Terrorism

What is Terrorism?

WHAT IS TERRORISM? - LAW & PRACTICE

International   Australia   Canada   European Union    India    Sri Lanka 

  United Kingdom   United States 

Collated & Sequenced by Nadesan Satyendra
[see also  Terrorism & tamilnation.org  and
Terrorism & Liberation – Nadesan Satyendra, 1986]

Alice in Wonderland - What is Terrorism?

“When I use a word,” ‘Humpty Dumpty’ said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.” Alice in Wonderland,  Lewis Carrol – Through the Looking Glass, c.vi

. . .

“The most problematic issue relating to terrorism and armed conflict is distinguishing terrorists from lawful combatants” – Terrorism and Human Rights –  Final Report of UN Special Rapporteur, Kalliopi K. Koufa, 25 June 2004

“Throwing a bomb is bad,
Dropping a bomb is good;
Terror, no need to add,
Depends on who’s wearing the hood.” 
– R.Woddis ‘Ethics for Everyman’
quoted by Igor Primoratz in State Terrorism & Counter Terrorism

……

“Above the gates of hell is the warning that all that enter should abandon hope. Less dire but to the same effect is the warning given to those who try to define terrorism” David Tucker in  Skirmishes at the Edge of Empire quoted by Lord Carlile in his Report on the The Definition of Terrorism  - Presented to UK Parliament, March 2007


 One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter – Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics
 On Terrorism & the Lawful Right to Armed Struggle  – Dr. Liaquat Ali Khan
 Can one man be both hero and terrorist? What Exactly is Terrorism?  – Christian Science Monitor
 Statements like “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” lead to the questionable assumption that the ends justify the means  – Mira Banchik
 The lack of consensus on what constitutes terrorism points to its inescapably political nature – What is ‘Terrorism? – Problems of Legal Definition –  Ben Golder and George Williams
 Defaming insurgents as “terrorists” is a particularly useful means to destroy the morale of the insurgent movement – Michael Schubert in Theses On Liberation Movements And The Rights Of Peoples
 Can Terrorism Be Defined In A Principled Legal Fashion? – Judge Evan J. Wallach
 Definitions of terrorism have often been arbitrary and ad hoc – there are more than a hundred different definitions of terrorism – Agner Fog
 It is a cruel extension of the terrorist scourge to taunt the struggles against [State] terrorism with the label ‘terrorism’- The Geneva Declaration on the Question of Terrorism
 Most of what is now called terrorism is, in fact, civil war – Gregory Clark
 The question of a definition of terrorism has haunted the debate among states for decades - Definitions of Terrorism at United Nations
 There is no globally accepted definition of terrorism – Foreign Policy Association (FPA) 
 There is no clear, coherent, globally acceptable definition of the concept of terrorism.- Velupillai Pirabaharan, Leader of Tamil Eelam
 The most problematic issue relating to terrorism and armed conflict is distinguishing terrorists from lawful combatants – Terrorism and Human Rights  Final Report of UN Special Rapporteur, Kalliopi K. Koufa
 As a result of the political dynamics pertaining to terrorism, it has been impossible for states to agree on a comprehensive anti-terrorism convention – M. Cherif  Bassiouni in International Terrorism – Multilateral Conventions (1937 – 2001)
 The US definition does not seem to allow for the possibility that terror may be a state activity Michael A. Peters
 Terrorism: Theirs and Ours – Eqbal Ahmad
 State terrorism is vastly more destructive than anti-state and individual and small group terrorism Edward S. Herman
 “Shock and Awe Gallery” – an authentic historical documentation and evidence of the U.S./British Crime of the Century - March For Justice
 The UN member States still have no agreed-upon definition apparently on account of what at times reveal to be state sponsored terrorism, both at national and international levels –   Supreme Court of India
 Defining the indefinable- the truism that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is as old as it is trite. Nor is it one that is likely to go away any time soon – Mark Burgess
 To date there has been no international consensus on a comprehensive international legal definition of terrorism..  Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
 The international community has found it very hard in the past to come up with a consensus on what exactly is meant by “terrorism” due to ideological clashes between states. Amnnesty  International
 If terrorists are to be called those who have had recourse to terrorist acts, then everyone who has done so should be called a terrorist-  Eduardo Marino, International Alert
 When it first entered political discourse, the word “terrorism” was used with reference to the reign of terror imposed by the Jacobin regime – that is, to describe a case of state terrorism. - Igor Primoratz in  State Terrorism & Counter Terrorism
 Sri Lanka is a terror state; no matter how ‘democratically’ its thuggish leaders are elected – E.T.Agnosticus
 Terrorism defined – UK Terrorism Act 2000
 Do we not deliberately obfuscate when we conflate the two words ‘terrorism’ and ‘violence’? – Nadesan Satyendra On Terrorism & Liberation
 Why Marxists oppose Individual Terrorism Leon Trotsky
  We must abandon the myth that with law we enter the secure, stable and determinate – Dr Colin J Harvey
 The Last Word?   “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean” – Alice in Wonderland
 “One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter” - Oxford Concise Dictionary of Politics (2nd edition)..
Terrorism – Term with no agreement amongst government or academic analysts, but almost invariably used in a pejorative sense, most frequently to describe life-threatening actions perpetrated by politically motivated self-appointed sub-state groups. But if such actions are carried out on behalf of a widely approved cause, say the Maquis seeking to destabilize the Government of Vichy France then the term ‘terrorism’ is avoided and something more friendly is substituted. In short, one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.”
 On Terrorism & the Lawful Right to Armed Struggle – Dr. Liaquat Ali Khan, Professor of Law,Washburn University School of Law, Kansas, 16 September 2005
“Major new developments are muddling the right to armed struggle.The global war on terrorism openly denies that any such right exists. … (But) In 1974, the United Nations General Assembly passed historic Resolution 3314, adopting the Definition of Aggression that includes the right to armed struggle.. if there were no right to armed struggle, predatory states would be emboldened to subjugate weak nations…The occupying states wish to change the law and morality of armed struggle so that they can easily crush the will of the occupied…” more
 “Can one man be both hero and terrorist? What Exactly is Terrorism?  – Christian Science Monitor
“Can one man be both hero and terrorist? Consider Ireland’s Michael Collins. In the fall of 1920, Collins’ band of “Twelve Apostles” assassinated 14 British officers in an effort to win independence. Many say Collins was a patriot. But was he a terrorist?  Telling the difference between violent struggle for freedom and terrorist activity can be difficult. But the Bush Doctrine – the “with us or with the terrorists” foreign policy that followed Sept. 11 – requires that it be done. So what is terrorism?  Some people define terrorism the way a US Supreme Court Justice defined obscenity: “I know it when I see it.” more

