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DEFINING TERRORISM: ONE SIZE FITS ALL?

  • Alan Greene (a1)
Abstract

This article challenges the idea, both in domestic and international law, of defining terrorism. Using section 1 of the UK's Terrorism Act 2000 as an illustrative example, this article argues that a single definition of terrorism is invariably broad owing to the need to accommodate the lowest common denominator. This is damaging to the ‘principle of legality’ as recognized in British public law and the ECHR. Moreover, this problem is further exacerbated by the increasing application of counterterrorism legislation to non-international armed conflicts. This article therefore suggests an alternative solution: multiple definitions of terrorism whose breadth is dependent upon the specific circumstances for which they are designed. Fears that such an approach may amount to an ‘expression of inconsistency’ will be addressed by arguing that law's capacity to shape and frame public and political debate on the concept of terrorism is over-exaggerated. Legal definitions of terrorism therefore should remain primarily concerned with the legal rather than political function of defining terrorism.

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References
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1 With the one narrow exception of the Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993 which is specifically for the purposes of defining terrorism for insurance claims. Section 2(2) of the Act defines terrorism as: ‘acts of persons acting on behalf of, or in connection with, any organisation which carries out activities directed towards the overthrowing or influencing, by force or violence, of Her Majesty's government in the United Kingdom or any other government de jure or de facto’.

2 See Bingham, T, The Rule of Law (Penguin 2011) ch 4.

3 D Anderson, ‘The Terrorism Acts in 2014: Report of the Independent Reviewer on the Operation of the Terrorism Act 2000 and Part I of the Terrorism Act 2006’ (September 2015) at <https://terrorismlegislationreviewer.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Terrorism-Acts-Report-2015-Print-version.pdf> 2.

4 Perry, NJ, ‘The Numerous Federal Legal Definitions of Terrorism: The Problem of Too Many Grails’ (2004) 30(2) Journal of Legislation 249 .

5 Hoffmann, B, Inside Terrorism: Revised and Expanded Edition (Columbia University Press 2006) 2 .

6 Gearty, C, The Future of Terrorism (Phoenix 1997) 5 .

7 Hoffmann (n 5).

8 ibid 7.

9 ibid 8–9.

10 ibid 14.

11 ibid 16.

12 See (n 23).

13 R Jackson, L Jarvis, J Gunning and M Breen Smyth, Terrorism — a critical introduction (Palgrave MacMillan 2011) 164; Anderson, D., ‘Shielding the Compass’ (2013) 3 EHRLR 233 , 240.

14 Hülsse, R and Spencer, A, ‘The Metaphor of Terror: Terrorism Studies and the Constructivist Turn’ (2008) 39(6) Security Dialogue 571 , 573.

15 ibid 575.

16 ibid 575–8.

17 ibid.

18 See Schmid, AP and Jongman, AJ, Political Terrorism: A New Guide to Actors, Authors, Concepts, Data Bases, Theories and Literature (Transaction Books 1988) ch 1.

19 ibid.

20 Brannan, D, Esler, P and Strindberg, T, ‘Talking to “terrorists” towards an independent analytical framework for the study of violent substate activism’ (2001) 24 Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 3 , 11; Stampnitzky, L, Disciplining Terror: How Experts Invented “Terrorism” (Cambridge University Press 2013) 5 .

21 Blackbourn, J, Davis, F and Taylor, NC, ‘Academic Consensus and Legislative Definitions of Terrorism: Applying Schmid and Jongman’ (2013) 34(3) Statute Law Review 239 , 255.

22 Hoffmann (n 5) 23; Schmidt, AP, ‘The Definition of Terrorism’ in Schmid, AP (ed), The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research (Routledge 2011) 3940 .

23 Friedrichs, J, ‘Defining the International Public Enemy: The Political Struggle Behind the Legal Debate on International Terrorism’ (2006) 19 LJIL 69 , 76.

24 ibid 72–6.

25 ibid 76–7.

