Defining International Terrorism

1.      Introduction

Political terrorism is generally understood as the use of terror to achieve political objectives. The terror strategies and tactics include kidnapping or murder of politicians and industrialists, hijacking or destruction of air planes with its passengers and crews, bombing of nightclubs and hotels, or such other unsavoury criminal acts. There are also groups or individuals that consider themselves ‘freedom fighters’ or members of liberation movements. This category is generally found in developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. They are opposed to the colonialism, neo-colonialism and generally control by foreign governments or influence by multi-national corporations.  A third group of ‘terrorists’ are those who consider themselves members of Animal Liberation Front’, environmentalists or Eco-warriors and have used violence and terror to achieve their objectives. Finally, a fourth group are religious zealots, whether Islamic or Christian fundamentalists, as long as they use terror strategies or tactics to achieve their respective objectives.

From a descriptive perspective, groups or individuals considered ‘terrorists’ by national governments or the international community, including the United Nations, are many and diverse. These ‘terrorist’ groups or individuals go by different names. There are political, economic, or social ‘terrorists’. What is common amongst these diverse groups of terrorists is their use of violence or terror to achieve their objectives. A further common denominator is the fact that the International Community, working through the United Nations, currently has no agreed definition of what constitutes ‘international terrorism’ or what its essential elements are. The objective of this research is to identify challenges the international community, working with the United Nations, faces or will continue to face, in its search for a definition of international terrorism.  A reasonable starting point is how did the concept of terrorism emerge, and later evolve?

The international legal foundation of the concept of terrorism began with the phenomenon of violent offences by individuals directed against civilians or against the military in non-combat situations in order to make political protests to, or to secure certain political behaviour by, states.[1] Gradually, the existence of the legal phenomena known as “state terrorism” evolved.

Sometimes the phrase “state terrorism” was used to describe the financing, training and encouraging persons who engaged in such acts. On other occasions, “state terrorism” was used simply as a pejorative description of action that was disapproved of – such as colonial practices, racist policies (apartheid) and invasion of another country.[2] Many of these are simply unlawful acts under international law, engaging the responsibility of the State.[3]

Classically, the encouragement of such acts was by one´s own nationals – for example, riots against foreigners, burning refugee shelters, and the ransacking of embassies – although such acts were supported, or instigated, by the State. But even if the support is given to such harmful acts when perpetrated by foreigners against yet other foreigners, the principle is the same: the responsibility of the State in directly supporting such acts is fully established under customary international law. Thus, one really has no need of the separate language of “terrorism” to make the legal point. And a foreshore, nothing is gained – save at the crude political level – by classifying political acts of which one disapproves as “terrorism”.[4]   However, where those acts are in any event unlawful – such as invasion, or oppression of a certain people, they do not need the name “terrorism” to describe the offence. But, the term has become part of the political vocabulary, used on the one hand to describe States like Libya, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, which have been believed to have trained, financed and facilitated those who have caused violent acts around the world in support of certain political objectives; and on the other, it has been used by those who have, for example, seen the United States as engaging in unacceptable political or military activity in such places as Afghanistan, Libya, or Sudan. These two groups refer to the activities of each other as terrorism.

For a number of journalists, as well as for certain governmental spokespersons and various debaters, the term “terrorism” is used as a synonym for “rebellion”, “street battles”, “civil strife”, “insurrection”, “rural or urban guerrilla war”, as well as a dozen other phenomena, a fact which has caused a great deal of confusion among the general public as regards the real meaning of the term.[5]  Definitions provided by journalists, governmental spokespersons and public debaters often reflect the purely political definition, and, more importantly, tend to be descriptive. One such example is that provided by Schmidt. He writes:

Terrorism is a method of combat in which random or symbolic victims serve as an instrumental target of violence. These instrumental victims share group or class characteristics which form the basis for their selection for victimization. Through previous use of violence or the credible threat of violence other members of that group or class are put in a state of chronic fear (terror).This group or class, whose members ‘sense of security is purposefully undermined, is the target of terror. The victimization of the target of violence is considered extranormal by most observers from the witnessing audience on the basis of its atrocity, the time (e.g., peacetime) or place (not battlefield) of victimization, or the disregard for rules of combat accepted in conventional warfare. The norm violation creates an attentive audience beyond the target of terror; sectors of this audience might in turn form the main object of manipulation. The purpose of this indirect method of combat is either to immobilize the target of terror in order to produce disorientation and/or compliance or to mobilize secondary targets of demands (e.g., a government) or targets of attention (e.g., public opinion) to changes of attitude or behaviour favouring the short or long term interests of the users of this method of combat[6]

To some scholars, the purely political definition of terrorism was not only confusing, but was also based on, among other things, forms of violence that are restricted to violence against a government.[7] Yet, upon closer investigation, it is apparent that even acts of violence which originates in state governments, or in their authorities, can be terrorism, as for example, state-inspired or state-sponsored terrorism. Consequently, terrorism is not necessarily the same thing as violence against a government, and that the term “terrorism” is not to be confused with guerrilla war, riots, etc.[8]

On the other hand, some scholars prefer to look at the nature of the terrorist act itself, rather than address terrorism in abstract legal norms. Thus, Brian Jenkins, in his down to earth approach, opines that:

”All terrorist acts are crimes. Many would also be violations of the rules of war, if a state of war existed. All involve violence or the threat of violence, often coupled with specific demands. The targets are mainly civilians. The motives are political. The actions generally are designed to achieve maximum publicity. The perpetrators are usually members of an organised group, and unlike other criminals, they often claim credit for the act. (This is a true hallmark of terrorism.) And, finally, it is intrinsic to a terrorist act that it is usually intended to produce psychological effects far beyond the immediate physical damage. One person´s terrorist is everyone´s terrorist.”[9]

According to Richard Clutterbuck, an ancient Chinese proverb tells it all: “Kill one to frighten ten thousand”.[10]

Thus, in order to produce this fear, the selected victims are usually civilians, not soldiers or policemen. Killing a soldier does not frighten his ten thousand comrades; On the contrary, their reaction is to urge their officers to lead them out with their guns to find the killer. But if a member of a family is killed by political terrorists on the street outside his home, everyone on that street is in terror lest it happens to them.  Based on that analysis, “terrorism is theatre; it is aimed at the audience rather than at the victim.”[11]

On his part, Yoram Dinstein makes a very personal definition of terrorism. He writes:

“I regard terrorism as any unlawful act of violence committed with a view to terrorising. To my mind, it is no accident that the term “terrorism” has been chosen to describe a certain pattern of human conduct. Terrorism is a derivative of terror…….My contention is that almost any crime can amount to an act of terrorism, provided that it is perpetrated in order to instil fear. The same crime will not qualify as an act of terrorism if its motive or purpose is not to terrorize.”[12]

Not satisfied with the various attempts at defining terrorism, Judge Baxter expressed his frustration thus:

“[W]e have cause to regret that a legal concept of terrorism was ever inflicted upon us. The term is imprecise, it is ambiguous and above all, it serves no operative legal purpose.”[13]

Other scholars and legal practitioners, like Judge Baxter, expressed their frustrations at the failure of the international community to define terrorism.[14] Yet, terrorism and terrorist acts continue to occur, and victim states, must of necessity, respond since every state has a legal duty to protect its citizens and property. The pertinent question to be addressed is: Under international law, what is” international terrorism”?

