Reasons for Defining and Criminalizing 'Terrorism' in International Law
Mexican Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 6, pp. 419-460, 2006
48 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2008
Date Written: October 29, 2008
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: Suggested Citation