 “Statements like “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” lead to the questionable assumption that the ends justify the means  – Mira Banchik in the International Criminal Court & Terrorism, June 2003

“Statements like “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” hinder the accomplishment of reaching a useful, and much needed, definition of terrorism. They have become a cliché and an obstacle to efforts to successfully deal with terrorism. If nothing else, these statements lead to the questionable assumption that the ends justify the means. The statement’s approach to terrorism is particularly problematic because it privileges the perspective and worldview of the person defining the term. Such a culturally relativist approach, however, should not be accepted as it may sanction all causes, and create more terrorism. In order to achieve a universally accepted definition, we have to rely on objective and authoritative principles. The definition must be founded on a system of principles and laws of war, legislated and ratified in many countries…”
 The lack of consensus on what constitutes terrorism points to its inescapably political nature – What is ‘Terrorism’? Problems of Legal Definition”  Ben Golder and George Williams , 2004
“Our aim in this article is not to determine what is or is not terrorism. We do not add our own definition to an already long list. Instead, we address some of the practical and political problems that lawyers encounter when they attempt to establish a definition. The lack of consensus on what constitutes terrorism points to its inescapably political nature, perhaps best encapsulated in the aphorism (or cliché) that ‘one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedomfighter’…”
 Defaming insurgents as “terrorists” is a particularly useful means to destroy the morale of the insurgent movement – Michael Schubert in Theses On Liberation Movements And The Rights Of Peoples
“Ever since the U.S. Defence Department organized the first ever World Wide Psyops Conference in 1963 and the first NATO Symposium On Defence Psychology in Paris in 1960, many NATO leaders and several scientists have been working in the field of psychological counter-insurgency methods (cf. the detailed reports and analyses of P. Watson, Psycho-War: Possibilities, Power, And The Misuse Of Military Psychology, Frankfurt 1985, p.25ff.).  The central aim of this defence approach is to destroy the morale of the insurgent movement at the early stages, to discredit it and destroy it using repressive means like long periods of isolation detention in prisons, thereby preventing a mass movement from starting which could be hard to control with conventional means. Defaming the insurgents as “terrorists” and punishing them accordingly – thereby ignoring international law concerning the rights of people in war – is a particularly useful means…”
 Can Terrorism Be Defined in A Principled Legal Fashion? – Judge Evan J. Wallach, the International Law Of War Association
“…To solve a problem it must be defined. We will examine various legal definitions of terrorism, apply them to varying facts, and try to create our own… Defining Terrorism: Some Factors to Consider – Use of violence, Identity of the target, Political motivation, Emphasis on instilling terror, Threats against targets, Systemic approach, Methods of attack, Identity of the perpetrator, Acts constituting war crimes. Terrorism: A General Definition  – War crimes directed against civilians for political purposes by persons other than the regular armed forces of a lawful belligerent power…”
 Definitions of terrorism have often been arbitrary and ad hoc – there are more than a hundred different definitions of terrorism - Agner Fog in Why terrorism doesn’t work, 7 April 2002
“…Definitions of terrorism have often been arbitrary and ad hoc. Mass media and political leaders have used the label of terrorism very selectively to target their enemies (Lee and Solomon 1990), and the alleged terrorists have challenged this categorization. It has often been argued that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. The most workable definition of terrorism that has been published is the intentional use of, or threat to use violence against civilians or against civilian targets, in order to attain political aims .. But even this definition has a problem because it includes non human targets and thus may be interpreted to include, for example, flag-burning as terrorism. Since there are more than a hundred different definitions of terrorism… we have to admit that the concept of terrorism is a rhetoric device used for condemning one’s enemies rather than a scientifically definable category. Consequently, the scientific analysis may as well use the constructionist approach of defining terrorism as whatever people so considers….”
 “It is a cruel extension of the terrorist scourge to taunt the struggles against [State] terrorism with the label ‘terrorism'” - The Geneva Declaration on the Question of Terrorism, 1987