26 ibid 80.

27 ibid 72–3. See also Brulin, R, ‘Defining “Terrorism”: The 1972 General Assembly debates on “international terrorism” and their coverage by the New York Times’ in Baybars-Hawks, B and Baruh, L (eds), If It Was Not for Terrorism: Crisis, Compromise, and Elite Discourse in the Age of War on Terror (Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2011) 12 .

28 Levitt, G, ‘Is “Terrorism” Worth Defining?’ (1986) 13(1) OhioNULRev 97 ,101; The European Union has also has a single definition of terrorism although the UK has adopted out of this. See Council Framework Decision 2002/475 on Combating Terrorism.

29 ibid 97.

30 ibid 109.

31 ibid 97.

32 ibid 97.

33 C Walter, ‘Defining Terrorism in National and International Law’ (Paper presented at the Max Planck Society Conference on Terrorism as a Challenge for National and International Law, Heidelberg, 24 January 2003) <https://www.unodc.org/tldb/bibliography/Biblio_Terr_Def_Walter_2003.pdf> 10.

See eg de Londras, F, ‘Terrorism as an International Crime’ in Schabas, W and Bernaz, N (eds), Routledge Handbook of International Criminal Law (Routledge 2010) 167 , 167.

34 Golder, B and Williams, G, ‘What is “Terrorism” Problems of a Legal Definition’ (2004) 27(2) UNSWLJ 270 , 288.

35 See Schmid, AP, ‘The Response Problem as a Definition Problem’ (1992) 4(4) Terrorism and Political Violence 7 .

36 Levitt (n 28) 110.

37 ibid 109–10.

38 ibid 110–11, 115; Baxter, RR, ‘A Skeptical Look at the Concept of Terrorism’ (1974) 7 AkronLRev 380 , 380.

39 ibid 111.

40 Carr, C, ‘Why the Definition of Terrorism Must be Broad’ (2007) 24(1) World Policy Journal 47 , 47.

41 ibid 48.

42 Saul, B, ‘Defining “Terrorism” to Protect Human Rights’ in Staines, D (ed), Interrogating the War on Terror: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Cambridge Scholars Press 2007) 190 , 210.

43 See (n 34).

44 Grozdanova, R, ‘‘‘Terrorism” — Too Elusive a Term for an International Legal Definition?’ (2014) 61(3) NILR 305 , 315.

45 See (n 142).

46 Lord Lloyd, Inquiry into Legislation against Terrorism: Volume 1 (TSO 1996) 24 Netherlands International Law Review 6.

47 Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974, section 14(1).

48 Lloyd (n 46) 26.

49 ibid.

50 Walker, C, Blackstone's Guide to The Anti-Terrorism Legislation (Oxford University Press 2002) 21 .

51 Perry, NJ, ‘The Numerous Federal Legal Definitions of Terrorism: The Problem of Too Many Grails’ (2004) 30(2) Journal of Legislation 249 , 269.

52 ibid 272.

53 See (n 37).

54 Lord Carlisle, ‘The Definition of Terrorism’ (Cm 7052, March 2007).

55 ibid 19.

56 Walter (n 33).

57 See Bingham (n 2); Tamanaha, B, On The Rule of Law: History, Politics, Theory (Cambridge University Press 2007); Craig, P, ‘Formal and Substantive Conceptions of the Rule of Law: An Analytical Framework’ [1997] PL 567 .

58 Fuller, L, The Morality of Law (Yale University Press 1969) 74 .

59 Dicey, AV, Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (6th edn, Macmillan and Co 1902) 183–4.

60 See Schmitt, C, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (Schwab, G trans, University of Chicago Press 2005); McCormick, JP, ‘The Dilemmas of Dictatorship: Carl Schmitt and Constitutional Emergency Powers’ (1997) 10 CJLJ 163 , 169.

