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There is huge ambiguity over the definition of terrorism and states have not yet been able to formulate a single uniform comprehensive definition and herein lies the first problem when it comes to tackling it. Given below are some definitions to elaborate this point further:
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 main targets." UN 1992
Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (UN-GA 2000)
Any person commits an offence within the meaning of this Convention if that person, by any means, unlawfully and intentionally, causes:
(a) Death or serious bodily injury to any person; or
(b) Serious damage to public or private property, including a place of public use, a State or government facility, a public transportation system, an infrastructure facility or the environment; or
(c) Damage to property, places, facilities, or systems referred to in paragraph 1 (b) of this article, resulting or likely to result in major economic loss,
when the purpose of the conduct, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act."
The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives (FBI)
The calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear, intended to coerce or intimidate governments or societies as to the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious or ideological (US Department of Defense)
Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetuated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience (US State Department)
The most comprehensive definition however would be this: Terrorism is the systematic use or threatened use of violence to intimidate a population or government and thereby effect political, religious or ideological change. Acts of terrorism are not intended to merely victimize or eliminate those who are killed, injured or taken hostage but rather to intimidate and influence the societies to which they belong.
In this list of definitions the common ground is evident but there are differences of emphasis. The first four 'official' definitions reflect institutional positions. The FBI, for instance, stresses coercion and unlawfulness, and offences against property, in furtherance of social as well as political objectives. The US State Department lays stress on premeditation. The potential political motivation of 'subnational groups' is noted. There is no reference to spontaneous violence or to the psychological significance of threatened action. More comprehensively the US Department of Defense gives equal prominence to actual or threatened violence, cites a wider range of objectives, and includes as possible targets not only governments but also whole societies. Those accused of being terrorists rarely identify themselves as such and instead, typically use terms that refer to their ideological or ethnic struggle such as: separatist, freedom fighter, liberator, revolutionary, vigilante, militant, paramilitary, guerrilla, rebel, jihadi or mujahhideen or fedayeen or any similar words in a number of languages.
Before going further it would be worth mentioning the various types of terrorist groups for a better understanding:
Ethnocentric - Groups that see race as a defining characteristic of society
-attitude that particular group is superior based on race
Social- Single issue/special interest
Domestic- Home grown
Political- Different in political ideologies than that of the State
Separatist- Demand Political autonomy independence
Transnational- Beyond geographic boundaries, like Al Qaida
These mentioned types are not watertight and each group can take on a mix of characteristics. When it comes to tackling it there is no clear-cut mechanism or regulation. States have tried to formulate their own policies and rules some of which are as stated:
Australian Anti-Terrorism Legislation 2004
Australian Anti-Terrorism Act 2005
Canadian Anti Terrorism Act 2001
India- Prevention of Terrorism Act ( POTA )
UK- Prevention of Terrorism Act ( NI )
UK Terrorism Act 2000
Anti Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001
UK Prevention of Terrorism Act 2001
UK Terrorism Act 2006
US Anti Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act 1996
Exec Order 13224 George W Bush on Sept 23 2001
Homeland Security Act of 2002
There is no international treaty which comprehensively prohibits terrorism and applies in all circumstances. The only attempt to elaborate such a treaty The Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Terrorism drafted by the League of nations never entered into force.
Counter-terrorism naturally goes hand in hand with terrorism, but over the ages it has become less successful for a variety of reasons. Modern technology in this area has made enormous progress; for example, it can trace the movements of even small units and single tanks over a wide area day and night. But it cannot keep track of the movements of single individuals in a town carrying miniaturised bombs. The only effective weapon against terrorism in the modern era has been the infiltration of their ranks and the use of informers. Police in the last century had a much freer hand against terrorism than today's police: they placed their agents in all major and most minor terrorist movements, and paid them from special funds to which only they had access. It is probably no exaggeration to state that most of the terrorist journals at the time were paid for by secret police funds. If a police informer in the course of his duty had to carry out a terrorist act, no questions would be asked, nor would he be put to trial or lose his pension rights. Present-day police forces in democratic societies have little freedom of manoeuvre. Too many people are involved in decisions and operations, and bureaucratic formalities have to be observed.
When it comes to fighting it in terms of counter measures the following may be applied:
The general objective of combatting terrorism programs is neutralizing terrorist groups. As in most stability and support operations, neutralization in this context means rendering the source of threat benign, not necessarily killing the terrorists. In antiterrorism, the objective can be further refined as preventing attacks and minimizing the effects if one should occur. It includes any action to weaken the terrorist organization and its political power and to make potential targets more difficult to attack. Counterterrorism includes spoiling action, deterrence, and response.