According to Higgins, “terrorism” is merely “a convenient way of alluding to activities, whether of states or of individuals, widely disapproved of, and in which either the methods used are unlawful, or the targets protected, or both.” Further, she states:  “international law generally, and the mechanisms of the United Nations specifically, have sought painstakingly over the years to specify exactly what is prohibited, and to provide wide possibilities for jurisdiction over such events, and persons. None of that activity has in fact required an umbrella concept of   “terrorism”, over and above the specific topics of hostages, aircraft, protected persons etc. The term is at once shorthand to allude to a variety of problems with some common elements, and a method of indicating community condemnation for the conduct concerned.”[15]

I find observations made by Higgins on international terrorism very persuasive and insightful. I will therefore make extensive reference to her work in this research paper as I discuss and evaluate the role of the United Nations in the search for a workable definition of international terrorism.

  1. A search for definition
  • The United Nations

The concepts of “state terrorism” and “individual terrorist” act are difficult to define or separate one from the other. It is difficult to define because to some international and national actors, “terrorism” is a political act, while to others, it is a criminal act. It is also difficult to separate the two because state terrorism and individual terrorism overlap.

Some commentators are of the view that “terrorism”, by definition, is what an interested party thinks it is. In other words, what terrorism is, or is not, very often depends on whether one is a victim, or a perpetrator, of the crime of terrorism. Thus, to some people, a person who is considered a terrorist by one group is considered a respected freedom fighter by another. The attitude of different people towards terrorism, and their perception of it, becomes relevant in understanding, and eventually defining, international terrorism.[16]

In the Draft Code on Peace and Security of Mankind (the Draft Code), initially under study by the International Law Commission (ILC) in 1954, “terrorist acts” formed part of the definition of the concept of aggression.  The term “aggression” was initially defined by the ILC as; inter alia, “the undertaking or encouragement by the authorities of a state of terrorist activities in another state”. After a prolonged period of inattention, the Draft Code came under renewed consideration from 1985-1991. The text was almost completed in 1990 by which state terrorism was the subject of a separate article in the Draft Code.[17]

The concept of aggression, as ultimately defined in General Assembly resolution 3314 of 1974, does not contain any reference to terrorism as such. But some of the component elements that have become associated with state terrorism, including the sending of armed bands for violence against another state, are found in the definition.[18]

In 1972, the UN General Assembly established an Ad Hoc Committee with the mandate to provide a definition of the term “terrorism”. The Committee debated intensely whether the concept of terrorism should, and could, be defined. There were two conflicting views. On the one side were those who argued that normative responses to prohibited conduct could not be devised without agreement as to what conduct was indeed prohibited. According to this group, a definition of the term “terrorism” was considered an essential ingredient of the agreement. On the other side were those who responded that agreement upon definition was doomed to failure, and that it was better to proceed pragmatically with building up agreed norms that were relevant to different aspects of the overall problems. The Committee agonised over the conflicting positions, and when it reported to the General Assembly in 1979, the Committee avoided any attempt at definition.[19]

The position taken by the Ad Hoc Committee also revealed the different perceptions of what kinds of activities constitute “terrorism” as understood by developed and developing countries. The developed countries were nervous that a definition of terrorism could be used to include “state terrorism”; that is, some military actions taken by developed countries against targets in developing countries. For examples, recent military actions taken by United States against targets in Libya, Afghanistan and Sudan would fall in this category. On the other hand, developing countries were nervous that any definition that emphasised non-state actors would fail to differentiate between terrorism properly called, and the struggle for national liberation. For examples military actions taken by the African National Congress (ANC) against the Apartheid South African government, or military action taken by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) against Israel in the name of self-determination or national liberation.

An attempt at a compromise was made but without success. The General Assembly requested the Secretary General to study and report to the Assembly on the possibility of convening an international conference “to define terrorism and differentiate it from the struggle of peoples for national liberation”[20] The Secretary General submitted his report in 1989.[21] The report re-affirmed the differences between developed and developing countries. During the debate on the Secretary General´s Report, Mexico, a developing country, argued that

“[t]he basic problem which has arisen in tackling the question of terrorism is the lack of a single criteria determining the fundamental component elements of the definition of the term. Only the adoption of such a criterion would make it possible to establish mechanisms to help eliminate the practice of terrorism.”[22]

Whilst Syria, another developing country, was in general agreement with the thrust of Mexico´s submission, she favoured the convening of a conference to differentiate terrorism from action taken by national liberation movements.[23]

However, the developed countries did not only maintain their reservations about the possibility of reaching agreement on definition, but regarded with suspicion the counterpoising of terrorism and action of national liberation. Developed countries regarded the proposal for a conference as providing unacceptable opportunity for action directed towards national liberation to be regarded as an “exception” to the prohibition against terrorism. Israel, an ally of developed countries, and mindful of the activities of the PLO and Syria´s support for it, argued that the proposed conference to differentiate terrorism from action taken by national liberation movement is an attempt

“[t]o legitimize and justify terrorism by distinguishing between permitted and forbidden terrorism”[24]

Norway, another developed country, submitted that

“[t]he assumption that there is a need specifically to differentiate terrorism from efforts to bring about national liberation could be taken to imply that terrorist acts may be justified in certain cases”.[25]

Spain, speaking on behalf of the twelve members of the European Community, emphasised that it was the view of the European Community that “however legitimate a cause may be, it can never justify resort to acts of terrorism”. Spain continued and argued forcefully that a conference to differentiate terrorism from the struggle for national liberation

“Would only contribute to the false idea, which [the European Community] has always opposed, that there is a link between terrorism and the exercise of the right of self-determination.”[26]

The position adopted by developed countries on terrorism remained the official position of the United Nations. However, the 1989 UN General Assembly resolution makes reference to inalienable right to

“Self-determination and independence of all peoples under colonial and racist regimes and other forms of alien domination and foreign occupation and it upholds the legitimacy of their struggle, in particular the struggle of national liberation movements.”[27]

Simultaneously, the UN General Assembly resolution condemns as “not justifiable” all acts of terrorism,” wherever and by whoever committed”.[28] The resolution also called for the safe release of all hostages, whenever and by whomever they are being held.

