Terrorism is defined as the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government or its citizens to further certain political or social objectives. Terrorism can happen at both domestic and international levels. Domestic terrorism is executed in the United States by our very own citizens without foreign direction, whereas international terrorism, which is connected to foreign governments or groups, transcends our nation’s boundaries. There have been various efforts made at national and international levels to repress terrorism and regarding the same various countries have come together to form uniform legislation.
The first international convention explicitly concerned with the suppression of terrorism was drafted by the League of Nations in 1937. Twenty-four states signed the 1937 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Terrorism, but an absence of ratifications meant that it did not enter into force and the international criminal court proposed in an annex to the convention was not created.
One major problem we face today is that there is no one precise definition of the term “terrorism” and the same is also a challenging task. There are various international Conventions that were created post World War II that proved to be more effective. A few examples would include the 1963 Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, the 1971 Convention for the Suppression of the Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, the 1970 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation and its 1988 Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation (Montreal Protocol), the 1979 International Convention against the Taking of Hostages, the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, and the 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings. These conventions were successful because they defined specific types of offences (e.g., hostage-taking) rather than general categories of criminal behavior (e.g., terrorism).
The primary intention behind acts of terror is to cause fear among people. The 1949 Geneva Conventions and the two 1977 Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions15 contain numerous provisions seeking to ameliorate the effects of war and discourage behavior that has the effect of or is intended to terrorize civilian populations. For that fact, the basic principle of international humanitarian law is to also attend to the people who are aggravated and affected and the victims of warfare.
In the United States of America, since the September 11, 2001, attack, the USA has drafted some strict legislation and security as well as become stringent. In lieu of the same, The Patriot Act was enacted whose main objective is to protect American citizens from terrorist attacks and unite and strengthen America by providing appropriate tools required to intercept and obstruct terrorism.
“Before the Patriot Act, courts could permit law enforcement to conduct electronic surveillance to investigate many ordinary, non-terrorism crimes, such as drug crimes, mail fraud, and passport fraud. Agents also could obtain wiretaps to investigate some, but not all, of the crimes that terrorists often commit. The Act enabled investigators to gather information when looking into the full range of terrorism-related crimes, including chemical weapons offences, the use of weapons of mass destruction, killing Americans abroad, and terrorism financing.”
Other Laws Dealing with Terrorism:
- Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113b – Terrorism
- Title 8, Chapter 12 – Immigration and Nationality Act
- Title 18, Part I, Chapter 2 – Aircraft and Motor Vehicles
- Title 18, Part I, Chapter 10 – Biological Weapons
- Title 18, Part I, Chapter 11b – Chemical Weapons
- Title 18, Part II, Chapter 204 – Rewards for Information Concerning Terrorist Acts and Espionage
- Title 49, Subtitle VII, Part A – Air Commerce and Safety
- Title 50, Chapter 36 – Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
- Joint Resolution of 107th Congress: authorizing the use of the United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks launched against the United States on September 11, 2001.
- Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution grants “Congress the power to declare war. The President, meanwhile, derives the power to direct the military after a Congressional declaration of war from Article II, Section 2, which names the President Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. These provisions require cooperation between the President and Congress regarding military affairs, with Congress funding or declaring the operation and the President directing it. Nevertheless, throughout the 20thand 21st centuries, Presidents have often engaged in military operations without express Congressional consent. These operations include the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm, the Afghanistan War of 2001 and the Iraq War of 2002.”
Post September 11, 2001, Committees and Reports:
- Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 – Congressional Report of December 2002.
- National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States: An independent, bipartisan commission charged in 2002 with “a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks.”
- The September 11 Detainees: A Review of the Treatment of Aliens Held on Immigration Charges in Connection with the Investigation of the September 11 Attacks – from the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, June 2003.
The universally accepted understanding of the term “terrorism” is that they are violent acts often targeting civilians in order to achieve any political or personal ideology objectives. Reiterating again, there have been various Conventions, Resolutions, Acts and Treaties that most nations are part of acts a comprehensive guide in combatting terrorism head-on. International law provides the framework within which national counter-terrorism activities take place and which allows States to cooperate with each other effectively in preventing and combating terrorism. In my humble opinion, I believe that any law that should prove to be effective should always go through yearly reviews and the same should be amended from time to time. There are various disadvantages to the current anti-terror laws in many countries. For example, in India, anyone detained under Indian National Security Act will be detained in police custody for three months, which can be extended to twelve months and such detainees also lose their basic rights of legal aid and the opportunity to be heard and receive bail. There have been various reports that thousands of innocents have been arrested under the Act. The same goes for America, it has been said that at least 35,000 people worldwide have been convicted as terrorists in the decade since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States but while some bombed hotels or blew up buses, others were put behind bars for waving a political sign or blogging about a protest. This is completely unfair and horrendous to imagine that you have been walking to the supermarket to get milk and next thing you know are detained because voiced your opinion on the internet – which is guaranteed under freedom of speech and is your right!
What is your opinion? Let us know in the comment section.
 What is Terrorism? | AustinTexas.gov  Ibid.  Essay 1. Terrorism and the law: past and present international approaches, Dr Gerry Simpson, Law Department, London School of Economics. Retrieved from: 023-32 Essay 1 (sipri.org)  League of Nations Official Journal, vol. 19 (1938), p. 23. India was the only state that ratified this convention.  Supra 3.  The convention was signed at Tokyo on 14 Sep. 1963. United Nations Treaty Series, vol. 704 (1963), p. 219, available at URL http://untreaty.un.org/English/Terrorism.asp  The convention was signed at The Hague on 16 Dec. 1970. International Legal Materials, vol. 10 (1971), Article 4.2, p. 1151, also available at URL http://untreaty.un.org/English/Terrorism.asp  5 The convention was signed at Montreal on 23 Sep. 1971. International Legal Materials, vol. 10 (1970), Article 3.3, p. 133, also available at URL http://untreaty.un.org/English/Terrorism.asp  The Montreal Protocol was signed at Montreal, Canada, on 24 Feb. 1988, available at URL http://www.iasl.mcgill.ca/airlaw/publoc/aviation_securitymontreal1988.pdf  The convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 17 Dec. 1979. International Legal Materials, vol. 18 (1979), p. 1460, also available at URL United Nations - Office of Legal Affairs  The convention was signed at Rome on 10 Mar. 1988. International Legal Materials, vol. 27 (1988), p. 668, also available at URL http://untreaty.un.org/English/Terrorism.asp  The UN General Assembly adopted the convention in Resolution 52/164 on 15 Dec. 1997. International Legal Materials, vol. 37 (1998), p. 249, also available at URL http://untreaty.un.org/English/Terrorism.asp  Supra 3.  Ibid.  The USA PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty (justice.gov)  Ibid.  Below table retrieved from: LII's Focus on Terrorism Law (cornell.edu)  war powers | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)  Ibid.  09-81183_c1_4_final.indd (unodc.org)  Rightly or wrongly, thousands convicted of terrorism post-9/11 (nbcnews.com)