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Defining 'Terrorism' to Protect Human Rights


Ben Saul


University of Sydney - Faculty of Law

October, 29 2008

INTERROGATING THE WAR ON TERROR: INTERDISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVE, D. Staines, ed., pp. 190-210, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK, 2007
Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 08/125

Abstract:     
This paper first considers the policy reasons for why the international community should define terrorism, focusing on arguments that terrorism: (a) seriously violates human rights; (b) jeopardizes the State, deliberative politics and the constitutional order which sustains rights; (c) is politically or publicly motivated violence distinguishable from private violence; (d) threatens international peace and security; and (e) requires definition to control the operation of mandatory Security Council measures since 2001, which have empowered States to unilaterally define and criminalize terrorism to suit their own sovereign interests. Secondly, this paper briefly outlines recent proposals for an international definition of terrorism before extrapolating the basic elements of an international definition of terrorism from the policy reasons for definition discussed in the first part of this chapter. Finally, claims that certain conduct should be excluded from any definition of terrorism are considered. A coherent legal definition of terrorism might help to confine the misuse of the term by national governments against their political opponents and in ways which seriously undermine fundamental human rights.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 17

Keywords: defining terrorism, human rights, international law, peace and security

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K33

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Date posted: October 31, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Saul, Ben, Defining 'Terrorism' to Protect Human Rights (October, 29 2008). INTERROGATING THE WAR ON TERROR: INTERDISCIPLINARY PERSPECTIVE, D. Staines, ed., pp. 190-210, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, UK, 2007; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 08/125. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1292059

Contact Information

Ben Saul (Contact Author)
University of Sydney - Faculty of Law ( email )
Faculty of Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia
HOME PAGE: http://www.law.usyd.edu.au/about/staff/BenSaul/index.shtml
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