61 Thus the Code of Hammurabi reflected at a minimum level of a formal concept of the rule of law. By prescribing an ‘eye for an eye’ the punishment is known before an individual conducts their affairs. See Pound, R, ‘The End of Law as Developed in Legal Rules and Doctrines’ (1914) 27(3) HarvLRev 195 , 199.

62 R v Gul [2013] UKSC 64. See also Greene, A, ‘The Quest for a Satisfactory Definition of Terrorism: R v Gul ’ (2014) 77(5) MLR 780 .

63 ibid [2].

64 ibid [24].

65 ibid.

66 ibid.

67 ibid [53].

68 ibid [18].

69 See (n 23).

70 Gul (n 62) [30]; Greene (n 62) 783.

71 ibid at [40].

72 ibid 15 at [40].

73 Greene (n 62) 785.

74 Gul (n 62) [26].

75 See Elliott, M, The Constitutional Foundations of Judicial Review (Hart Publishing 2001) ch 4.

76 See Anisminic v Foreign Compensation Commission [1969] 2 AC 147; R v Evans [2015] UKSC 21.

77 Gul (n 62) at [62].

78 ibid [63].

79 Art 15.2 ECHR.

80 See Harris, DJ, O'Boyle, M, Bates, EP and Buckley, CM, Law of the European Convention on Human Rights (2nd edn, Oxford University Press, 2009) ch 10.

81 ibid; Engels v Netherlands A 22 (197) EHRR 706.

82 Brogan v UK A 145-B (1988) 11 EHRR 117 PC, para. 51.

83 Ireland v United Kingdom A 25 (1978) 2 EHRR 25.

84 ibid para 85; 16 Yearbook of the Convention, 24–6.

85 See Greene, A, ‘Separating Normalcy from Emergency: The Jurisprudence of Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights’ (2011) 12(10) German Law Journal 1764 ; Gross, O and Aoláin, F Ní, ‘From Discretion to Scrutiny: Revisiting the Application of the Margin of Appreciation Doctrine in the Context of Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights’ (2001) 3 HumRtsQ 623 .

86 Brogan (n 82) [48].

87 See (n 47).

88 Gillan and Quinton v United Kingdom ECtHR 12 January 2010.

89 ibid [76].

90 ibid, quoting S and Marper v United Kingdom [2008] ECHR 1581.

91 See text to n 122 below for a discussion of Miranda v SSHD where the Court of Appeal issued a declaration of incompatibility against schedule 7 of the 2000 Act which permits stop and search powers of individuals suspected of terrorism at UK borders.

92 Terrorism Act 2000, section 1(4)(d).

93 R v F [2007] QB 960; Terrorism Act 2000, section 58(1)(b).

94 ibid [5]

95 ibid.

96 ibid [6].

97 ibid [26].

98 ibid [27].

99 ibid [29].

100 Saul, B, ‘Terrorism as a Legal Concept’ in Lennon, G and Walker, C (eds), Routledge Handbook of Law and Terrorism (Routledge 2015) ch 3; Sydney Law School Research Paper No 15/85 available at SSRN <http://ssrn.com/abstract=2664404> 9.

101 UNSC Res 1973 (17 March 2011) UN Doc S/RES/1973.

102 See NATO, ‘Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR: Final Mission Stats’ (2 November 2011) <http://www.nato.int/nato_static/assets/pdf/pdf_2011_11/20111108_111107-factsheet_up_factsfigures_en.pdf>.

103 O Corten and V Koutroulis, ‘The Illegality of Military Support to Rebels in the Libyan War: Aspects of jus contra bellum and jus in bello’ (2013) 18(1) JC&SL 59.

104 ibid.

105 ibid 71–3.