“…The peoples of the world are engaged in a fundamental series of struggles for a just and peaceful world based on fundamental rights now acknowledged as sacred in a series of widely endorsed international legal conventions. These struggles are opposed in a variety of cruel and brutal ways by the political, economic and ideological forces associated with the main structures of domination present in the world that spread terrorism in a manner unknown in prior international experience… Theterrorism of modern state power and its high technology weaponry exceeds qualitatively by many orders of magnitude the political violence relied upon by groups aspiring to undo oppression and achieve liberation.

Let us also be clear, we favour non-violent resistance wherever possible… We condemn all those tactics and methods of struggle that inflict violence directly upon innocent civilians as such…but we must insist that terrorism originates withnuclearism, criminal regimes, crimes of state, high-technology attacks on Third World peoples, and systematic denials of human rights. It is a cruel extension of the terrorist scourge to taunt the struggles against terrorism with the label “terrorism”. We support these struggles and call for the liberation of political language along with the liberation of peoples. Terrorism originates from the statist system of structural violence and domination that denies the right of self-determination to peoples…”

 “Most of what is now called terrorism is, in fact, civil war” Gregory Clark in Danger of Branding all Wars as Terrorism, 2002 
“..Soon after last year’s Sept 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, I got into a debate with a hawkish member of the private consultative committee set up by then-Japanese foreign minister Makiko Tanaka. He was demanding angrily that Japan should help eliminate something called global ‘terror’. I tried to get him to define the word. Were the Irish Republican Army attacks in Northern Ireland an example, I asked? Yes, he said firmly, with no hint that he realised how even British conservatives had come to rethink rights and wrongs in that dispute. Sri Lanka, where the minority in revolt have had even more reason to complain of discrimination? That, too, was terror, he said unblinkingly. Chechnya? Yes. Kashmir? Of course. The French revolution, the US War of Independence? Silence. The Meiji Restoration? Deep silence….‘Terrorist’ has become an omnibus word that allows governments to try to suppress enemies at will. It has replaced ‘communist’, and is much more useful… Most of what is now called terrorism is, in fact, civil war. Such wars are inevitable when disputes within the nation cannot be solved through negotiationelections or some other peaceful means…”
 “The question of a definition of terrorism has haunted the debate among states for decades” - Definitions of Terrorism at United Nations
The question of a definition of terrorism has haunted the debate among states for decades. A first attempt to arrive at an internationally acceptable definition was made under the League of Nations, but the convention drafted in 1937 never came into existence. The UN Member States still have no agreed-upon definition. Terminology consensus would, however, be necessary for a single comprehensive convention on terrorism, which some countries favour in place of the present 12 piecemeal conventions and protocols.The lack of agreement on a definition of terrorism has been a major obstacle to meaningful international countermeasures. Cynics have often commented that one state’s “terrorist” is another state’s “freedom fighter”.If terrorism is defined strictly in terms of attacks on non-military targets, a number of attacks on military installations and soldiers’ residences could not be included in the statistics.In order to cut through the Gordian definitional knot, terrorism expert A. Schmid suggested in 1992 in a report for the then UN Crime Branch that it might be a good idea to take the existing consensus on what constitutes a “war crime” as a point of departure. If the core of war crimes – deliberate attacks on civilians, hostage taking and the killing of prisoners – is extended to peacetime, we could simply define acts of terrorism as “peacetime equivalents of war crimes”.Some Proposed Definitions of Terrorism1. League of Nations Convention (1937):All criminal acts directed against a State and intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons or a group of persons or the general public”.2. UN (GA Res. 51/210 Measures to eliminate international terrorism) 1999

“… criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them”.

