International conventions on terrorism: Wikis

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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.

Contents

Historical background

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.[1]

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.

Types of International Terrorist Conventions

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 Relevant International Treaties and Instruments

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).

Conventions which are open to ratification by all states

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)

  • Applies to acts affecting in-flight safety;
  • Authorizes the aircraft commander when necessary to ensure the safety of the aircraft or its occupants and to maintain good discipline, to impose reasonable measures including restraint on any person he believes has committed or is about to commit certain acts; and,
  • Requires contracting States to take custody of offenders and to return control of the aircraft to the lawful commander.

2. 1970 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft(Unlawful Seizure Convention)

  • Makes it an offence for any person on board an aircraft in flight to "unlawfully, by force or threat thereof, or any other form of intimidation, [to] seize or exercise control of that aircraft" or to attempt to do so;
  • Requires parties to the convention to make hijackings punishable by Requires parties to the convention to make hijackings punishable by "severe penalties"
  • Requires parties that have custody of offenders to either extradite the offender or submit the case for prosecution; and
  • Requires parties to assist each other in connection with criminal proceedings brought under the Convention.

3. 1971 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (Civil Aviation Convention)

  • Makes it an offence for any person unlawfully and intentionally to perform an act of violence against a person on board an aircraft in flight, if that act is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft; to place an explosive device on an aircraft; to attempt such acts; or to be an accomplice of a person who performs or attempts to perform such acts;
  • Requires parties to the Convention to make offences punishable by "severe penalties"; and
  • Requires parties that have custody of offenders to either extradite the offender or submit the case for prosecution.

4. 1973 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons (Diplomatic agents Convention)

  • Defines an "internationally protected person" as a Head of State, Minister for Foreign Affairs, representative or official of a State or international organization who is entitled to special protection in a foreign State, and his/her family; and
  • Requires parties to criminalize and make punishable "by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature" the intentional murder, kidnapping or other attack upon the person or liberty of an internationally protected person, a violent attack upon the official premises, the private accommodations, or the means of transport of such person; a threat or attempt to commit such an attack; and an act "constituting participation as an accomplice".

5. 1979 International Convention against the Taking of Hostages(Hostages Convention)

  • Provides that "any person who seizes or detains and threatens to kill, to injure, or to continue to detain another person in order to compel a third party, namely, a State, an international intergovernmental organization, a natural or juridical person, or a group of persons, to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the hostage commits the offence of taking of hostage within the meaning of this Convention".

6. 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material(Nuclear Materials Convention)

  • Criminalizes the unlawful possession, use, transfer or theft of nuclear material and threats to use nuclear material to cause death, serious injury or substantial property damage.

Amendments to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material

  • Make it legally binding for States Parties to protect nuclear facilities and material in peaceful domestic use, storage as well as transport; and
  • Provide for expanded cooperation between and among States regarding rapid measures to locate and recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material, mitigate any radiological consequences or sabotage, and prevent and combat related offences.

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)

  • Extends the provisions of the Montreal Convention (see No. 3 above) to encompass terrorist acts at airports serving international civil aviation.

8. 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (Maritime Convention)

  • Establishes a legal regime applicable to acts against international maritime navigation that is similar to the regimes established for international aviation; and
  • Makes it an offence for a person unlawfully and intentionally to seize or exercise control over a ship by force, threat, or intimidation; to perform an act of violence against a person on board a ship if that act is likely to endanger the safe navigation of the ship; to place a destructive device or substance aboard a ship; and other acts against the safety of ships.

2005 Protocol to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation

  • Criminalizes the use of a ship as a device to further an act of terrorism;
  • Criminalizes the transport on board a ship various materials knowing that they are intended to be used to cause, or in a threat to cause, death or serious injury or damage to further an act of terrorism;
  • Criminalizes the transporting on board a ship of persons who have committed an act of terrorism; and
  • Introduces procedures for governing the boarding of a ship believed to have committed an offence under the Convention.

9. 1988 Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf (Fixed Platform Protocol)

  • Establishes a legal regime applicable to acts against fixed platforms on the continental shelf that is similar to the regimes established against international aviation.