106 ibid 65; UN General Assembly (UNGA) Res 2625 (XXV) (24 October 1970);

107 Corten and Koutroulis (n 103) 71–3.

108 See Talmon, S, ‘Recognition of the Libyan National Transitional Council’ (2011) 15(16) ASIL Insights <https:// www.asil.org/insights/volume/15/issue/16/recognition-libyan-national-transitional-council>; ‘Libya: France Recognises Rebels as Government’ (BBC News, 10 March 2011) <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-12699183>; ‘Britain Recognises Libyan Rebels as Legitimate Government’ (CNN News, 27 July 2011) <http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/07/27/uk.libya.embassy/>.

109 Corten and Koutroulis (n 103) 87–90.

110 R v F (n 93) [30].

111 HC Deb 29 Aug 2013, vol 566, cols 1426–1556.

112 HC Deb2 Dec 2015, vol 603, cols 323–500.

113 R Spencer and R Sherlock, ‘Britain officially recognises new Syrian rebel coalition as country's ‘‘legitimate’’ government’ The Telegraph (20 November 2012) <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/9691319/Britain-officially-recognises-new-Syrian-rebel-coalition-as-countrys-legitimate-government.html>.

115 R Norton-Taylor, ‘Terror Trial Collapses after Fears of Deep Embarrassment to Security Services’ The Guardian (1 June 2015) <http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/01/trial-swedish-man-accused-terrorism-offences-collapse-bherlin-gildo> KJ Heller, ‘British Government says “Oops, Our Bad” in Terrorism Case’ (Opinio Juris, 7 September 2015) <http://opiniojuris.org/2015/09/07/uk-government-says-oops-our-bad-in-terrorism-case/>.

116 Crown Prosecution Service, ‘The Code for Crown Prosecutors’ (January 2013) <https:// www.cps.gov.uk/publications/docs/code_2013_accessible_english.pdf> 7–10 .

117 Terrorism Act 2000, section 117; Terrorism Act 2006, Pt I.

118 Walker, C, Terrorism and the Law (Oxford University Press 2011) 38 .

119 See Reinsurance (Acts of Terrorism) Act 1993 (n 1).

120 D Anderson, ‘Second Report of the Independent Reviewer on the Operation of the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011’ (TSO 2014) 51–3.

121 ibid 48–9.

122 [2016] EWCA Civ 6.

123 See G Greenwald, E MacAskill and L Poitras, ‘Edward Snowden: The whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations’ The Guardian (11 June 2013) <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance>.

124 Terrorism Act 2000, section 40(1)(b).

125 Miranda (n 122) [41].

126 ibid [43].

127 ibid [46].

128 ibid [47].

129 D Anderson, ‘The Terrorism Acts in 2013: Report of the Independent Reviewer on the Operation of the Terrorism Act 2000 and Part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006’ (TSO 2014) at [4.19].

130 Miranda (n 122) [53]–[54].

131 ibid [56].

132 ibid [113].

133 ibid [119].

134 See (n 130).

135 Anderson, D, ‘Shielding the Compass’ (2013) 3 EHRLR 233 , 243.

136 Walker, C, ‘The Legal Definition of “Terrorism” in United Kingdom Law and Beyond’ [2007] PL 331 , 337.

137 The Independent Reviewer in his 2014 Report suggested changing ‘influence’ to ‘designed to compel, coerce or undermine the government or an international organisation’. See D Anderson, ‘The Terrorism Acts in 2013: Report of the Independent Reviewer on the Operation of the Terrorism Act 2000 and Part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006’ (TSO 2014) [10.35–10.43].

138 Perry (n 4).

139 Saul (n 42).

140 ibid.

141 Thus Conor Gearty argues that it is this actual use of this term ‘terrorism’ that shapes legal, political and public discussions on the issue. See Gearty, C, ‘Human Rights in an Age of Counter-Terrorism’ in Gearty, C, Essays on Human Rights and Terrorism: Comparative Approaches to Civil Liberties in Asia, the EU and North America (Cameron May Publishers, 2008) 565–6; Grozdanova (n 44) 315.