Regarding specifically the question of definition, while there was no consensus on the desirability of pushing ahead on it, the 1989 UN General Assembly resolution – adopted without a vote – recognizes that the effectiveness of the struggle against terrorism could be enhanced by the establishment of a generally agreed definition of international terrorism.[29] The operational paragraph

  1. Unequivocally condemns once again as criminal and not justifiable all acts, methods and practices of terrorism whenever and by whoever committed…….
  2. Calls upon all states to fulfil their obligations under international law to refrain from organising, instigation, assisting or participating in terrorist acts in other states, or acquiescing in or encouraging activities within their territory towards the commission of such acts…..[30]

UN General Assembly resolution 44/29 of 4 December 1989 is significant because of its blanket condemnation of terrorist practices. Importantly, the phrase “not justifiable” and “criminal……whenever and by whoever committed” follows a perambulator clause that had reiterated the right of self-determination. The implication of the order of these phrases is clear: the right to self-determination, which activities continue to be an important part of the United Nations policy, cannot justify acts of terror. Yet again, the resolution continued to call for states:

“to contribute to the progressive elimination of the causes underlying international terrorism and to pay special attention to all situations, including colonialism, racism and situations involving mass and flagrant violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and those involving alien domination and foreign occupation, that may give rise to international terrorism and endanger international peace and security.”[31]

The main problem with the 1989 UN General Assembly resolution is that it tried to accommodate the conflicting views of the developed and developing countries in a single document. The result is that neither terrorism was defined, nor adequate legal constrains were placed on actions of national liberation movements.

2.1.1 The United Nations Security Council

In the UN Security Council, a number of cases that address certain specific notions of terrorism have been considered. However, the record of the Council show a lack of consistency as to when violent acts will or will not merely be classified as unlawful by reference to specifications governing them, but also classified as “terrorism”. Two recent examples come to mind: Iraq and Libya.

After the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990, the Security Council ordered mandatory sanctions and ultimately authorized the use of force against Iraq. Foreign civilians who had been brought in Iraq and in Kuwait, by the Iraqi government, at the relevant period were detained. By resolution 666 the Security Council determined that this hostage-taking was unlawful, but did not characterise the act as terrorism.  Acts of violence conducted by the Iraqi government against diplomatic missions and their personnel in Kuwait in September 1990 were also condemned by the Security Council, but it was not classified as terrorism.[32] The same was true of the holding of third party nationals against their will by the Iraqi government.[33]

However, after the war, in resolution 687, the Security Council for the first time made reference to the International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages which categorises all acts of taking hostages as “manifestations of international terrorism.”[34] The Council also made reference to threats by Iraq “to make use of terrorism against targets outside Iraq.”[35] These preamble provisions of the resolution were reflected in the list of public undertakings that Iraq was required to give in return for the cease-fire. Operative paragraph 32 of the resolution required Iraq:

“to inform the Secretary General that it will not commit or support any act of international terrorism or allow any organisation directed towards commission of such acts to operate within its territory and to condemn unequivocally and renounce all acts, methods and practices of terrorism.”[36]

Iraq accepted the conditions of the resolution as a whole.

Considering the actions of the Security Council both before and after the invasion of Kuwait, two questions may be posed: First, why did the Council decide to use the term “terrorism” after, and not before, the end of the war? Second, does the invocation of “terrorism” by the Council in resolution 687 suggest that from that date, the Council intended to engage itself in the definition of international terrorism alongside the Sixth Committee and the General Assembly?

It is submitted that the Security Council incidental invocation of “international terrorism” broke no new grounds. The legal position of international terrorism remained exactly the same as it was before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the adoption of resolution 687. The identification of violated norms and the insistence upon a public renunciation of such behaviour could have been achieved by pointing to the prohibition against hostage-taking and the harming of persons abroad by the agents of the State.

Regarding Libya, on 21 December 1988, Pan Am flight 103 was destroyed by a bomb as it flew over Lockerbie, Scotland. All passengers and crew on board were killed. On 19 September 1989, UTA flight 772 was destroyed over Te´nere´ in Chad, killing all on board.

During 1991, as a result of a joint investigation conducted by the United States and United Kingdom, both countries reported that there was sufficient evidence to issue warrants of arrest for two named Libyan nationals, believed to be members of the Libyan Intelligence Service. Listed among the charges was “the commission of terrorism”.[37] In the case of UTA flight 772, France reported to the United Nations that judicial inquiry “places heavy presumptions of guilt for this odious crime on several Libyan nationals”[38]  The United Kingdom letter,[39] and the French letter,[40] made several demands of Libya.

The United States, the United Kingdom and France proceeded to issue a text on terrorism.[41] The text stated, inter alia, that the responsibility of States begins whenever they take part directly in terrorist actions, or indirectly through harbouring, training, providing facilities, arming or providing financial support, or any form of protection. The text continued by noting that such States are responsible for their actions before the individual States and the United Nations.

In response, Libya informed the Security Council that it opposed terrorism and that it had assigned judges to investigate the two incidents. Libya also expressed its willingness to cooperate with other countries concerned with combating international terrorism.

Not satisfied with the Libyan response, the Security Council passed a resolution which referred to the “requests addressed to the Libyan authorities” without mentioning in terms that the requests included a call for the accused to be surrendered for trial in Scotland or in the United States, a condition Libya had already rejected on the basis that its national constitution did not permit the extradition of its citizens.[42] The Council resolution strongly deplored the fact that the Libyan government has not yet responded effectively to the above requests to cooperate fully in establishing responsibility for the terrorist acts against Pan Am flight 103 and UTA flight 772. In paragraph 3 of the resolution, the Council

Urge[d] the Libyan Government immediately to provide a full and effective response to those requests so as to contribute to the elimination of international terrorism

And, in paragraph 5, the Council

Urge[d] all states individually and collectively to encourage the Libyan Government to respond fully and effectively to those requests.

The Security Council decided to remain seized of the matter.

What appears from the above is that the victim state and the alleged perpetrator of terrorist attacks condemn international terrorism. The point of departure is what constitutes terrorism and how to respond to it. Before I consider measures to combat international terrorism and the Convention to Suppress Terrorist Bombings, I briefly examine attempts by the International Court of Justice to define terrorism.

2.2. The International Court of Justice

The Case concerning Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States)[43] is one of the very few cases to have come before the ICJ that directly addressed the question of international terrorism. However, it is interesting to note that the ICJ  did not use the term “terrorism” in the Judgement (over 550 pages) notwithstanding that claims advanced by Nicaragua against the United States are of a category frequently included in UN General Assembly discussions on the concept of  “terrorism” under international law.