3. Short legal definition proposed by A. P. Schmid to United Nations Crime Branch (1992):

Act of Terrorism = Peacetime Equivalent of War Crime

4. Academic Consensus Definition:

“Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby – in contrast to assassination – the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators. Threat- and violence-based communication processes between terrorist (organization), (imperilled) victims, and main targets are used to manipulate the main target (audience(s)), turning it into a target of terror, a target of demands, or a target of attention, depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily sought” (Schmid, 1988).

 “There is no globally accepted definition of terrorism” – Foreign Policy Association (FPA) 
“There is no globally accepted definition of terrorism. Most scholarly texts devoted to the study of terrorism contain a section, chapter, or chapters devoted to a discussion of how difficult it is to define the term. In fact, various US government agencies employ different definitions of the term. The most widely accepted definition is probably that put forward by the US State Department, which defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience” [Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d)].”
 There is no clear, coherent, globally acceptable definition of the concept of terrorism.Velupillai Pirabaharan  – Maaveerar Naal Address, 27 November 2005
“There is no clear, coherent, globally acceptable definition of the concept of terrorism. As such, just and reasonable political struggles fought for righteous causes are also branded as terrorism. Even authentic liberation movements struggling against racist oppression are denounced as terrorist outfits. In the current global campaign against terror, state terrorism always finds its escape route and those who fight against state terror are condemned as terrorists. Our liberation organisation is also facing a similar plight…”
 The most problematic issue relating to terrorism and armed conflict is distinguishing terrorists from lawful combatants – Terrorism and Human Rights  Final Report of the Special Rapporteur, Kalliopi K. Koufa,  25 June 2004
“The most problematic issue relating to terrorism and armed conflict is distinguishing terrorists from lawful combatants, both in terms of combatants in legitimate struggles for self-determination and those involved in civil wars or non-international armed conflicts. In the former category, States that do not recognize a claim to self-determination will claim that those using force against the State’s military forces are necessarily terrorists. In the latter, States will also claim that those fighting against the State are terrorists, and that rather than a civil war, there is a situation of “terrorism and counter-terrorism activity”….The controversy over the exact meaning, content, extent and beneficiaries of, as well as the means and methods utilized to enforce the right to self-determination has been the major obstacle to the development of both a comprehensive definition of terrorism and a comprehensive treaty on terrorism. The ideological splits and differing approaches preventing any broad consensus during the period of decolonization still persist in today’s international relations. ……The Special Rapporteur has analysed the distinction between armed conflict and terrorism, with particular attention to conflicts to realize the right to self-determination and civil wars. This is an issue of great international controversy, in need of careful review due to the “your freedom fighter is my terrorist” problem and the increase in the rhetorical use of the expression “war on terrorism”, labelling wars as terrorism, and combatants in wars as terrorists, and it has an extremely undesirable effect of nullifying application of and compliance with humanitarian law in those situations, while at the same time providing no positive results in combating actual terrorism….”
As a result of the political dynamics pertaining to terrorism, it has been impossible for states to agree on a comprehensive anti-terrorism convention  M. Cherif  Bassiouni in International Terrorism – Multilateral Conventions (1937 – 2001)
“…As a result of the political dynamics pertaining to terrorism, it has been impossible for states to agree on a comprehensive anti-terrorism convention. For the same reason, no international convention addresses the question of state-committed and state-sponsored terrorism… Thus, “terrorism” has never been defined in any international convention, and, every time a new form of terror-violence occurs, the international community adopts legal measures against such conduct by drafting a convention which addresses that particular manifestation of “terrorism.” The inherent problem with continuing this piecemeal approach is that control measures dealing with terror-violence are always lagging behind the threats of “terrorism.” The international community should therefore adopt a comprehensive convention on international terrorism which is both broad enough to encompass previously recognized forms of terror violence, as defined in existing anti-terrorism conventions, and forms not contemplated by previous conventions which anticipate technological advances and changing patterns of behavior.. .There is also a question of whether “liberation organizations” have a privilege of self-defense under customary and conventional international law. “
 “The US definition does not seem to allow for the possibility that terror may be a state activity” Michael A. Peters, University of Glasgow in  Definitions and Patterns of Terrorism: US vs UN in Postmodern Terror in a Globalized World (2004),
