Defining Terrorism as the Peace Time Equivalent of War Crimes: A Case of Too Much Convergence Between International Humanitarian Law and International Criminal Law


The problem of defining "terrorism" has vexed the international community for years. The United Nations General Assembly has repeatedly called for the convening of an international conference to define terrorism and distinguish it from legitimate acts in furtherance of national liberation struggles.' A decade ago, representing the United States, I gave a speech in the United Nations Sixth (Legal) Committee, in which I pointed out that general definitions of terrorism "are notoriously difficult to achieve and dangerous in what all but the most perfect of definitions excludes by chance." Today, we hear calls for a renewed effort to reach international agreement on a definition of terrorism, drawing from existing definitions of war crimes as a way around the definitional quagmire. This presents a case study for the topic of today's panel and raises the question: Is the convergence of the laws of war and international criminal law always a good thing?



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ILSA Journal of International and Comparative Law

Publication Information

7 International Law Students Association Journal of International & Comparative Law 391 (2001)

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COinS Michael P. Scharf Faculty Bio