The central claim by Nicaragua against United States included, among other things, that the United States was  “recruiting, training, arming, financing, supplying and otherwise encouraging, supporting aiding and directing military and paramilitary actions in and against Nicaragua……..” and  “killing, wounding and kidnapping citizens of Nicaragua.”[44] These claims were carefully articulated by Nicaragua as substantive charges against United States, each claim accurately reflected in prohibitive norms of international law, and the ICJ dealt with them as such.

During the proceedings before the ICJ, from beginning to end, there was no use made of the concept of “terrorism” by counsels or questions raised by Judges of the ICJ. This omission is all the more striking as for jurisdictional reasons the ICJ was precluded from applying the Charter of the United Nations. Even if the law of the Charter was not applicable, the ICJ could, and indeed did, find sufficient authority in customary international law to deal with both the substance of what conduct is or is not permitted in what circumstances; and with the attendant questions of United States responsibility, or the lack of it, for prohibited acts where they were carried out by those it financed and encouraged. Almost the only reference to terrorism was in the factual references to United States legislation whereby aid was conditional upon the recipient country not “aiding, abetting or supporting acts of violence or terrorism in other countries.”[45]

Regarding Pan Am flight 103, Libya makes the point that the matter should not at all have been brought before the Security Council. On the contrary, the matter ought to have been dealt with by the Montreal Convention of 1971 for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (the Montreal Convention).[46]

Article 14 of the Convention provides that any dispute about the interpretation or application of the Convention should be submitted to arbitration. If the arbitration cannot be agreed within six months of a request by one side, either party may refer the dispute to the ICJ. Libya declares that if the United States, United Kingdom (as relates to Pan Am flight 103) and France (as regards UTA flight 772) are dissatisfied with its interpretation and application of the Convention, they should agree to arbitration – and failing that, must accept a reference to the ICJ.

On the other hand, United States, United Kingdom and France, all permanent members of the Security Council, take the view that the situation is not determined by the Montreal Convention. In a letter to the Security Council, United Kingdom argues that the issue is not that concerning a dispute between two or more contracting parties about interpretation or application of the Montreal Convention. Rather, the issue is

“concerned with the proper reaction of the international community to the situation arising from Libya´s failure to respond effectively to the most serious accusations of state involvement in acts of terrorism.”[47]

The position taken by the United States, United Kingdom and France suggests that the Montreal Convention does not apply to actions classified as state – sponsored terrorism. Consequently, Article 5 of the Convention, which stipulates the basis for the exercise of jurisdiction that a state may – and must – assume, is predicated upon quite different assumptions. Further, the United Kingdom´s argument suggests that the terms of reference of the Montreal Convention is directed towards aviation offences which occur in its own territory, or in respect of a nationality registered aircraft, or in respect of an aircraft landing in its territory with the offender still on board as stipulated in the Convention.[48] It does not cover acts of terrorists, or state – sponsored terrorism. Thus, the position taken by the three permanent members of the Security Council tends to suggest that the Montreal Convention was never directed to the case of nationals who acted under the orders of the state concerned – that is – acts of state-sponsored terrorism.

The conclusion to be drawn is that the United States, United Kingdom and France, convinced that they could not rely on the justice of a terrorist state  (Libya) declined to apply the Montreal Convention. Instead, the three states took the matter to the Security Council and adopted resolution 731 on 21 January 1992 in order to implement its version of what the Montreal Convention means.

On the other hand, Libya sought interim measures before the ICJ alleging that it could not legally extradite its nationals, and that it was Libya´s prerogative to judge them.[49] Further, Libya asked the ICJ to order protective measures with the view to overrule Security Council resolution 731(1992).[50]

On 14 October 1992, the ICJ rejected Libya´s application on the ground that Article 25[51] of the Charter of the United Nations gives priority to Security Council decisions. Accordingly, resolution 731 and 748, imposing an embargo in case of non-compliance came into force.

In the Libya application before the ICJ, just as in the earlier case of Nicaragua v. United States, the ICJ missed the opportunity to address the question relating to the definition of international terrorism.

3.   Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism

Recalling previous resolutions[52] and existing international conventions relating to various aspects of the problem of international terrorism,[53] the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 61/40 on 9 December 1985 with the objective to find:

“Measures to prevent international terrorism which endanger or takes innocent human lives or jeopardises fundamental freedoms, and study of the underlying causes of those forms of terrorism and acts of violence which lie in misery, frustration, grievances and despair and which cause some people to sacrifice human life, including their own, in an attempt to effect radical changes.”

Later, after almost six years, in resolution A 46/51 of December 1991 on the measures aiming at the elimination of international terrorism, the UN General Assembly revisited the problem of terrorism noting that a definition of

“International terrorism which meets general approval would render the fight against terrorism more efficient.”

However, on closer examination, one discovers that this resolution reaffirms the ongoing contradictions within the United Nations, reflecting the division between developed and developing countries. While the resolution condemns all forms of terrorism, it also simultaneously affirms the legitimacy of liberation wars. Bridging the gap between the views of the developed and developing countries on the one hand, and finding an acceptable compromise, between legitimate acts of war carried out during liberation struggle, and terrorist acts directed against civilians, non-combatants and non-military targets on the other, continue to be difficult.

After a period of inaction, the Secretary General prepared a Report[54] pursuant to UN General Assembly resolution 50/53 of 11 December 1995 entitled “Measures to eliminate international terrorism”, in which the Assembly requested the Secretary General to follow up closely the implementation of the Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism[55] and to submit an annual report on the implementation of paragraph 10 of that Declaration,[56] taking into account the modalities set out in his report to the Assembly at its fiftieth session[57] and the views expressed by States in the debate of the Sixth Committee during that session.

By a note dated 31 March 1997, the Secretary General drew the attention of all states to the Declaration and requested them to submit by 30 June 1997 information under paragraph 10(a) and (b) thereof.[58] Notwithstanding that very few states responded to the Secretary General’s Report, a general debate was conducted in the Sixth Committee on measures to combat international terrorism. What is striking is the fact that the debate moved away from any attempt to define terrorism, and, instead, to the need for co-operation in combating, the so far, undefined “terrorism”. The term “terrorism” therefore continued to mean different things to different states as debates in the Sixth Committee progressed.