Definitions of terrorism are notoriously difficult to draft and the lack of agreement on a definition of terrorism has been a major obstacle to meaningful international countermeasures. Current definitions of terrorism fail to capture the magnitude of the problem worldwide and tend to falter around differences of political ideology: one state’s “terrorist” is another state’s “freedom fighter.” Witness the status of Nelson Mandela and the ANC before, during and after apartheid.The UN Member States still have not agreed upon a definitionThe US State Department uses the definition contained in Title 22 of the United States Code (Section 2656f(d)):
“The term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. The term “international terrorism” means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than one country. The term “terrorist group means any group practicing, or that has significant subgroups that practice, international terrorism.”
By comparison, the UN has refrained from adopting any single comprehensive definition. It defines terrorism in terms less equivocal than the US:
“Terrorism is, in most cases, essentially a political act. It is meant to inflict dramatic and deadly injury on civilians and to create an atmosphere of fear, generally for a political or ideological (whether secular or religious) purpose. Terrorism is a criminal act, but it is more than mere criminality. To overcome the problem of terrorism it is necessary to understand its political nature as well as its basic criminality and psychology (p. 5).”
The US definition does not seem to allow for the possibility that terror may be a state activity—not simply “state-sponsored”– whereas the UN definition is more open, acknowledging the difficulties of self-serving and semantic-ideological dimensions of legal classification, especially in international law.Organized political violence increasingly is aimed at civilians and civil spaces, yet it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish combatants from victims.One question concerns international terrorism and how the existing international political order should respond to violence instigated by non-state actors. Some scholars argue that the international system of nation-states now pervasively modelled on Western democracies should be strengthened. Warfare then should be regulated by international convention. Others argue that Western nation-states, which foster decentralized warfare by perpetrating inequalities among nations, are the real problem.For some terrorism threatens an ideal political order in which war is only fought according to rules agreed among states (“just war” theory). As non-state actors, terrorists operate outside the rule of law and, unlike state armies, deliberately attack civilian populations and facilities (Hoffman, 1998).Yet this analysis seems to exempt Western powers, as the originators of the international rules of war, from self-examination and precludes the possibility that they could sponsor or perpetrate political violence themselves. It also ignores the critique of Western militarism, the growth of the arms industry as part of the military-research-industrial complex, the indirect forms of warfare waged on the underdeveloped world, and the way in which militarism is and always has been a daily part of the social and institutional fabric of Western way of life.The representation of political violence as terrorism–its narrativisation and its embodiment as a discourse—reifies it, cutting it off from other forms of violent behaviour and often disguising or preventing examination of claims to political legitimacyIn particular, the representation of terrorism by globalized media can reduce the complexities and ignore the ethnic and gender differences of organized violence.
 Terrorism: Theirs and Ours – Eqbal Ahmad
“If you are not going to be consistent, you’re not going to define. I have examined at least twenty official documents on terrorism. Not one defines the word. All of them explain it, express it emotively, polemically, to arouse our emotions rather than exercise our intelligence…. the absence of definition does not prevent officials from being globalistic. We may not define terrorism, but it is a menace to the moral values of Western civilization. It is a menace also to mankind.”
 State terrorism is vastly more destructive than anti-state and individual and small group terrorism – Edward S. Herman, February 2006
“..By any generally applicable standard—i.e., excluding the fraudulent but widely used “terrorism is what somebody else does” criterion—state terrorism is vastly more destructive than anti-state and individual and small group terrorism. This is the basis for distinguishing between the two as “wholesale” versus “retail” terrorism. Wholesale trade implies large scale business operations that deal with many smaller retail operators. The retailers have little capital and do business with a small set of local customers. State terrorists apply their violence over a wide terrain using the large resources of the state, and they can employ a broader and more cruel range of techniques of intimidation, including devastating weapons like napalm, phosphorus, depleted uranium munitions; cluster, thermobaric and 500-pound bombs; advanced delivery systems like helicopter gun-ships and cruise missiles; and torture…”
 Shock and Awe Gallery” – an authentic historical documentation and evidence of the U.S./British Crime of the Century – March For Justice
“The March For Justice is dedicating its “Shock and Awe Gallery” as an authentic historical documentation and evidence of the U.S./British Crime of the Century. As attacks on freedom and the free have become characteristic of contemporary America, we advise and encourage all those who support Truth and Justice, to save our material and to make the utmost use of it, as its intended objective is revealing facts and reality.” The March For Justice

