An Expansion of International Criminal Law to Include the Crime of Terrorism

University essay from Lunds universitet/Juridiska institutionen

Abstract: We 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 legal purpose. The preceding quote by the late R.R. Baxter in 1974, summarises the international legal community’s view on terrorism. As a meddlesome concept, that has disrupted international legal norms. Regardless of this belief, terrorism has become a pervasive concept. The international legal community can no longer hide behind the Baxter rhetoric. His words have become archaic in a world now defined by terrorist acts. In a post September 11th 2001 era terrorist actions have become a permanent fixture in our world today. Despite this, the international community has failed to come to terms with the concept that is terrorism. Disputes over definitions, human rights issues and public security have impeded constructive discourse and by extension delayed adequate judicial sanctions and protection. Interestingly enough the lack of agreement has not hampered terrorism from developing legal personality. Through national legislation, sanctioning terrorist acts, and international treaties condemning particular acts as terrorism has steadily developed its own rules and norms. In addition, UN General Assembly Declarations denouncing terrorist actions as horrendous criminal activity and the Security Council Resolutions claiming terrorism as a threat to international peace and security have added credence to claim that terrorism is a serious international crime. Though detractors may argue otherwise, terrorism is now part of customary law. In trying to combat terrorism the international community has – by default – engineered its growth into a concept with its own legal personality and norms. The acceptance of the international treaties and the international condemnation that terrorism is a criminal practice that threatens international peace and security refutes any claim that this is not true Terrorism has developed over time and outgrown its traditional treaty roots. It is a distinctive legal concept within the international law, evidence of its effect can be seen in politics, law and society. To lament that we must regret its legal existence is to cling to the past.

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