In its contribution, Israel observed that international terrorism was a business, and could not operate without a steady flow of funds. Terrorist fund-raising in charitable guise was a doubly heinous crime.[59] Noting that terrorists could not operate in a vacuum, Israel argued that States should not, from within their borders, sponsor terrorism and permit terrorist groups to act with impunity. Countries which granted sanctuary to terrorists and their supporters and which also permitted the free flow of terrorist funds and the traffic of arms and equipment used in terrorist attacks, were accomplices to terror and should be made to pay the price.[60] Israel urged international co-operation in the fight against terrorism, such as information exchange, tracking of funds and armaments, elimination of terrorist infrastructure and, on the legal level, intensification of co-operation with regard to extradition and prosecution.[61]

According to Nigeria, international terrorism has been facilitated by easy access to sophisticated lethal explosive devices as well as conventional arms sold by death merchants in the name of free-trade.[62] The aim of the terrorist, with their foreign backers, Nigeria continued, was to create a state of terror in the general public and sow fear among them as well as undermine governments. For these reasons, it was incomprehensible that the international community allowed the perpetrator of such acts to hide under the cover of the currently imprecise international law on terrorism.[63]

On the question of state terrorism, Pakistan argued that it was particularly ignoble when it was used against liberation movements. A Convention on terrorism should make no exception for any form of terrorism.[64] Highlighting the problems of small states, Maldives said they had limited capacity to protect themselves from terrorism. Consequently their sovereignty was not only held hostage, but could also be more easily usurped.[65]

No single State in the Sixth Committee supported terrorism, and yet, when the delegates moved on to discuss a draft international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings, there were still no agreement on the definition of terrorism.

4. Convention To Suppress Terrorist Bombings

The UN General Assembly, by its resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996, decided to establish an Ad Hoc Committee, open to all States members of the United Nations to elaborate, inter alia, an international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings.[66] The Assembly recommended that the work of the Ad Hoc Committee, which held its first session from 24 February to 7 March 1997, continue during the fifty-second session of the General Assembly from 22 September to 3 October 1997 in the framework of a working group of the Sixth Committee. In accordance with that recommendation, the Sixth Committee, at its 2nd meeting on 22 September 1997, established such a working group.

The Working Group had before it the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the work of its first session.[67] The report included revised texts of articles 1 to 12 ter of the Draft Convention proposed by the Bureau on the basis of the discussions in the informal consultations within the Ad Hoc Committee.[68] At its 17th meeting, on 3 October 1997, the Working Group decided to recommend to the Sixth Committee the consideration of the text contained in annex I of its report.[69] It is the debate conducted in the Sixth Committee during and after the adoption of the recommendation of the Working Group that is relevant in respect to the definition, or lack of it, of international terrorism.

While differences still existed between developed and developing countries as to the legal meaning of international terrorism, a new group consisting of members of both groups emerged – the victim states – that is, states that are regular targets of terrorist attacks.[70] However, the historical bias between developed and developing countries continued to be echoed in the conference hall.

Libya continued to argue that the draft convention did not take into consideration the distinction between terrorism and struggles for independence.[71] According to Pakistan, a solution to the problem of defining international terrorism could be found in the root causes of terrorism. Thus, working on combating terrorism and suppressing terrorist bombings should take account of issues such as colonialism, fundamental human rights and alien occupation.[72] Pakistan regretted that the draft convention neither reflected the legitimate struggle for self-determination and the comprehensive view of the complexities inherent in terrorism, nor criminalized terrorist acts and other activities of military forces of a state.[73]

United States expressed the view that the Sixth Committee has the opportunity to help the international community respond to threats of terrorism. Although the draft did not solve all problems, it was an important milestone in the fight against terrorism.[74] New Zealand argued that for reasons of principle, they had taken a special interest in the relationship between the convention establishing a global “prosecute or extradite” regime for terrorist bombings, and the activities of military forces of a state.[75] It was inappropriate, New Zealand reasoned, to have a general exception for such activities from the scope of the convention. It was important for New Zealand that the convention captured within its ambit, all unlawful actions of military forces, and further that such forces must be held individually criminally responsible whether or not the State of which they were national was also responsible for their actions.

In the course of the debate, some States restricted their contribution to regional and local issues. For example, Lebanon argued that, in their opinion, “the convention did not give any credibility to any practices of Israel in the territory it occupied in Lebanon,” and reaffirmed that “the convention should not be interpreted as allowing the military forces of a state to carry out such activities.”[76]  Exercising its right of reply, Israel observed that “statements made by a number of representatives who continued to assert that an act of terrorism was not terrorism if it was done for reasons of liberation could not be ignored. Terrorism, Israel argued, did a genuine injustice to those who really were fighting for freedom and liberation. If the act of terrorism was justified, then the actions to stop it were unjustifiable. States that asserted that some terrorism was justified had vested interest in terrorism simply because it advanced their cynical political agenda.[77]On its part, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was concerned about what it termed “NGO terrorism”.[78] Unfortunately the DRC did not provide a working definition of “NGO terrorism” although one could infer that it meant interference in the internal affairs of that state by non-governmental organisations which are often financed by foreign states.

At the end of the debate, the Sixth Committee recommended that the General Assembly adopt the draft convention. At the General Assembly session, noting that while the draft convention did not satisfy the interest of all parties, Sweden submitted that it was the best convention that could be achieved under the circumstances. In urging members to adopt the convention, Sweden pointed out that

”The text…..was a fragile package that should not be unravelled. It was important to catch the opportunity and approve the draft. His [Swedish] delegation had difficulties early in the process concerning the draft provisions on extradition. Sweden compromised in order to join the consensus, which created probably the best convention that could be achieved. The draft was not perfect but it was good and it sent a strong message to the world that the United Nations was adamant in its fight against terrorism.”[79] [Emphasis added]

The Convention to Suppress Terrorist Bombings was adopted and opened for signature from 12 January 1998 to 31 December 1999. However, contrary to the Swedish expectation, the Convention did not send a strong message to the world that United Nations was adamant in its fight against terrorism. In fact the Convention meant different things to different parties, with no clear procedure for its effective implementation.

In the 24 articles, the Convention addressed such elements as definitions, scope, obligation of State parties, and co-operation to prevent actions that would be proscribed by the Convention, as well as the question of detention, extradition or prosecution. However, while the convention defined a terrorist bomber, terrorism was not.

The Convention defines a terrorist bomber as a person who unlawfully and intentionally delivers, places, discharges or detonates a bomb, explosive, lethal or incendiary device in, into or against a place of public use, a state or government facility, a public transportation system or an infrastructure facility with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury or the destruction of such a place resulting in major economic loss.

Article 3 states that the Convention shall not apply where the offence is committed within a single state, the alleged offender is found in the territory of that state and no other state has a basis under a provision of the convention to exercise jurisdiction, except in certain stipulated cases.

