‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’: are such movements as Hezbollah, Hamas, the IRA, ETA, the Tamil Tigers, and so on ‘terrorists’ or ‘freedom fighters’? With the absence of a consensus on a clear, universal and permanent definition of terrorism, that famous adage will continue to characterise international relations, and the chaos, confusion and controversy surrounding the term ‘terrorist’ will continue to lead to double standards in applying international law.
Why is there so much confusion when it comes to pinpointing who is a terrorist? The controversy, the author affirms, lies in the definition – or rather, the absence of definition – of terrorism. Indeed, hitherto, the definition of terrorism that has been used, and abused, in international relations has been mainly political, relative, partial, shifting, and selective. The legal dimension has been conspicuously missing.
How can terrorism be combated in a fair and efficient manner, asks the author, if it is not first identified? To that end, she lays down the conditions and criteria that are necessary for defining terrorism and thenceforth ending once and for all the double standards in defining and fighting terrorism.