The UN Still has no Definition of Terrorism.


source: Eye on The U.N.   May 4, 2010

There is no UN definition of terrorism

The UN has no internationally-agreed definition of terrorism.

The definitional impasse has prevented the adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. Even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the UN failed to adopt the Convention, and the deadlock continues to this day.


The prime reason is the standoff with the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). It seeks to insert into the Convention: “The activities of the parties during an armed conflict, including in situations of foreign occupation….are not governed by this Convention.” Or, as the Pakistani delegate describes the standoff on behalf of the OIC, there is a need “to make a distinction between terrorism and the exercise of legitimate right of peoples to resist foreign occupation.” In October 2007 the Coordinator of the informal negotiating meetings which had been organized “to move the process forward” circulated a document in which she named the outstanding issues. The OIC demand was on the top of the list, namely, “the importance not to affect the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination.”

The Arab Terrorism Convention and the Terrorism Convention of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) define terrorism to exclude armed struggle for liberation and self-determination. This claim purports to exclude blowing up certain civilians from the reach of international law and organizations. It is central to interpreting every proclamation by the states which have ratified these conventions in any UN forum purporting to combat terrorism.

The report of the Chairman of the Working Group on terrorism from October 24, 2008 gives no hope that the OIC’s stonewalling of a comprehensive convention against terrorism will come to an end anytime soon.

Quite the opposite is true. The UN General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee (AHC) on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism concluded its 14th Session on April 16, 2010 without reaching agreement on the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT). Working from the 2007 version of a package and on the premise that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Member States struggled with questions on the scope of and exceptions to the definition of terrorism. The AHC’s report of April 16, 2010 reiterates that “some delegations pointed out the necessity to distinguish between acts of terrorism and the legitimate struggle of people in the exercise of their right to self-determination.”

The AHC concluded its Session by recommending that the GA’s Sixth (Legal) Committee establish a Working Group on the CCIT in the 65th Session, so as to continue negotiations “with a view to finalizing the draft” and continue to discuss “the question of convening a high-level conference.”

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