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Terrorism and massacres

Victims of terrorism and massacres are victims of crime as are any other victims of crime. A special feature of these crimes is that people are subjected to violence at random.


Terrorism is usually motivated by political or religious motives. The ultimate purpose is usually to harm the state and cause instability, anxiety, and fear. The attack may include a large number of people who accidentally fall victim. The situation following the attack is usually chaotic and the media are present for a long time.

Throughout history, terrorist attacks have taken place, for example, at airports, subway stations and public events. Terrorist attacks in Finland include, for example, the stabbing in Turku in August 2017.

Crimes committed for terrorist purposes are regulated in the Criminal Code. The crime must be likely to cause serious damage to a state or an international organization. Terrorist intent means, among other things, that the act causes serious fear among the population.


In Finland, serious massacres have included school shootings in Jokela in 2007 and in Kauhajoki in 2008. Their impact on people and communities has been large and far-reaching. However, the incidents have not been defined as terrorism, as they have not involved any intent to cause harm to the state.

Definition of victim

According to the European Union Terrorism Directive adopted in 2017, the rights of victims of terrorism are largely the same as those provided for in the EU Victims’ Directive, but in some respects they go further. At the moment, the rights of the victim are mainly realised in Finland.

The definition of a victim of terrorism is controversial. The immediate victims are, of course, those who have been hit, killed, or injured in the attack, their relatives and those who have suffered financial damage.

In the broader definition, persons close to, intended for, but surviving the physical effects of the attack or involved in assistance operations are also considered victims. The attacks also have a wide-ranging impact on the families and acquaintances of the victims.

Although indirect victims are not considered as injured parties in criminal law, many of them are likely to need support in coping with the traumatic situation.

As a victim abroad

Foreigners are often among the victims of a terrorist attack. These people who happen to be there may be tourists, residents, or permanent residents. For this reason, Finnish victims may also be involved in an attack abroad.

In such a situation, the victim abroad and his or her family usually need special support in claiming damages, in participating in a possible trial, and in general in obtaining information from the authorities about the incident. Linguistic and cultural differences, as well as differences in the legal system, may complicate the handling of matters. Being a victim abroad can also cause a lot of extra financial costs.

The EU Victims of Crime Directive and the Terrorism Directive provide for the status of victims in cross-border cases within the Union. The starting point is that the victim must receive support and their legal protection must be guaranteed, regardless of where in the EU the crime has been committed. However, the Directives do not cover situations where a terrorist attack has occurred outside the Union.

Victim Support Finland serves persons living in Finland who have become victims of crime abroad or foreigners who have become victims of crime in Finland. For this to happen, international cooperation is needed. That is why victims’ organisations have developed coordination and exchange of information through Victim Support Europe (VSE), the European association  of victims’ organisations.

Through VSE, you can find contact information for support service providers in European countries. In 2022, a pan-European helpline for victims of crime, operating under the number 116 006, became available in 13 EU countries. When making a call abroad, the call is connected to a service produced in the country of call, which each works slightly differently. How to call the Finnish Victim Support Finland 116006 telephone service from abroad

Source: Åberg, L.-K. (2017). Rikoksen uhrin käsikirja. PS-kustannus.

Read more

Terrorist acts in Turku – successes and lessons learned in crisis relief (in Finnish)
 What to do if the crime was committed abroad?