In the UN General Assembly, a number of states made statements after the adoption of the Convention. Noting the narrow scope of the Convention, Sweden suggested that, by its terms of reference, it would be useful for the General Assembly to bear in mind the possibility of considering the elaboration of a comprehensive convention on international terrorism in the near future. The Swedish delegation “preferred looking at the specific international instruments instead of a comprehensive convention.”[80]

India felt that the piecemeal approach taken in the past had not dealt properly with the issue of terrorism.[81] Syria noted that there was a need to develop in the future a clear definition of international terrorism that was generally accepted. Such a definition must distinguish between acts of terror and the right of peoples to free their territory.  Syria stressed that the struggle for liberation was not terrorism.[82]

Attempts at defining international terrorism had, once more, been avoided by the UN General Assembly, the Sixth Committee, the Security Council or the International Law Commission.

  1. Political dimension of terrorism

The failure of the international community, acting through the United Nations, to define terrorism is political, not legal or technical. The political reasons are many and diverse. From among the members of the United Nations, there are States that are frustrated because they are disempowered. There are also states that consider themselves victims of economic and social wrongs, imposed on them by the developed countries.

However, the central point is not whether the allegations made by developing countries against the developed ones are true or false, right or wrong. What is relevant is that these allegations form the political basis for terrorist actions and subsequently serve to justify it. Significantly, these States refuse to accept a legal order that, according to their perception, perpetrates such real or perceived inequalities. Consequently these states tend to refuse to embrace factual definition of terrorism that does not include the root causes of their backwardness and disempowerment. They are therefore disinclined to sign, let alone ratify, a definition which would restrict their freedom of action and might result in condemning militants who are the object of public admiration in their respective states. Examples of these political situations are many: In World War II, resistance fighters were seen and treated as terrorists by Nazi Germany, while considered heroes by the Allies. Today, many Islamic militants who are considered terrorists by many developed and developing countries are treated as heroes by the disempowered in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and other places where they operate.

Failure to separate legitimate struggles, using lawful means to effect political, economic and social changes, tend to result in unilateral responses by victim states. Partly because international terrorism is not defined, and partly because there are no legal ways to respond to violent terrorist attacks, victim states often find themselves in breach of international law itself under the cover of self-defence, by resorting to methods sometimes similar to the ones it denounces.

One way of addressing the problem of international terrorism is constructive engagement through dialogue between victims’ states and terrorists. The two groups should attempt to see the other´s point of view. For example, the fact that a terrorist act is inexcusable should not preclude a political assessment of the situation. Exploring the political depth of a given terrorist manifestation does not in the least suggest the approval of what remains, legally, a criminal act.[83]

On the other hand, recognizing the political dimension of terrorism can influence the handling of the problem, and thus lead closer to defining terrorism. It is important to understand and address a terrorist´s message notwithstanding that one does not agree with it. This exercise is relevant solely for the purpose of acknowledging the political dimension of the terrorist act. This alternative approach accounts for a better appreciation of the act, and does not necessarily favours the terrorist. By acknowledging terrorist messages and acts, terrorism can be condemned by a greater number of States, or by the international community through the United Nations.[84]

There is, however, a caveat. Political dialogue may only be possible when terrorist organisations, and their messages, are identifiable, endorsed by a foreign State or somehow linked to another State. For example, “terrorist” organisations such as the PLO and IRA were able to negotiate durable political settlements once the victim states were prepared to listen to their clear unambiguous political messages. In these cases, unfortunately the Oslo Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement did not include definition of international terrorism in the overall peace agreements.

On the other hand, this alternative approach does not necessarily apply to terrorist activity aimed at challenging the economic order or religious belief, conducted by isolated individuals or small groups over which States have no practical means of control outside repression. Red Brigades, Baader Meinhof and assortment of extreme religious groups tend to loosely fit this category.

It is also relevant for one to be mindful of the reasons why victim States often refuse to deal directly with those whom they consider criminals. Victim States that refuse to deal directly with “terrorists” should be encouraged to use other procedures such as inquiries, mediation or conciliation. Of course the particular method used will depend in the end on the type of underlying political conflict. Whatever form is adopted by the parties, a definition of international terrorism should be placed high on the agenda, only then may those who engage in terrorist acts help in the formulation of a definition of their trade – terrorism.[85]

6. Conclusion

Debates in the Sixth Committee, the UN General Assembly and the Security Council demonstrate that all members of the United Nations, including states that are suspected of sponsoring terrorism, condemn terrorism, and terrorist attacks in all their manifestations, at least in public. No single state came out openly in support of terrorism. Similarly, the ICJ condemned all forms of terrorism and terrorist attacks. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the international community, either individually, or through the United Nations, condemns international terrorism and terrorist acts.

However, member states are divided on the methods of combating terrorism, including providing a definitive definition of terrorism. The problem of definition as observed above is not legal, but political. Consequently, questions relating to definition of terrorism are best solved when addressed by political and legal committees of the United Nations. This is because causes of terrorism are usually political. Thus, a purely legal approach may not necessarily address the political dimension of international terrorism. Moreover, causes of terrorism can not, and should not, be separated from its consequences. Linking the two factors necessarily involve states and organisations that have, or may have, connection with terrorists. It is only through constructive engagement – bringing all the major players at the conference table – that a working definition of international terrorism, with the possibility of creating rules that provide for effective enforcement of international law, may be achieved.


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 Terrorism (Lexington Books)

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Clutterbuck, R (1989), “International Co-operation Against International Terrorism: Treaties,

Conventions and Bilateral Arrangements” in Magnus D. Sandbu and Peter Nordbeck (eds.)  International Terrorism: Report from a Seminar Arranged by The European Law Students ‘Association 1987  Skrifter utgivna av Juridiska Föreningen i Lund Nr 104 Acta Societatis Juridicae Lundensis.

de Hoog, A.J.J (1991), “The Relationship between jus cogens obligation erga omnes and

International crimes: Peremptory Norms in Perspective” Austria Journal of Public International Law, vol. 42

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Nordbeck (eds.) International Terrorism: Report from a Seminar Arranged by The European Law Students ‘Association 1987 Skrifter utgivna av Juridiska Föreningen i Lund Nr 104 Acta Societatis Juridicae Lundensis

Dugard, J (1974), “International Terrorisms: Problems of Definitions” in International Affairs

            January 1974, Vol.50, No.71

Friendlander, R (1984), “Terrorism and International Law: Recent Developments” in Rutgers

            Law Journal, Vol.13

Geoff, G (1991), “The Criminal Responsibility of States” 39 International & Comparative Law

 Quarterly (p.345-369)

Higgins, R (1997), “The General Law of Terrorism” in Higgins, R & Flory, M (ed)

Terrorism and International Law (Routledge, London)

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Sandbu, M.D and Nordbeck, P (ed) (1989) International Terrorism: Report from a Seminar

Arranged by The European Law Students ‘Association 1987 Skrifter utgivna av Juridiska Föreningen i Lund Nr 104 Acta Societatis Juridicae Lundensis