 ” The UN member States still have no agreed-upon definition apparently on account of what at times reveal to be state sponsored terrorism, both at national and international levels” -   Judgment of the Supreme Court of India in Madan Singh v State of Bihar, 2 April 2004
“A ‘terrorist’ activity does not merely arise by causing disturbance to law and order or of public order. The fallout of the intended activity is to be one that it travels beyond the capacity of the ordinary law enforcement agencies to tackle it under the ordinary penal law. It is in essence a deliberate and systematic use of coercive intimidation…….Finding a definition of “terrorism” has haunted countries for decades. A first attempt to arrive at an internationally acceptable definition was made under the League of Nations, but the one which the convention drafted in 1937 never came into existence. The UN member States still have no agreed-upon definition apparently on account of what at times reveal to be state sponsored terrorism, both at national and international levels. Terminology consensus would, however, be necessary for a single comprehensive convention on terrorism, which some countries favour in place of the present 12 piecemeal conventions and protocols…

“Terrorism” though has not been separately defined under TADA there is sufficient indication in Section 3 itself to identify what it is by an all inclusive and comprehensive phraseology adopted in engrafting the said provision, which serves the double purpose as a definition and punishing provision nor is it possible to give a precise definition of “terrorism” or lay down what constitutes “terrorism”.

It may be possible to describe it as use of violence when its most important result is not merely the physical and mental damage of the victim but the prolonged psychological effect it produces or has the potential of producing on the society as a whole. There may be death, injury, or destruction of property or even deprivation of individual liberty in the process but the extent and reach of the intended terrorist activity travels beyond the effect of an ordinary crime capable of being punished under the ordinary penal law of the land and its main objective is to overawe the Government and disturb the harmony of the society or “terrorise” people and the society and not only those directly assaulted, with a view to disturb the even tempo, peace and tranquility of the society and create a sense of fear and insecurity…”

 Defining the Indefinable – the truism that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is as old as it is trite. Nor is it one that is likely to go away any time soon.- Mark Burgess in The UN and Terrorism
“Its Sept. 14 passing of resolution 1624 (2005) calling on states to prohibit incitement to commit something it failed to comprehensively define indicates that the United Nations may have achieved new levels of absurdity even for an organization often reduced to surrealism by political differences among its member states. Underlying this latest imbroglio is the unpalatable fact that terrorism, like beauty, resides in the eye of the beholder. This is not a new problem: the truism that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” is as old as it is trite. Nor is it one that is likely to go away any time soon.On the face of it, the current impasse on defining terrorism appears to have arisen partly out of some (mainly Muslim) countries’ sympathies with armed campaigns like that being waged by Palestinian groups against Israel. Such campaigns, say some, represent legitimate resistance and should not be classed at terrorism. Meanwhile, countries like the United States and the United Kingdom have been calling for a definition encompassing an earlier draft’s insistence that “deliberate and unlawful targeting and killing cannot be justified or legitimized by any cause or grievance.” Therein lies the rub. Partly.However Muslim countries have not been the only ones to express concern at the proposed wording of any UN-wide definition of terrorism. For instance, last month, John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, argued in a letter to other envoys that any definition of what constitutes a terrorist act should exclude “military activities that are appropriately governed by international humanitarian law.” In other words, limits should be placed on the degree to which government actions – such as say, bombing civilians – should be considered terrorism.”
 “To date there has been no international consensus on a comprehensive international legal definition of terrorism..”  Report on Terrorism & Human Rights – Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 22 October 2002