142 Entman, RM, ‘Framing: Toward Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm’ (1993) 43(1) Journal of Communication 51 ; Papacharissi, Z and de Fatima Oliveira, M, ‘News Frames Terrorism: A Comparative Analysis of Frames Employed in Terrorism Coverage in US and UK Newspapers’ (2008) 13(1) International Journal of Press/Politics 52 , 53.

143 Kuypers, JA, Bush's War: Media Bias and Justifications for War in a Terrorist Age (Rowman & Littlefield 2009) 8 ; Gross, O and Aoláin, F Ní, ‘The Rhetoric of War: Words, Conflict, and Categorisation Post-9/11’ (2014) 24(2) Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy 241 , 247.

144 Gross and Ní Aoláin, ibid; see also generally Stuckey, ME, The President as Interpreter-in-Chief (CQ Press 1991); and Neustadt, RE, Presidential Power: The Politics of Leadership from FDR to Carter (Wiley 1980).

145 Norris, P, Kern, M and Just, M (eds), Framing Terrorism: The News Media, The Government, and the Public (Routledge 2003) 1214 .

146 See, for example, the June 2016 mass shooting in a gay nightclub in Orlando Florida. Initially framed as a homophobic attack, the subsequent establishment of a possible Islamic extremist motivation dominated the reporting of the event from that point on. See A Greene, ‘Orlando Massacre shows our understanding of ‘‘terrorism’’ is too focused on jihad’ The Conversation (14 June 2016) <https://theconversation.com/orlando-massacre-shows-our-understanding-of-terrorism-is-too-focused-on-jihad-60949>.

147 ibid.

148 See Garland, D, ‘The Limits of the Sovereign State’ (1996) 36(4) British Journal of Criminology 445 ; Kahn, P, ‘Torture and Democratic Violence’ (2009) 22(2) Ratio Juris 244 .

149 See Schmitt, C, The Concept of the Political (Schwab, G trans, University of Chicago Press 2007) 26 ; Bökenförde, E-W, ‘The Concept of the Political: A Key to Understanding Carl Schmitt's Constitutional Theory’ (1997) 10 Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 5 ;

150 Garland, D, The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Societies (OUP 2001) 184 .

151 See Cohen, S, Folk Devils and Moral Panics (3rd edn, Routledge, 2002).

152 Anderson (n 3) 12.

153 D Boffey and N Slawson, ‘Jo Cox accused gives name as “death to traitors, freedom for Britain”’ The Guardian (18 June 2016) <https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jun/18/jo-cox-murder-suspect-thomas-mair-told-police-he-was-political-activist>.

154 ‘Wrong to Make Political Capital from Jo Cox's Death’ The Daily Express (17 June 2016) <http://www.express.co.uk/comment/expresscomment/681026/jo-cox-mp-murdered-killed-wrong-political-capital> P Foster, R Mendick and M Wilkinson, ‘Thomas Mair: Man arrested in connection with Jo Cox attack was a ‘‘loner’’ with ‘‘history of mental health problems’’’ The Telegraph (16 June 2016) <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/16/jo-cox-mp-everything-we-know-so-far-about-thomas-mair/>.

155 J Grierson, ’ Leytonstone tube attacker “psychotic” at time of assault, court told’ The Guardian (27 July 2016) <https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/27/leytonstone-tube-attacker-muhiddin-mire-psychotic-court-told> P Cheston and J Davenport, ‘Lee Rigby murderer Adebowale ‘‘is borderline schizophrenic recommended for Broadmoor’’’ The London Evening Standard (19 December 2013) <http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/lee-rigby-murderer-adebowale-is-borderline-schizophrenic-recommended-for-broadmoor-9015617.html>.

156 Anderson (n 13).

157 Home Office, Counter Extremism Strategy (CM 9148, 2015) 9.

158 See (n 148).

159 Gearty, Terror (Faber and Faber 1991) 6.

160 As suggested by Friedrichs (n 23) and Grozdanova (n 44).

I would like to thank Colin Murray, Fiona de Londras, Ntina Tzouvala and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions on this article.

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