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 and Literature (North-Holland Publishing Company)

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Terrorism” in Magnus D. Sandbu and Peter Nordbeck (eds.) International Terrorism: Report from a Seminar Arranged by The European Law Students ‘Association 1987 Skrifter utgivna av Juridiska Föreningen i Lund Nr 104 Acta Societatis Juridicae Lundensis


The Case Concerning Military and Paramilitary Activities in and against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v

  1. US) Merits, ICJ Rep (1986)

Libyan Arab Jamahiya v United Kingdom (Lockerbie Case, Provisional Measures) ICJ Rep



The Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Airways, Signed at

Tokyo on 14 September, 1963

The Convention for Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, signed at The Hague on 16

December 1970

The Convention for Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation, signed at

Montreal in September 1971

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected

Persons, including Diplomatic agents, signed at New York, 14 December 1973

The International Convention Against Taking Hostages, adopted at New York on 17 December



UN documents

Letter by Sir David Hanney, UK Ambassador to the United Nations – Security Council Press

Release S/5348

Letter of 20 December 1991 from United Kingdom to Secretary General of the United Nations –


Letter of 20 December 1991 from France to Secretary General of the United Nations – S/23306

Press Release GA/L/3066 of 19 November 1997

Press Release GA/L/3067 of 21 November 1997

UN General Assembly Resolution 3314 of 1974

GAOR 34th Session, Supp. No.37 (A/34/37) 1979

GA Resolution 42/159, 7 December 1987

GA Resolution 44/29, 4 December 1989

GA Resolution 49/60

GA Res. 3034 (XXVII) of 18 December 1972

GA Res. 31/102 of 15 December 1976

GA Res 32/147 of December 1977

GA Res 34/145 of 17 December 1979

GA Res.36/09 of 10 December 1981

GA Res. 38/130 of 19 December 1983

S/RES/667, 16 September, 1990

S/RES/670, 25 September 1990

S/RES/687, 8 April 1991


A750/372 and Add. I

A/CN.4/430 (1990)

A/AC.252/L.2 of 3 January 1997

A/AC.252/1.2* of 11 February 1997

A/C.6/52/L.3 of 10 October 1997


S/23422 of 21 January 1992

* © copyright, Alex Obote Odora, January 1999, United Nations, New York, New York.

Post-doctoral Research Fellow & Visiting Scholar, The United Nations Secretariat, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations, New York, New York. Obote Odora holds an LLB (Hons Makerere); Dip. LP (LDC); LLM, LLD (Stockholm); Advocate. Dr Obote Odora practised law in Zambia and Uganda, taught at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, Lund Sweden, and Faculty of Law, Stockholm University, Sweden.

** An abridged version with some footnotes and references omitted was published in June 1999 in Murdoch University Electronic Law Journal, Perth, Australia.

[1]  Higgins, R, “The general international law of terrorism” in Rosalyn Higgins and Maurice Flory (ed.)  Terrorism and International Law (Routledge, London, 1997) at.26

[2]  Ibid.,

[3]  It has long been clear that a State is internationally responsible for unlawful acts that harm other States, or the nationals of other States. It is as a matter of the law of State responsibility that this occurs not only when the foreign national is directly harmed, but the harm is indirectly caused through the active encouragement of such acts. See the International Law Commission (ILC) Draft Articles on State Responsibility, which elaborates how, although a state is not normally responsible for acts of private persons (Article 11(1)), they may become attributable to the state by virtue of Articles 5-10. But then the Draft Code itself is widely regarded by many writers (including this one) as a compendium of elements of existing international law, and not as ”real” topic itself.

On responsibility of states, see also Gilbert,G, “The Criminal Responsibility of States” 39 International & Comparative Law Quarterly (1991)345-369; de Hoog, A.J.J “The Relationship between jus cogens, obligation erga omnes and International Crimes: Peremptory Norms in Perspective” Austria Journal of Public International Law Vol.42 (1991) 183-214

[4]  Supra, note1,  Higgins, R “The general international law of terrorism” at 26

[5] Schmidt, A.P, Political Terrorism; A Research Guide to Concepts, Theories, Data Bases and Literature,  (North-Holland Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1983), p.91

[6] Ibid.,

[7] Sandbu, M.D and Nordbeck, P (eds.)  International Terrorism: Report from a Seminar Arranged by The European Law Students’ Association 1987  Skrifter utgivna av Juridiska Föreningen i Lund Nr 104 Acta Societatis Juridicae Lundensis, 1989 at  11 (hereafter Sandbu and Nordbeck)

[8] Ibid.,

[9]  Jenkins, B as quoted by Sundberg, JWF, in ”Introduction to International Terrorism – The Tactics and Strategy of International Terrorism” in  Sandbu and Nordbeck, at 21

[10]  Clutterbuck, R, ”International Co-operation Against International Terrorism: Treaties, Conventions and Bilateral Arrangements” in Sandbu and Nordbeck, at 39

[11] Ibid.,

[12]  Dinstein, Y, “The Right of Self-Defence Against Armed Attacks” in Sandbu and Nordbeck at 57

[13]   Baxter, R  “A Skeptical Look at the Concept of Terrorism” 7 Arkon Law Review (1974)  380

[14]  See Arnold, T.E, The Violence Formula: Why People Lend Sympathy and Support to Terrorism (Lexington Books: 1988); Netanyahu, B, Terrorism: How the West can Win (New York: Farrar Strauss Giroux, 1986);  Dugard, J ”International Terrorism: Problems of Definitions,” in International Affairs, Jan. 1974, Vol.50, No.71 p.68 et seq. Friedlander,  R.A, “Terrorism and International Law: Recent Developments,” in Rutgers Law Journal, Vol.13, 1984, pp.493-511

[15]Supra, note 1, Higgins. R, at 28

[16]Supra, note 1, Higgins, R at 28

[17]A/CN.4/430 (1990)

[18]  While the term “terrorism” was given no specific meaning in General Assembly resolution 3314 of 1974, it covers compendiously the following:

  1. Offences by States against diplomats.
  2. Offences by States against other protected persons, e.g. civilians in times of war.
  3. Offences by States, or those in the service of States, against aircraft or vessels.
  4. The offence of hostage-taking
  5. The offence of State of allowing their territory to be used by non-State groups for military action against other States, if that action clearly includes prohibited targeting (i.e. against civilians), or prohibited means of force.
  6. Action by non-State actors entailing either prohibited targets or prohibited means.
  7. Connivance in, or a failure to control, such non-state action. This engages the indirect responsibility of the State, and is subsumed under”State terrorism”.

