprisonment. Notwithstanding the developments of the past two decades or so, this has not changed since 2004. In the meantime, the nature, scope and propaganda efforts of terrorist organisations have grown significantly. These developments should be met with an appropriate maximum sentence that better reflects the responsibility borne by participants in terrorist organisations. The increased maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment is in line with the sentencing guidelines for attempts at or complicity in the most serious cases of homicide.

The maximum sentence for leadership of a terrorist organisation will remain unchanged, as this is already the maximum possible sentence (life imprisonment or a determinate prison sentence for a period of up to 30 years).

Internet consultation

If you would like to share your thoughts on this topic, the Ministry of Justice and Security is inviting interested parties to respond to its legislative proposal. The input will be used to improve the legislative proposal further. The internet consultation is open until 23 January 2023.