Unity of effort
As in all stability and support operations, interagency action is required to combat terrorism. Unity of effort requires ways to integrate the actions of various responsible agencies of the US and foreign governments. Intelligence is particularly important and sensitive. Unfortunately, it is easier to prescribe unity of effort than to achieve it. In circumstances where multiple police and intelligence agencies have vague and overlapping charters and jurisdictions, friction is bound to occur. As in other aspects of stability and support operations, the solution lies in negotiation and consensus-building. Fortunately, experience has proved that cooperation at the local unit or installation level is relatively easy to obtain.
Legitimacy is not usually a problem in combatting terrorism since the right of selfdefense is universally recognized and, as indicated above, terrorist acts are crimes in peace, conflict, or war. Security forces might bring their legitimacy into question by failing to distinguish between those perpetrating, aiding, or abetting terrorism and others who might sympathize with their cause but do not engage in violent acts. An overreaction that results in the avoidable deaths of hostages while security forces are attempting to neutralize terrorists, for example, raises questions of judgement as well as the legitimacy of the undertaking.
Patience and perseverance
Patience and perseverance are the hallmarks of successful programs to combat terrorism. In any country or region, there are few terrorists relative to the population. Identifying and capturing them is difficult and entails tedious police and intelligence work. It is filled with frustration. [â€¦] Perhaps the most irritating aspect of defence against terrorism is that success is hard to identify. For example, if there is no incident, it may be because the defensive measures are effective. On the other hand, it is equally likely that the terrorists never intended to attack in the first place. Rarely will success be measurable, but defensive efforts must continue.
Restraint is necessary to both objective and legitimacy in the context of combating terrorism. Premature action against individuals, for example, can be counterproductive if it interferes with developing intelligence in depth that might neutralize an entire terrorist group. Similarly, overreaction, such as imposing severe populace and resource control measures, can undermine legitimacy and unnecessarily irritate the civilian populace.
Security is the most obvious requirement in combatting terrorism. Terrorists rely on surprise and the victim's confusion at the time of an incident. Antiterrorism involves physical security, operational security and the practice of personal protective measures by all personnel. In combatting terrorism, intelligence is extraordinarily important. The essential elements of information differ somewhat from those normally found in traditional combat situations. In addition to the terrorists' strength, skills, equipment, logistic capabilities, leader profiles, source of supply, and tactics, more specific information is needed. This includes the groups' goals, affiliations, indication of their willingness to kill or die for their cause, and significant events in their history, such as the death of martyrs or some symbolic event. Unless terrorists' specific interests are known, predicting the likely target is pure chance.
In the case of Combatants are those who take part in hostilities Both Al Qaeda and Taliban take part in hostilities but of different nature so the former is called as "Unlawful combatant" and the latter "offensive civilians" The rules of the war are very simple if you are a non combatant you are not a prisoner of war. As long as Al Qaeda members are not member of any regular armed forces, do not carry their arms openly, have no fixed distinctive signs and aim their attack deliberately against civilians they are non combatant and cannot be prisoner of war (3rd Geneva Convention). Prisoner's of war under Geneva convention is prosecuted under the laws of detaining power for acts committed prior to capture shall retain, if convicted, the benefits of the present convention " and" no circumstances whatever shall a prisoner of war be tried by a court of any kind which does not offer the essential guarantees of independence and impartiality as generally recognized , and in particular the procedure of which does not afford the accused the rights and means of defense provided for in article 105. In case of doubt whether a terrorist fulfills the criteria of a prisoner of war or not . In this case such person shall enjoy the protection of the convention until their status has been determined.
Article 7 of the ICC statue omits any requirement of a nexus between these crimes and an armed conflict: they can be perpetrated independently from war crimes or crimes against the peace. Thus all types of terrorist acts, be they committed during an armed conflict or peacetime, may be prosecuted under this heading, as long as the other elements are also given. Most recently the second amend indictment against Slobodan Milosevic charged the former president of Serbia with crimes against humanity for having planned, instigated ordered, committed or otherwise aided and abetted in a deliberate and widespread or systematic campaign of terror and violence directed at Kosovo Albanian civilians living in Kosovo in the Federal republic of Yugoslavia. In Krstic the accused was found guilty of persecution for the terrorizing of Bosnian Muslim civilians in the enclave of Srebrenica from 11 July 1995.
However there two ways in which terrorism may be prosecuted under article 7 of the ICC statue 1. as one of (illustratively) listed sub categories of crimes against humanity , such as murder or torture or 2. as an inhumane act pursuant to article 7. The offense can be committed either by governmental or non governmental entity. Thus both state and non state terrorism is addressed. Unlike IHL the notion of civilian population is extended to every person who is not performing de facto combating functions, independently from his or her nationality. Thus crimes against humanity cover diplomats governments representative, wounded or more generally hors de combat as well as common civilians who have the same nationality as the perpetrator.
In conclusion, looking at how our governments are tackling this menace the following may be stated in dismay: "A central lesson of counterterrorism is that terrorism cannot be 'defeated'- only reduced, attenuated, and to some degree controlled" (in Pillar's Terrorism and US Foreign Policy 2001, 218)