The absence of agreement on a comprehensive definition of terrorism under international law suggests in turn that the characterization of an act or situation as one of terrorism cannot in and of itself serve as a basis for defining the international legal obligations of states.Rather, each such act or situation must be evaluated on its own facts and in its particular context to determine whether and in what manner contemporary international law may regulate the responding conduct of states.At the same time, the fact that terrorism per se may not have a specific meaning under international law does not mean that terrorism is an indescribable form of violence or that states are not subject to restrictions under international law when developing their responses to such violence.To the contrary, it is possible to identify several characteristics frequently associated with incidents of terrorism that provide sufficient parameters within which states’ international legal obligations in responding to terrorist violence may be identified and evaluated.The United Nations General Assembly, for example, has developed a working definition of terrorism for the purposes of its various resolutions and declarations on measures to eliminate terrorism, namely “[c]riminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes [which] are in any circumstances unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be used to justify them.”These and other authorities suggest that characteristics common to incidents of terrorism may be described in terms of: (a) the nature and identity of the perpetrators of terrorism; (b) the nature and identity of the victims of terrorism; (c) the objectives of terrorism; and (d) the means employed to perpetrate terror violence.”
  The international community has found it very hard in the past to come up with a consensus on what exactly is meant by “terrorism” Amnnesty  International in Counter-terrorism and Criminal Law in the EU, 2005
The international community has found it very hard in the past to come up with a consensus on what exactly is meant by “terrorism” due to ideological clashes between states. Amnesty International raised the definition issue in its comments on the draft Council of Europe Convention on the prevention of terrorism . As adopted on 3 May 2005, the Convention requires states parties to criminalise provocation of and recruitment and training for terrorism. It does however not include a precise definition of terrorism for the purpose of the treaty, thus effectively creating subsidiary offences while the primary offence of terrorism remains undefined. While existing UN conventions refer to terrorism, they prohibit certain crimes without defining terrorism as such. The UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change in December 2004 suggested the following definition of terrorism be adopted:
“any action constitutes terrorism if it is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organisation to do or abstain from doing any act”
  If terrorists are to be called those who have had recourse to terrorist acts, then everyone who has done so should be called a terrorist. – Eduardo Marino Report to International Alertin 1987
“….In characterising the Tamil guerrilla, if terrorists are to be called those who have had recourse to terrorist acts, then everyone who has done so should be called a terrorist. It is simply a dishonesty to confine the use of the term – as some newspapers and politicians mainly in Colombo do – to Tamil guerrillas, while remaining silent regarding dozens of officers and hundreds of soldiers and policemen from the Sinhalese community whose acts, over the years, have been well documented. It appears that the dishonesty of ‘some newspapers and politicians mainly in Colombo’ has now spread to sections of the international community as well. It is  therefore  a matter of some importance that the legal status of the Tamil armed struggle should be examined in a fair and open way, stripped of propagandist rhetoric. “
 When it first entered political discourse, the word “terrorism” was used with reference to the reign of terror imposed by the Jacobin regime – that is, to describe a case of state terrorism. – Igor Primoratz in  State Terrorism & Counter Terrorism
When it first entered political discourse, the word “terrorism” was used with reference to the reign of terror imposed by the Jacobin regime—that is, to describe a case of state terrorism. Historians of the French Revolution have analyzed and discussed that case in great detail. There are also quite a few historical studies of some other instances of state terrorism, most notably of the period of “the Great Terror” in the Soviet Union.In a contemporary setting, however, state terrorism is apparently much more difficult to discern. Discussions of terrorism in social sciences and philosophy tend to focus on non-state and, more often than not, anti-state terrorism. In common parlance and in the media, terrorism is as a rule assumed to be an activity of non-state agencies in virtue of the very meaning of the word. If one suggests that the army or security services are doing the same thing that, when done by insurgents, are invariably described and condemned as terrorist, the usual reply is, “But these are actions done on behalf of the state, in pursuit of legitimate state aims: the army, waging war, or the security services, fending off threats to our security.” In other words,Throwing a bomb is bad,
Dropping a bomb is good;
Terror, no need to add,
Depends on who’s wearing the hood.
 Sri Lanka is a terror state; no matter how ‘democratically’ its thuggish leaders are elected E.T.Agnosticus, 17 January 2006

