History of terrorism
War on Terrorism
|Communist · Capitalist · Eco-terrorism · Ethnic
Narcoterrorism · Nationalist
|Types and tactics|
|Agro-terrorism · Aircraft
Bioterrorism · Car bombing (list)
Environmental · Nuclear
Piracy · Propaganda of the deed
Proxy bomb · Suicide attack (list)
Iran · Pakistan · Russia
Sri Lanka · United States
Terrorist front organization
Terrorist training camp
Clandestine cell system
Red Terror · White Terror
Charities accused of ties to terrorism
International conventions on terrorism set out obligations of states in respect to defining international counter terrorist offences, prosecuting individuals suspected of such offences, extraditing such persons upon request, and providing mutual legal assistance upon request.
The first attempt to formulate an international convention to combat international terrorism was made following the assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia while on a visit to France on October 9, 1934. The French government proposed to the Secretary General of the League of Nations to draft a convention to combat terrorism and other political crimes. On December 10 of the same year, the League Council passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a committee of experts
to study this question with a view to drawing up a preliminary draft of an international convention to assure the repression of conspiracies or crimes committed with a political and terrorist purpose.
The committe established met three times from April 1935 to April 1937, and in November 1937 an International Conference on the Repression of Terrorism was held in Geneva under League of Nations auspices. The conference produced the first ever draft convention to combat international terrorism.
Broadly speaking there are two types of international convention on terrorism. First there are truly international conventions which are open to ratification to all states. There are thirteen of these international conventions at present, though as of Feb 2006 only 12 are in force.
Second there are regional multilateral terrorist conventions, such as the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism(2006); the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism (2002); and the Organization of African Union Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism (1999) and Protocol (2004).
Other international instruments may also be relevant in particular circumstances, such as bilateral extradition treaties, the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
There are now a number of important United Nations Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions on international terrorism, including UN Security Council Resolution 1373 and three important Security Council resolutions dealing with Libya's conduct in connection with the sabotage of Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988, which includes UN Security Council Resolutions 731 (January 21, 1992); 748 (March 31, 1992) and 883 (November 11, 1993).
The following list identifies the major terrorism conventions open to ratification by all states. A brief summary is provided in each case of the principal provisions in each instrument. In addition to the provisions summarized below, most of these conventions provide that parties must establish criminal jurisdiction over offenders (e.g., the state(s) where the offense takes place, or in some cases the state of nationality of the perpetrator or victim, or in the case of an aircraft, the State of registration).
1. 1963 Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed On Board Aircraft (Aircraft Convention)
2. 1970 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft(Unlawful Seizure Convention)
3. 1971 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (Civil Aviation Convention)
4. 1973 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons (Diplomatic agents Convention)
5. 1979 International Convention against the Taking of Hostages(Hostages Convention)
6. 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material(Nuclear Materials Convention)
Amendments to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material
7. 1988 Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation, supplementary to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (Extends and supplements the Montreal Convention on Air Safety) (Airport Protocol)
8. 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (Maritime Convention)
2005 Protocol to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation
9. 1988 Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf (Fixed Platform Protocol)
2005 Protocol to the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf
10. 1991 Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purpose of Detection (Plastic Explosives Convention)
11. 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (Terrorist Bombing Convention)
12. 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (Terrorist Financing Convention)
13. 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (Nuclear Terrorism Convention)
These are international treaties agreed under the auspices of particular regional organisations, and generally the Conventions are only open to be ratified by members states of those regional organisations. However some of those organisations permit other countries to ratify the conventions concerned. The principal regional conventions of particular note by region and/or regional organisation, are as follows
North and South America
League of Arab States
Organization of the Islamic Conference
During the negotiations on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, many states supported adding a specific offence of "terrorism" to the list of crimes over which the court would have jurisdiction. This proposal was not adopted. However, the Statute provides for a review conference to be held seven years after the entry into force of the Statute. This review will consider (among other things) an extension of the court's jurisdiction to include terrorism.
