Reasons for Defining and Criminalizing 'Terrorism' in International Law

Mexican Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 6, pp. 419-460, 2006

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 08/121

48 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2008  

Ben Saul

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: October 29, 2008

Abstract

Much of the international legal debate about defining terrorism has focused on the ideological disputes, or technical mechanics, of definition, rather than on the underlying policy question of why-or whether-terrorism should be internationally criminalized. Since most terrorist acts are already punishable as ordinary criminal offences in national legal systems, it is vital to explore whether-and articulate why-certain acts should be treated or classified as terrorist offences rather than as ordinary national crimes such as murder, assault or arson. Equally, it is important to explain why terrorist acts should be treated separately from existing international crimes in cases where conduct overlaps different categories, particularly the existing sectoral treaty offences, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This article argues that terrorism should be defined and criminalized because it may be a threat to human rights, the stability of governance and to international peace and security. There is also better conceptual value differentiating political violence from other crime which causes fear.

Keywords: criminalization, terrorism, definition, international law

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K33

Suggested Citation

Saul, Ben, Reasons for Defining and Criminalizing 'Terrorism' in International Law (October 29, 2008). Mexican Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 6, pp. 419-460, 2006; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 08/121. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1291567

Ben Saul (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New 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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