Sri Lanka is a terror state; no matter how ‘democratically’ its thuggish leaders are elected, a terror state is a terror state; there is no escaping this fact…What is needed now is the total dismantling of the state’s terror apparatus. The international community has shown that it doesn’t have the will, despite having the capacity, to help the suffering Tamil people in dismantling this terror apparatus of the state. Indeed, the U.S. ambassador in Sri Lanka, Mr. Jeffrey Lunstead, suggests in his speech that his country is more intent on strengthening the terror apparatus of the state than seeking justice and protection for the long-suffering Tamil people…”

 Terrorism defined – UK Terrorism Act 2000
 “terrorism” means the use or threat of action where:

(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.

    (2) Action falls within this subsection if it-
(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person’s life, other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.

    (3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.(4) In this section-
(a) “action” includes action outside the United Kingdom,
(b) a reference to any person or to property is a reference to any person, or to property, wherever situated,
(c) a reference to the public includes a reference to the public of a country other than the United Kingdom, and
(d) “the government” means the government of the United Kingdom, of a Part of the United Kingdom or of a country other than the United Kingdom.

    (5) In this Act a reference to action taken for the purposes of terrorism includes a reference to action taken for the benefit of a proscribed organisation.

 “…Do we not deliberately obfuscate when we conflate the two words ‘terrorism’ and ‘violence’? On Terrorism & Liberation – Nadesan Satyendra, 22 September 2006

“…Do we not deliberately obfuscate when we conflate the two words ‘terrorism’ and ‘violence’? … The Cuban revolution was violent but it was not terrorism. The war against Hitler was violent but it was not terrorism…What are the circumstances in which a people ruled by an alien people may lawfully resort to arms to resist that alien rule and secure freedom? Or is it that there are no circumstances in which a people ruled by an alien people may lawfully resort to arms to to liberate themselves? And if all resort to violence to secure political ends is not terrorism then, by all means let us address the question:  what is terrorism?  ‘Terrorism’ is a term used in legal instruments .. and legal instruments have legal consequences – consequences which impact on the fundamental rights of self determination, freedom of expression and freedom of association…

Domestic law cannot define terrorism by ignoring international law concerning the right a people have, as a last resort, to take up arms to free themselves  from oppressive alien rule. .. to categorise a combatant in an armed conflict as a ‘terrorist’ organisation and seek to punish it on that basis, is to violate both international law and common sense. It is to assert in effect that  a people ruled by an alien people may not, as a last resort, lawfully resort to arms to resist that alien rule and secure freedom… But that is not to say that both combatants in an armed conflict are not bound by the laws of armed conflict. They are bound….

… (Again) It is procedural law that creates the frame within which justice may be done. Procedural law is civilisation’s substitute for private vengeance and self-help. But in the case of the categorisation of the LTTE as a terrorist organisation, procedural law prevents the Courts from examining all the facts, testing the truth of the evidence, applying the law to the facts so determined and then ruling whether the categorisation as a terrorist organisation is lawful. Lynch law is no substitute for the rule of law…”

 Why Marxists oppose Individual Terrorism Leon Trotsky
“…Whether a terrorist attempt, even a ‘successful’ one throws the ruling class into confusion depends on the concrete political circumstances. In any case the confusion can only be shortlived; the capitalist state does not base itself on government ministers and cannot be eliminated with them. The classes it serves will always find new people; the mechanism remains intact and continues to function.But the disarray introduced into the ranks of the working masses themselves by a terrorist attempt is much deeper. If it is enough to arm oneself with a pistol in order to achieve one’s goal, why the efforts of the class struggle?..”

 We must abandon the myth that with law we enter the secure, stable and determinate Dr Colin J Harvey, Queen’s University of Belfast in The Politics of International Law, 2000...

“International law is political. There is no escape from contestation. Hard lessons indeed for lawyers who wish to escape the indeterminate nature of the political. For those willing to endorse this the opportunities are great. The focus then shifts to interdisciplinarity and the horizontal networks which function in practice in ways rendered invisible by many standard accounts of law. This of course has important implications for how we conceive of law’s role in ethnic conflict. We must abandon the myth that with law we enter the secure, stable and determinate. In reality we are simply engaged in another discursive political practice about how we should live.”
 The Last Word? – “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean” Lewis Carrol – Through the Looking Glass, c.vi
“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less’. ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things’. ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all’.”
 Terrorism & tamilnation.org 
A visitor to tamilnation.org  from France wrote:  “I wish to ask tamilnation.org how you can justify the violent terrorist acts committed by the LTTE not only against the Sinhalese civilians, but also against its own people…..” We respond to your question on the basis that it  may have sprung  from genuine concerns that you may have… We do not justify terrorism. But, we do take the view that the armed resistance of the people of Tamil Eelam to alien Sinhala rule is not unlawful. The reasons for that view will appear from the web page on Tamil Armed Resistance & the Law. Clausewitz’s remarks reflect, perhaps, the unfortunate political reality:“The would be conqueror is always a lover of peace, for he would like to enter and occupy our country unopposed. It is in order to prevent him from doing this that we must be willing to engage in war and be prepared for it.” - Clausewitz quoted in Philosophers of Peace and War, edited by Professor GallieThe political reality is that the practise of democracy within the confines of a single state has resulted  in rule by a permanent Sinhala majority (for the nature of that rule please see Indictment against Sri Lanka and for the Tamil response please see The Charge is Genocide – the Struggle is for Freedom.)Having said that, it is  true that an armed resistance movement is not a carte blanche to kill and lines will have to drawn, however difficult or even seemingly impossible that task may sometimes appear to be..” LTTE & Terrorism – Nadesan Satyendra, July 1998

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Contents of this page last updated 09/10/2007

Related Sites

UN Definitions of Terrorism
The Madrid Summit Working Paper Series
Volume I – The Causes of Terrorism – includes contributions on the psychological roots of terrorism, political explanations, economic factors, religion, and culture.
Volume II – Confronting Terrorism – deals with policing, intelligence, military responses, terrorist finance, and science and technology.
Volume III – Towards a Democratic Response – addresses the role of international institutions, legal responses, democracy promotion, human rights and civil society
Policy Laundering Project
Terrorism: Questions & Answers
South Asia Terrorism Portal
U.S.Department of State – Global Terrorism

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Source:  TamilNation.org

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