Terrorist crimes and victims of terrorism

This section explains what a terrorist crime is and what is specific for victims of terrorism.

The definition of a victim of terrorism includes people who are directly affected by a terrorist crime as well as the families of people who die as a result of a terrorist crime. The families of surviving victims are also entitled to certain support services and protection measures.

A terrorist crime is a crime committed with the intention of frightening the population or a specific group within the population. For an act to be regarded as a terrorist crime it has to have the potential of harming a state, for example, and of inflicting a severe strain on society.

Section 2 of the Act on Criminal Responsibility for Terrorist Offences (2003:148)

A person who commits an act referred to in section 3 shall be sentenced for terrorist offence, provided the act might seriously damage a state or an intergovernmental organisation and the intent of the act is to

  1. seriously intimidate a population or a group of population,
  2. unduly compel a public authority or an intergovernmental organisation to perform an act or abstain from acting, or
  3. seriously destabilise or destroy fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures in a state or in an intergovernmental organisation.

Terrorist crimes include different types of crimes such as murder, gross assault, kidnapping, gross infliction of damage, and devastation endangering the public.

Special needs

All crime victims have several needs in common, which include being given respect, security, protection, information and support. Victims of terrorist crimes and their families may additionally have special needs due to the special nature of the crime. Such needs must be assessed on the basis of individual circumstances in each case.

Because victims of terrorism are often random, they may feel that they are particularly vulnerable and have difficulties understanding and processing the fact that they became the victims. The considerable general and media interest that terrorist crimes generate can make the situation additionally stressful for victims. Some countries apply special protection and support measures for victims of terrorism.

Handbook on victims of terrorism

The EU has a handbook about victims of terrorism where you can read more about the needs that victims of terrorism may have and how they can be met.


All victims of crime are entitled to be treated with respect. They are also entitled to considerate, professional and non-discriminatory treatment adapted to the individual in question.

Some of the most fundamental rights of crime victims are:

  • to be given information about their rights and about how their case is progressing
  • to understand and be understood regardless of language differences or other circumstances
  • to participate in the legal process
  • to be given various forms of protection during and after the legal process
  • to be able to claim damages from the perpetrator
  • to be able to seek compensation from the state
  • to be able to seek redress from an authority if a right is not respected.

Two EU directives on rights

The EU’s Victims’ Rights Directive and Terrorism Directive specify the rights of victims of crime and of terrorism. These rights apply for all crime victims in the EU, without any form of discrimination and even if it cannot be determined who the perpetrator is. They also apply for victims of crimes committed in a non-EU country who then return to an EU member state.

Victims of terrorism

Victims of terrorist crimes have the same rights as other crime victims, but they are entitled to receive support immediately and for as long as is necessary.

Their rights comprise:

  • adequate medical treatment
  • emotional and psychological support, e. g. trauma support and trauma counselling, in accordance with each member state’s national health and medical care services
  • guidance and information about relevant legal, practical or financial issues
  • help in seeking compensation in the country where the crime occurred
  • protective measures for them and their families.

Support according to the directives

The Terrorism Directive states that the support provided must be free of charge and easily accessible. This means that if you are unable to get compensation for your medical care costs from the perpetrator, via an insurance policy or from your employer, you can ultimately receive compensation via the state’s criminal injuries compensation programme.

The people providing support must be bound by professional secrecy and may not share anything you tell them with anyone else.

More information about rights

These websites have more information about rights:

For crime victims

For children and young people

For people with a functional impairment

For people who have received summons