Annual Survey of International & Comparative Law


Terrorist activities are not of recent origin on the international plane. They have been around since the beginning of humanity. Although international law may not be accused of addressing the issue of terrorism with levity, it was after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States that the international community’s efforts toward fighting terrorism garnered more strength and attention.

The debatable critical question is whether terrorism under international law should be studied and treated as a specific subject in developing the legal norms and principles for its fight and regulation, or whether terrorism should be fought and regulated based on the already existing relevant international legal norms and principles. We favor the later approach. Terrorism like piracy, torture, genocide etc. should be examined within the context of the already existing framework of international law, because it does not, as of the present time, have clear legal norms. Terrorism has become one of the top ranking problems threatening the peace and stability of the international community and challenging international law at the present time. While the international community as a whole has not avoided addressing the challenges of this anathema, a lot still needs to be done to adequately combat terrorism. More cooperation among States and international organizations is a sine qua non in this direction. One major impediment to the efforts being made to contain terrorism is the inability of the international community to adopt a comprehensive and generally acceptable definition of terrorism that would capture its constitutive elements.

The objectives of this paper are: to discuss the genesis of the doctrine of war, use of force, difficulties associated with the definition of terrorism, causes of terrorism, terrorism during both armed conflict and peace time; the United Nations efforts in dealing with the definition of terrorism; the legal responsibility for acts of terrorism; and attempt to outline how best to cure the underlying problem and not just the symptoms. Hopefully these efforts will help in identifying the best ways through which the fight against terrorism may be won.

Cite as: 19 Annl. Survey Int'l. Comp. L. 17 (2013).