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[see also UK Terrorism Act 2000 & What is Terrorism]

From the Introduction:

"An attempt will be made in this introduction to offer a definition of the phenomenon of terrorism. It has to be emphasised however that no definition would be comprehensive enough to encompass all possible aspects of a phenomenon so varied in its forms, motivations, targets and logistical backup... it is extremely difficult to offer a precise and objective definition which can be universally acceptable. There are several reasons for this, namely:

(a) terrorism takes different terms: although it is usually equated with political subversion, it is employed at times by governments, and is used as an instrument of syndicated crime;

(b) the criteria for defining the term 'terrorism' is generally subjective since it is mainly based on political considerations:

(c) above all, terrorism is prompted by a wide range of motives, depending on the point in time and the prevailing political ideology. In this respect, it would he recalled that during wartime, members of the French resistance to the German occupation were regarded as criminals and were pursued accordingly. Another example, is the division in French public opinion created by the Algerian War, some regarded the movements involved in the uprising as plain terrorists, while others viewed them as genuine liberation movements. Finally, Yasar Arafat who was once branded in the United States as a terrorist, is now being received in the White House by the President of' the United States as a respectable Head of State.

Notwithstanding the difficulties which militate against providing a universally acceptable definition of' the term, it is proposed to provide a working definition as follows:

The term terrorism is used to define criminal acts based on the use of violence or threat thereof and which are directed against a country or its inhabitants and calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of the government officials, an individual or a group of persons, or the general public at large. It could be the work of one individual, but more often than not is the effect of organised groups whose philosophy is based on the theory that ' the end justifies the means'.

The International Law Commission concluded that the following categories constitute terrorist acts:

(i) Any act causing death or grievous bodily harm or loss of liberty to a Head of State, persons exercising the prerogatives of the Head of State, their hereditary or designated successors, the spouse of such persons, or persons charged with public functions or holding public positions when the act is directed against them in their public capacity;

(ii) Acts calculated to destroy or damage public property or property devoted to a public purpose;

(iii) Any act likely to imperil human lives through the creation of a public danger, in particular the seizure of aircraft, the taking of hostages and any form of violence directed against persons who enjoy international protection or diplomatic immunity;

(iv) The manufacture, obtaining, possession or supplying of arms, ammunition, explosives or harmful substances with a view to the commission of a terrorist act.

....Terrorism is not a modern phenomenon. Mankind has been afflicted with it for centuries long before the Baader Meinhof gang. There have been many examples of its application throughout history; the Greeks used it against the Persians when the latter were preparing to attack; the Guelfs and Ghibellines resorted to it in medieval Italy; at the dawn of this century, the Bolsheviks employed it against the empire of the Tsars when seizing power in Russia; in the period between 1945 and 1975, colonised peoples used violence against oppressive colonial powers, e.g. in South Africa, Mozambique and Palestine. In the recent past the Khmer Rouge struck in Battambang and the IRA terrorised the people of London. The period from 1975 to 1985 was particularly marked by a campaign of terror against the industrialised countries. From about the mid 1980's an outbreak in Middle Eastern terrorism took place within the continent of Europe aimed at bringing to the forefront the various conflicts taking place in that troubled part of the world...    

.... terrorism must be viewed as a peacetime problem, which must be tackled through peacetime remedies. However, some may argue that terrorism is a modern type of war waged against our democratic societies and institutions, but still that does not justify resorting to wartime measures. If that were to be allowed, it would leave the way open for serious abuses which result in the erosion of democracy and contempt for constitutional guarantees .

Another idea which comes to mind when dealing with the issue of terrorism concerns the eradication of the underlying causes which prompt terrorist groups to form and perpetrate their actions. This seems a sound idea, but analysing the motives behind the terrorist acts has proved to be a very slow process. The characterisation of terrorism is not a straightforward task as the terrorist demands are not always clear due to the objective being pursued. This situation is further complicated by the psychological constitution of the terrorists themselves...

Combating Terrorism

The weapons at the disposal of the World Community for combating terrorism may conveniently be placed under three headings: laws, police forces and legal systems .

As concerns laws, the measures for dealing with terrorists are by and large similar in most countries of the World. This is particularly true within the context of the Member States of the European Union, allowing for a few slight differences. Thus, the European Convention on Extradition (1957), the European Convention on Judicial Co-operation (1969), and the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism ( 1978), may be regarded as a solid basis for co-operation between the Members of the European Union.

The decision to abolish internal border-controls in the European Union raises many difficult issues relating to the combating of terrorism. It must be stressed that this abolition will inevitably lead to an increase in insecurity as the borders will have been abolished for terrorists and other offenders while the police will continue to respect them notwithstanding. The only way out of this dilemma would be to recruit highly qualified and efficient law enforcement officers.

At the international level the following conventions are some of the international instruments which are particularly relevant to combating terrorism.

Convention on offences and Certain other Acts committed on Board Aircraft, entered into force, December 4, 1969 (2 ILM 1042 (1963));

Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, entered into force, October 14, 1971 (10 ILM 133 (1971));

Convention to Prevent and Punish the Act of Terrorism Taking the Form of Crimes against Persons and Related Extortion that are of International Significance, entered into force, October 16, 1973 (10 ILM 255 (1971));

Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, entered into force January 26, 1973 (10 ILM 1151 (1971));

Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons including Diplomatic Agents, entered into force, February 20, 1977 ( I 3 ILM 4 l ( I 974));

International Convention against the Taking of Hostages 1979 (18 ILM 1460 (1979)).

Turning to police forces, their primary task in combating terrorism is that of intelligence gathering and assessment. In most of the European countries special anti-terrorist units have been established. Ideally - speaking, the results of intelligence gathering should be utilised by teams of specialists from various disciplines in order to secure a better understanding of the terrorist movements to be combated and take the initiative away from them. This can be achieved with a reasonable amount of effort, since one of the weak points of terrorist networks is their logistical set up, e.g. caches and hide-outs, forged papers, financial channels and publishing of tracts. All this suggests that terrorists nearly always operate through a complex set of structures which are not always sufficiently watertight, and hence police are provided with ample opportunities to forestall terrorist activities.

Leaving aside intelligence gathering and assessment, it is incumbent on our police forces to keep a close eye on a whole range of sensitive points in order to put off would-be saboteurs. Furthermore, they must constantly keep a check on trading in arms, explosives and communication devices. In addition, they must provide adequate protection to leading figures who are likely to be targeted by the terrorists.

There are times when it becomes inevitable to use armed forces in combating terrorism. Most countries have chosen to set up special task forces which are well trained in responding to terrorist attacks. These forces operate discreetly without attracting much attention. It is because of this that their activities do not attract the attention of the media.

Attention may now focus on judicial co-operation between members of the World community; the success of this depends largely on the extent of political co-operation between states, and their respective respect for the sovereignty of one another. By and large, the level of judicial co-operation is more than satisfactory, particularly among the industrialised States. Some of the countries of the European Union resorted to questionable methods, e.g. Spain established a Special Court, the United Kingdom used internment without trial in Northern Ireland, Germany restricted the rights of those accused of terrorist acts in certain legal proceedings, and France used special courts to try individuals accused of endangering the safety of the State..."



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