An exclusive, ongoing, multipart series, whose sole quest is to find a universally acceptable definition of Terrorism.
One of the major issues surrounding finding an agreeable universally acceptable definition of terrorism, is that every one of us perceive it and
interpret terrorism differently. Likewise, when an “act” of terrorism takes place, we undoubtedly perceive and interpret the “act” differently. As
mentioned in the preceding article, Brief Historical Perspective
, that what one person’s “terrorist” is another person’s “freedom
fighter.” With such glaring differences of thought and opinion on the word “terrorism” and “acts” of terrorism associated with it, would it be safe to
deduce that conceivably no word in modern political usage is more controversial?
In truth, there have been historical attempts to give an internationally acceptable definition to terrorism. The League of Nation’s, in 1937, made the
first attempt to do so. It defined terrorism as:
All criminal acts directed against a state and intended or calculated to create state terror in the minds of particular persons or group of
persons or the general public.
A 1999, the United Nation’s made another attempt in the form of a resolution:
What is Terrorism
UNODC: Definitions of Terrorism
Strongly condemns all acts, methods and practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, wherever and by whomsoever committed;
Reiterates that 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.
Despite the attempts to seek an agreeable international definition, the United Nation’s, the international organization whose purpose is to bring the
world together to achieve worldly common goals, and as previously presented in Can You Decide
, has confessed that:
the lack of agreement on a definition of terrorism has been a major obstacle to meaningful international countermeasures.
With such a blatant admission by the United Nation’s, what has inevitably transpired is that many individual nations have taken the initiative to
propose their own official definitions of terrorism. This article will be focusing on the Western’s perception and definitions of terrorism.
The United States
has proved that a definitive definition of terrorism is still somewhat elusive.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
the premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups
or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.
Department of Defense
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.
Department of Justice
the calculated use, or threatened use, of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or
intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives.
: Interprets the same as above, but uses the phrase:
the unlawful use of force or violence…
What those who read the above definitions undoubtedly miss is that both, the State and Defense Departments, perceive terrorism as an act of
, with the word usages of: the premeditated
and the calculated use
. Likewise, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the
Department of Justice perceive terrorism as a crime
, with the word usage of: the unlawful
. Also of note, is that the Department of
Defense’s definition emphasizes goals
. The State Department’s definition emphasizes motives
. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and
Department of Justice’s definitions emphasize methods
. The notion that terrorism is a crime
heavily rests upon nation’s having an
adequate legal framework, as well as having an astute understanding of terrorism itself.
US Terrorism Laws
US Anti-terrorism Laws
has proposed legislation, Bill C-36, that will officially give their definition(s) to terrorism:
Royal Assent of Bill C-36
Terrorist activity is an action within or outside Canada that is taken or threatened for political, religious or ideological purposes and
threatens the public or national security by killing, seriously harming or endangering a person, causing substantial property damage that is likely to
seriously harm people, or by interfering with or disrupting an essential service, facility or system.
has The Terrorism Act, which simply mentions:
The United Kingdom Parliament
Terrorism Act 2000
The European Union’s
The use, or threat, of action which is violent, damaging or disrupting and is intended to influence the government or intimidate the public and
is for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.
definition of terrorism is so ambiguous that the definition has to be 'pieced' together to even get an appropriate
understanding of the overall meaning:
Council of European Union’s First Draft
"Pieced" EU Definition Within
Any "act of intimidation" committed by "an individual or a group" with the intention of "seriously altering ... political, economic or
social structures" will be classified as a terrorist offence.
defines terrorism as (International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism):
The intentional use of, or threat to use violence against civilians or against civilian targets, in order to attain political aims.
The Strategic Studies Institute an extensive report that mentions that as of 1998, authors Alex Schmid and Albert Jongman had determined that there
were approximately 109
definitions of terrorism, covering 22
Mention of: Political terrorism : a new guide to actors, authors, concepts, data bases,
theories, and literature.
Strategic Studies Institute Report
The next part of this ongoing series will cover the Islamic Perspective
Related Sources of Interest
Terrorism and Terrorists
Terrorism: An Interdisciplinary Perspective
[Edited on 22-3-2004 by Seekerof]