Accommodating terrorism an offence against the law of nations

Since 1963, the international community has elaborated 19 international legal instruments to prevent terrorist acts.

Proposing a core-definition approach, this article elaborates a notion based upon the basic rights of civilians and on the unacceptability of their violation by terrorist methods carried out by private organized groups.The definition proposed here, which does not recognize in the perpetrator’s motivations any material relevance because of the overwhelming importance of the value infringed, is able to minimize the relevance of some abused arguments (such as state terrorism or the treatment of ‘freedom fighters’), could quickly gain customary status and would prove useful in interpretation and in drafting exercises, both at international and national level.Such crimes, Lemkin argued, must be considered transnational crimes, threatening the interests of the entire international community.HE CONCEPT of offences against the law of nations (delicta iuris gentium) comes from the interdependent struggle of the civilized world community against criminality.rior to the adoption of resolution 1373 (2001) and the establishment of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, the international community had already promulgated 12 of the current 16 international counter-terrorism legal instruments.

However, the rate of adherence to these conventions and protocols by United Nations Member States was low.

Notwithstanding the emphasis placed on the need for concerted international action to confront the problem of terrorism, positive international law is far from treating the issue of defining the criminal notion of terrorism coherently; the discussion of such a notion is being made hostage [sic!

] to the abuse of the term ‘terrorism’ in the course of the debate and to the confusion between an empirical description of a phenomenon and its treatment under criminal law.

This is because such a perpetrator is regarded as the enemy of the whole international community and in all States he will be pursued for crimes universally harmful to all the international community.

The principle of universal repression does not apply to all crimes, but only those considered so particularly dangerous as to present a threat to the interests, either of a material nature or of a moral nature, of the entire international community (offences against the law of nations).

During this period, the Assembly also adopted two instruments related to counter-terrorism: the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents (in 1973) and the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (in 1979).