[19]  See GAOR 34th Session, Supp. No.37 (A/34/37) 1979

[20]  See UN General Assembly resolution 42/159, 7 December,1987

[21]  See A/44/456/Add.1, 10 October 1989

[22]  Ibid. at  9

[23]  Ibid. at 15

[24]  Ibid. at 8

[25]  Ibid. at 11

[26]  Ibid. at 13. In passing, it may be observed that many members of the European Community are themselves colonial, or former colonial, powers. National Liberation wars are usually directed at them and their interests, for example, liberation wars conducted by Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau against Portugal. Thus, putting other issues aside, national self-interest is probably at play in formulating policies of colonial, and former colonial powers. However, this is only one possible explanation why the colonial powers and the colonised people see “terrorism” differently, particularly as it relates to wars of national liberation.

[27] UN General Assembly resolution 44/29, 4 December 1989

[28]  Ibid.

[29]  Ibid.

[30]  Ibid.

[31]  Ibid. para. 6

[32]  S/RES/667, 16 September, 1990

[33]  S/RES/670, 25 September, 1990

[34]  S/RES/687, 8 April 1991

[35]  Ibid.,

[36]  Ibid.,

[37]  Letter of 20 December 1991 from the United Kingdom to the Secretary General of the United Nations – S/23307

[38]  Letter of 20 December 1991 from France to the Secretary General of the United Nations – S/23306

[39]  The United Kingdom and United States demand made of Libya were the following:

1.The Advocate General of Scotland, stating that the two accused persons were believed to be in Libya, asked for their surrender for trial in Scotland;

2.An indictment of the District Court of Columbia, United States, referred to both  the death of the United States citizens and the destruction of American aircraft;

3.The United States sought the surrender of the two accused for trial;

  1. The United Kingdom and the United States issued a joint declaration stating that Libya must: surrender for trial all those charged with the crime and accept complete responsibility for the acts of Libyan officials; disclose all it knows of the crime, including the names of those responsible, and allow full access to all witness and evidence; pay appropriate compensation.

[40]  For its part, France sought the co-operation of Libya and called upon it to produce all the material evidence in its possession; to facilitate access to all documentation by the French authorities; and to authorize the responsible Libyan officials to respond to any request made by the examining magistrate responsible for judicial information.

[41]  Issued on 27 November 1991 and annexed to S/23309, 20 December 1991

[42] S/23422 of 21 January 1992

[43] Merits, ICJ Rep (1986) 14

[44] Ibid., at 9

[45]  Special Central American Assistance Act, 1979, S536(g)

[46]  Article 1 of the Montreal Convention of 1971 for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation provides:

1.Any person commits an offence if he unlawfully and intentionally:

(a) performs an act of violence against a person on board an aircraft in flight if that act is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft…….”

[47] Letter by Sir David Hannay, United Kingdom Ambassador to the United Nations – Security Council Press Release S/5348

[48]  Supra, note 45, The Montreal Convention, Article 5(1)

[49] Libyan Arab Jamahirya Vs United Kingdom (Lockerbie Case, Provisional Measures) ICJ Rep (1992) 1

[50]  Ibid.,

[51] Article 25 of the Charter of the United Nations provides:

”The Members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter.”

[52] GA Res. 3034(XXVII) of 18 December 1972; GA Res. 31/102 of 15 December 1976; GA Res.32/147 of 16 December 1977; GA Res.34/145 of 17 December 1979; GA Res. 36/09 of 10 December of 1981 and GA Res. 38/130 of 19 December of 1983

[53] The Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, signed at Tokyo on 14 September 1963; The Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft signed at the Hague on 16 December 1970; The Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, signed at Montreal on 23 September 1971; The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents, signed at New York on 14 December 1973; and the International Convention Against Taking of Hostages, adopted at New York on 17 December 1979.

[54]  A/52/304

[55]  GA Res 49/60

[56] In paragraph 10 of the Declaration, the General Assembly requested the Secretary General to assist in the implementation of the Declaration by taking, within existing resources, practical measures to enhance international cooperation in:

(a) Collection of data on the status and implementation of existing multilateral regional and bilateral agreements relating to international terrorism, including information on incidents caused by international terrorism and criminal prosecutions and sentencing based on information received from the depositaries of those agreements and from member states;

(b) A compendium of national laws and regulations regarding the prevention and suppression of international terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, based on information received from member states;

(c) An analytical review of existing international legal instruments relating to international terrorism, in order to assist states in identifying aspects of this matter that have not been covered by such instruments and could be addressed to develop further a comprehensive legal framework of conventions dealing with international terrorism;

(d) A review of existing possibilities within the United Nations system for assisting States in organising workshop and training courses on combating crimes connected with international terrorism.

[57]  A/50/372 and Add.1

[58]  As at 22 August 1997, replies had been received from: Argentina, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, Fiji, Israel, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Norway, the Republic of Korea, San Marino, and Tunisia. It is worth noting that many members of the United Nations, including the five permanent members of the Security Council, did not respond.

[59]  GA/L/3061, 13 November 1997

[60] Ibid.,

[61] Ibid.,

[62] Ibid.,

[63] Ibid.,

[64] Ibid.,

[65] Ibid.,

[66]   The resolution was also open to members of the United Nation´s specialized agencies, including the International Atomic Energy Agency.

[67]  Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-Second Session, Supp. No.37, (A/52/37)

[68]  The texts were reproduced with the preamble and articles 13 to 17 of the original draft convention contained in the preliminary working document submitted by France on behalf of the group of seven major industrial countries and the Russian Federation. See A/AC.252/L.2 of 3 January 1997 and A/AC.252/l.2* of 11 February 1997.

[69]  A/C.6/52/L.3 of 10 October 1997.

[70] A/C.6/52/L.13: The victim states, for example, include United States, United Kingdom, France, Israel, Algeria, Argentina, Egypt, Lebanon, India and Sri Lanka comprising members from developed and developing countries.

[71]  Press Release GA/L/3066 of 19 November 1997.

[72]  Ibid., at 7

[73] Ibid.,

[74] Ibid.,

[75] Ibid.,

[76]  Ibid, at 9 Algeria, for example focused on its local problem: the ongoing armed conflict between government forces and Islamist Fundamentalist under the leadership of FIS and its armed wing the GIA.  Pakistan and India accused each other of financing and encouraging terrorism in Kashmir; Egypt made reference to local Islamist ”terrorist” waging war in Egypt.

[77]  Ibid., at 10

[78]  Ibid., at 5

[79]  Press Release GA/L/3067 of 21 November 1997 at 6

[80]Ibid., at 7

[81]  Ibid.,

[82]  Ibid.,

[83] Higgins, R ”The general international law of terrorism” in Rosalyn Higgins and Maurice Flory (ed.)  Terrorism and International Law (Routledge, London, 1997) see from p.26

[84]  Ibid.

[85]  Ibid.

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