Despite the exclusion from the Court's jurisdiction of a specifically defined international crime of "terrorism" , certain acts carried out by "terrorists" may fall within the Court's jurisdiction because those acts fulfill the criteria of other offences which fall within the Court's purview. Thus acts of terrorism carried out by parties to an armed conflict constitute "war crimes" as prohibited by various articles in the Geneva Conventions, and will fall within the Court's jurisdiction where they constitute "grave" breaches of the Conventions. Furthermore some "terrorist" acts will constitute a "crime against humanity" which is an international crime which also falls within the ICC's jurisdiction. Article 7 of the ICC Statute defines a "Crime Against Humanity" as various acts, including murder, extermination, persecution of various groups, when "committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack."
The obligations which the international and regional conventions impose, as described in sections 1, 2, 3 and 4 above, apply for the most part in situations where there is not an ongoing "armed conflict" [i.e"war"]. When there is "armed conflict", in the sense in which that term is understood under the laws of war/International humanitarian law (IHL), then the laws of War/IHL apply. Under those laws combatants ("belligerents") are subject to certain prohibitions. However an attack carried out on an enemy which results in death and/or injury is lawful, so long as it meets various tests of necessity and proportionalty.
Whether or not persons/groups which might be characterised by some as "terrorist" are entitled to the privileges accorded to participants in an "armed conflict" depends upon whether in the circumstances they are "combatants", within the meaning of that term under the laws of War/IHL. The categorisation of any particular group as a "terrorist" or "combatant" is a matter which often divides opinion. A state/government which is in conflict with such a group is likely never to accord them the status of combatant, and in most cases the acts of such groups will in any event constitute criminal acts under the domestic law provisions in the jurisdiction concerned. However this is a different question to whether person/groups are entitled to the status of "combatants" under International Law. If they are so entitled their acts will not constitute crimes in international law, and as a matter of international law they are entitled to be treated in certain ways by their enemies [e.g. prisoner of war status if captured].
However under the Third Geneva Convention, a person is eligible for prisoner of war status only if they "carry arms openly" and "respect the laws and customs of war". It also requires that members of militias and other irregular groups have "a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance." Insofar as "terrorists" who are parties to an "armed conflict" fail to adhere to those rules, any claims which they may make to special status will be difficult to sustain. In such circumstances there is some debate [See unlawful combatant] as to whether they are to be categorised as (a)civilians who have committed crimes; or (b) a species of wrongdoer who, whilst not entitled to be treated as prisoner of war, may nonetheless be death with outside of the ordinary civilian processes for prosecuting crimes.
Matters are further complicated by the 1979 Optional Additional Protocol 1 (Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts) which applies in "armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination"(Article 1:3) and furthermore the following clause appears to give guerrilla fighters in such conflicts lawful combatant and POW status, even if not wearing uniform, as long as they carry weapons openly during attacks:
"In order to promote the protection of the civilian population from the effects of hostilities, combatants are obliged to distinguish themselves from the civilian population while they are engaged in an attack or in a military operation preparatory to an attack. Recognizing, however, that there are situations in armed conflicts where, owing to the nature of the hostilities an armed combatant cannot so distinguish himself, he shall retain his status as a combatant, provided that, in such situations, he carries his arms openly: (a) During each military engagement, and (b) During such time as he is visible to the adversary while he is engaged in a military deployment preceding the launching of an attack in which he is to participate."(Article 44:3)
Optional Additional Protocol 2 (Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts) may also apply in many "insurgencies", "terrorist campaigns" or "civil wars". However this convention does not give non-government militants lawful combatant status or POW status, although Article 6(5) does recommend "broadest possible amnesty to persons who have participated in the armed conflict" after the end of hostilities. It also specifies minimum standards for those detained or interned ("persons whose liberty has been restricted"). The convention prohibits war crimes, "acts of terrorism" and extrajudicial execution and sets standards for fair trials--although it does not prohibit internment.