2005 Protocol to the Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms Located on the Continental Shelf

  • Adapts the changes to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation to the context 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)

  • Designed to control and limit the used of unmarked and undetectable plastic explosives (negotiated in the aftermath of the 1988 Pan Am flight 103 bombing);
  • Parties are obligated in their respective territories to ensure effective control over Parties are obligated in their respective territories to ensure effective control over "unmarked"
  • Generally speaking, each party must, inter alia, take necessary and effective measures to prohibit and prevent the manufacture of unmarked plastic explosives; prevent the movement of unmarked plastic explosives into or out of its territory; exercise strict and effective control over possession and transfer of unmarked explosives made or imported prior to the entry into force of the Convention; ensure that all stocks of unmarked explosives not held by the military or police are destroyed, consumed, marked, or rendered permanently ineffective within three years; take necessary measures to ensure that unmarked plastic explosives held by the military or police are destroyed, consumed, marked or rendered permanently ineffective within fifteen years; and, ensure the destruction, as soon as possible, of any unmarked explosives manufactured after the date of entry into force of the Convention for that State.

11. 1997 International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (Terrorist Bombing Convention)

  • Creates a regime of universal jurisdiction over the unlawful and intentional use of explosives and other lethal devices in, into, or against various defined public places with intent to kill or cause serious bodily injury, or with intent to cause extensive destruction of the public place.

12. 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (Terrorist Financing Convention)

  • Requires parties to take steps to prevent and counteract the financing of terrorists, whether direct or indirect, through groups claiming to have charitable, social or cultural goals or which also engage in illicit activities such as drug trafficking or gun running;
  • Commits States to hold those who finance terrorism criminally, civilly or administratively liable for such acts; and
  • Provides for the identification, freezing and seizure of funds allocated for terrorist activities, as well as for the sharing of the forfeited funds with other States on a case-by-case basis. Bank secrecy is no longer adequate justification for refusing to cooperate.

13. 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (Nuclear Terrorism Convention)

  • Covers a broad range of acts and possible targets, including nuclear power plants and nuclear reactors;
  • Covers threats and attempts to commit such crimes or to participate in them, as an accomplice;
  • Stipulates that offenders shall be either extradited or prosecuted;
  • Encourages States to cooperate in preventing terrorist attacks by sharing information and assisting each other in connection with criminal investigations and extradition proceedings; and
  • Deals with both crisis situations (assisting States to solve the situation) and post-crisis situations (rendering nuclear material safe through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Regional Conventions

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

Europe

Council of Europe
    • European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism (Strasbourg, January 1977)[1] and Protocol (Strasbourg, May 2003)[2].
"Article 1 of the Convention declares that for the purposes of extradition a number of offences commonly associated with terrorism are not to be regarded as political offences. These include hijacking and other interference with civil aviation, offences against diplomats, kidnapping, offences involving the use of bombs and firearms, and other serious offences involving acts of violence." "The Convention, which requires three ratifications in order to come into force, was signed on January 27, 1977, by all the member States of the Council of Europe except Ireland and Malta."[2]:684
European Union
    • The EU Framework Decision on Terrorism [5]
Commonwealth of Independent States
    • Treaty on Cooperation among States Members of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Combating Terrorism (Minsk, June 1999) [6]

North and South America

Africa

    • African Union Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism (Algiers July 1999)[9] and
    • the Protocol to that Convention, Addis Ababa July 2004)[10] [as of 30 August 2005 the Protocol was not yet in force]


South Asia

    • SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism (Kathmandu, November 1987)[11]
    • and the Additional Protocol to the Convention, Islamabad, January 2004 [As of 30 August 2005 not yet in force].
    • The ASEAN Convention On Counter Terrorism, Cebu, Philippines, 13 January 2007 [As of 17 February 2007 not yet in force][12]

League of Arab States

    • Arab Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism (Cairo, April 1998)[13]

Organization of the Islamic Conference

    • Convention of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Combating International Terrorism (Ouagadougou, July 1999)[14]

The International Criminal Court and Terrorism

During the negotiations on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,[15] 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."

"Terrorists" and Laws of War/International Humanitarian Law

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.

See also

References

  1. ^ International Law Commission, Historical Survey of the Question of International Criminal Jurisdiction (New York, 1949) p. 16
  2. ^ International and Comparative Law Quarterly 26 (3). July 1977.  

External links

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