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UN's definition of 'terrorism' and how it doesn't include proxy terrorism sponsored by neighbouring countries

On the day of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, May 21, India observes a national anti-terrorism day. And today is the time to look at the UN's definition of 'terrorism' and how it changes from country to country.

Sri Lasya Edited by: Sri Lasya @laasiyapriya New Delhi Published on: May 21, 2022 7:30 IST
Anti Terrorism Day, National A nti Terrorism Day, Anti Terrorism Day 2022, National Anti-Terrorism D
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The UN General Assembly reaffirmed this definition in January 2006 (Resolution 60/43), defining terrorist acts as “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.”

 

Anti-terrorism day 2022: After years of extensive debates, horrors, and many many laws, the world is still divided on what 'terrorism' means. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. The international courts have no objective standing on the issue and are constantly adapting to the changing situations. The United Nations had made several efforts to unify countries on a defined law over terrorism but in vain. 

On the day of Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, May 21, India observes a national anti-terrorism day. And today is the time to look at the UN's definition of 'terrorism' and how it changes from country to country. 

The UN's definition

The International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, signed on 9 December 1999, defines terrorism in its Article 2.1.b as “any . . . act intended to cause death or serious bodily injury to a civilian, or to any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in a situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act.”

The United Nations Security Council, in its resolution 1566 of October 2004, elaborates this definition, stating that terrorist acts are “criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act.” 

The Security Council recalls that such acts are “under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature.”

The UN General Assembly reaffirmed this definition in January 2006 (Resolution 60/43), defining terrorist acts as “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.”

Proxy terrorism sponsored by neighboring countries

The UN's strong stand on defining terrorism goes null on its stand on 'proxy terrorism' sponsored by neighboring countries. In 2019, in its 'country report on terrorism, the US provided an account of events during 2019 that the country had designated as 'sponsors of terrorism. 

The report states that to designate a country as a state sponsor of terrorism, the Secretary of State must determine whether such country's government has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. The same year, the US had taken action and suspended its military assistance to Pakistan. 

The US, several times in the past, dismayed Pakistan's continued acceptance of safe havens for the Afghan Taliban and its vicious Haqqani branch in Pakistan. Despite this, Pakistan has provided direct military and intelligence assistance to both groups. This led to several deaths of American soldiers, security personnel, and civilians as well. 

The 2021's mighty fall of Afghanistan to Pakistan was a subsequent example of the terror.

The decision to suspend military aid to Pakistan is one of the most significant US punitive actions against Pakistan since 2001.

Status of designated terrorist from the UN List

Osama Bin Laden - One of the most notorious global terrorists, Laden was the founder of the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization. He was responsible for several attacks in many countries, including the 9/11 attack, that claimed several thousand lives. He was killed on May 2, 2011, under the orders of the then-US President Barack Obama. 

Hafiz Saeed - Saeed was neither charged by Pakistan nor extradited in nearly two decades, despite being designated a terrorist by the United Nations and the European Union in the 2000s. Muhammad Hafiz Saeed, who has already been jailed for other charges since 17 July 2019, was earlier this month sentenced to 33 years in prison by a special anti-terrorism court in Pakistan for "financing terrorism".

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