A Proposal for a Kantian Definition of Terrorism: Leading the World Requires Cosmopolitan Ethos

21 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2020

See all articles by Martin Scheinin

Martin Scheinin

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW); University of Oxford - Bonavero Institute of Human Rights

Date Written: 2020

Abstract

This paper builds upon three streams of experience by its author: (a) one related to his six-year term as the first UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism (2005-2011), namely the identification of the absence of a proper international definition of terrorism as an important source of human rights abuses, (b) his observation of actual court practice and media coverage where definitional conceptual elements of terrorism, in particular as to its aims, appear to be ignored despite being one of the cornerstones on which those legal definitions were built, and (c) his academic work having concluded that the instrumentalization of the human person, in breach of Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative, comes through as a characteristic both of acts of terrorism and of human rights violations committed by States in the name of countering terrorism. On the basis of reflecting on these experiences, and departing from his own best practice definition built on Security Council Resolution 1566 (2004) and included in his final report to the UN Human Rights Council, the author now proposes the removal of any subjective aim element from international definitions of terrorism, and its replacement with the objective element of the act amounting to the instrumentalization of human beings, typically victims of terrorism.

Keywords: cosmopolitan ethos; human dignity; human security; Immanuel Kant; legality; legitimacy; Security Council; Special Rapporteur (on human rights and counter-terrorism); terrorism (definition of)

Suggested Citation

Scheinin, Martin, A Proposal for a Kantian Definition of Terrorism: Leading the World Requires Cosmopolitan Ethos (2020). EUI Department of Law Research Paper No. 2020/15, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3720913 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3720913

Martin Scheinin (Contact Author)

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW) ( email )

Via Bolognese 156 (Villa Salviati)
50-139 Firenze
Italy

University of Oxford - Bonavero Institute of Human Rights ( email )

Faculty of Law
c/o Mansfield College, Mansfield Rd
Oxford, OX1 3TF
United Kingdom

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