Thursday, October 02, 2008

New York Judge Instructs PLO On Difference Between Terrorism And War

Apparently one man's terrorist is not every man's freedom fighter, as the PLO tries to get a lawsuit dismissed:
[U.S. District Judge George] Daniels said the attacks targeted public places _ not military or government personnel or interests. Two bombings were on downtown streets; others occurred at a crowded bus stop, a cafeteria at the Hebrew University and a passenger-filled civilian bus.

The use of bombs in these circumstances indicates an intent "to cause far-reaching devastation upon the masses," the judge said, with a "merciless capability of indiscriminately killing and maiming untold numbers in heavily populated civilian areas."

Such attacks "upon non-combative civilians, who were allegedly simply going about their everyday lives, do not constitute acts of war," he said.

Daniels also said the violence meets the legal definition of "international terrorism."
Judge Daniels may be overly optimistic on the legal definition of international terrorism. I blogged about the issue 2 years ago, and among other things--US law at the time was not necessarily helpful. Consider:
U.S. v. Yousef (page 59), a Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that
there continues to be strenuous disagreement between States about what actions do or do not constitute terrorism, nor have we shaken ourselves free of the cliché that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
The same opinion also quotes Justice Robert Bork that "[N]o consensus has developed on how properly to define ‘terrorism’ generally.” (p. 58)

One of the sources of the confusion comes from an expected source:
under one of the various United Nations resolutions addressing terrorism, armed and violent acts do not constitute “terrorism” if committed by peoples seeking self-determination in opposition to a violently enforced occupation. See, e.g., Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations Among Co-operating States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, Oct. 24, 1970 (note 42, page 60)
The Arabs naturally have a self-serving definition of terrorism:
The Arab Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism (Cairo, Apr. 22, 1998), reprinted in International Instruments Related to the Prevention and Suppression of International Terrorism, 152-73 (U nited Nations 2001), while condemning terrorism, takes a uniquely restrictive approach to defining it, stating that offenses committed against the interests of Arab states are “terrorist offenses,” while offenses committed elsewhere or against other peoples or interests are not. (note 42, page 60)
Thus armed struggle is always allowed--almost:
The Convention further defines as legitimate (non-terrorist) “[a]ll cases of struggle by whatever means, including armed struggle,” unless such struggles “prejudic[e] the territorial integrity of any Arab State.” Id. at Art. II(a). [emphasis added]
It would be interesting to see what legal definitions Judge Daniels has in mind. It's hard to believe that the legal outlook on terrorism has changed, unless it is for the worse.

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1 comment:

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Yeah. Quite a unique view of terrorism and violence in general. In short "when we do it, it's fine".