Current international law contains no definition of terrorism. The term comprises various acts and kinds of behaviour ranging from what everyone certainly regards as illegal to what some regard as illegal and others as legal. From the point of view of international humanitarian law, terrorism is only covered when committed within the framework or as part of an armed conflict. It does not apply to attacks against combatants and military objectives provided that the acts of violence it entails are perpetrated by combatants or members of armed groups and that the means used are lawful. Conversely, attacks on the civilian population and civilian objects, by whatever means and for whatever reasons, are prohibited. Between the extremes of legitimate acts of war against combatants and military objectives, and the prohibition of acts of terrorism against the civilian population and civilian objects, there is a wide range of controversial action.   See War on Terror;






Suggested readings:

BENBEKHTI Nabil, “Les actions entreprises à l’égard des ressortissants français détenus à Guantánamo Bay”, in Actualité et Droit International, March 2004,   BORELLI Silvia, “The Treatment of Terrorist Suspects Captured Abroad: Human Rights and Humanitarian Law”, in BIANCHI Andrea (ed.), Enforcing International Law Norms against Terrorism, Oxford, Hart, 2004, pp. 39-61.   DÖRMANN Knut, “The Legal Situation of ‘Unlawful/Unprivileged Combatants’”, in IRRC, No. 849, March 2003, pp. 45-74.   BYERS Michael, “Terrorism, the Use of Force and International Law after 11 September”, in ICLQ, Vol. 51/2, 2002, pp. 401-414.   CASSESE Antonio, “Terrorism is also Disrupting Crucial Legal Categories of International Law”, in EJIL, Vol. 12/5, 2001, pp. 993-1001.   CONDORELLI Luigi & NAQVI Yasmin, “The War against Terrorism and Jus in Bello: Are the Geneva Conventions Out of Date?”, in BIANCHI Andrea (ed.), Enforcing International Law Norms against Terrorism, Oxford, Hart, 2004, pp. 25-37.   COURMONT Barthélémy & RIBNIKAR Darko, Les guerres asymétriques: conflits d’hier et d’aujourd’hui, terrorisme et nouvelles menaces, Paris, Dalloz, 2nd ed., 2009, 427 pp.   EMANUELLI Claude, “Faut-il parler d’une “guerre” contre le terrorisme?”, in Canadian Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 46, 2008, pp. 415-430.   FERNANDO-SANCHEZ Pablo Antonio (ed.), International Legal Dimension of Terrorism (See in particular Part IV, ‘Terrorism and Armed Conflicts”), Leiden, M. Nijhoff, 2009, 512 pp.   GASSER Hans-Peter, “Acts of ‘Terrorism’ and International Humanitarian Law”, in IRRC, No. 897, September 2002, pp. 547-570.   GASSER Hans-Peter, “Prohibition of Terrorist Acts in International Humanitarian Law”, in IRRC, No. 253, August 1986, pp. 200-212.   GASSER Hans-Peter, “International Humanitarian Law, the Prohibition of Terrorist Acts and the Fight against Terrorism”, in YIHL, Vol. 4, 2001, pp. 329-347.   GILBERT Paul, New Terror, New Wars, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Press University, 2004, 208 pp.   GRAHAM DAVID E., “The Law of Armed Conflict and the War on Terrorism”, in JACQUES Richard B. (ed.), Issues in International Law and Military Operations, in International Law Studies, Vol. 80, 2006, pp. 331-337.   GREENWOOD Christopher, “International Law and the ‘War against Terrorism’”, in International Affairs, Vol. 78/2, 2002, pp. 301-317.   HEINTZE Hans-Joachim, “Terrorism and Asymmetrical Conflicts: a Role for the Martens Clause?”, in GIEGERICH Thomas (ed.), A Wiser Century?: Judicial Dispute Settlement, Disarmament and the Laws of War 100 Years After the Second Hague Peace Conference, Berlin, Duncker and Humblot, 2009, pp. 429-434   HOFFMAN Michael H., “State Practice, the Customary Law of War and Terrorism: Adapting Old Rules to Meet New Threats”, in IYHR, Vol. 34, 2004, pp. 231-249.   Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report on Terrorism and Human Rights, OEA/Ser. L/V/II.116 Doc. 5 rev. 1 corr., 22 October 2002,   JACKSON Jami Melissa, “The Legality of Assassination of Independent Terrorist Leaders: an Examination of National and International Implications”, in North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation, Vol. 24/3, 1999, pp. 669-697.   JODOIN Sébastien, “Terrorism as a War Crime”, in International Criminal Law Review, Vol. 7, No. 1, 2007, pp. 77-115.   KING Faiza Patel & SWAAK-GOLDMAN Olivia, “The Applicability of International Humanitarian Law to the ‘War on Terrorism’”, in Hague Yearbook of International Law, 2003, Vol. 15, 2002, pp. 39-49.   KLABBERS Jan, “Rebel with a Cause? Terrorists and Humanitarian Law”, in EJIL, Vol. 14/2, April 2003, pp. 299-312.   LAVOYER Jean-Philippe, “International Humanitarian Law and Terrorism”, in LIJNZAAD Liesbeth, VAN SAMBEEK Johanna & TAHZIB-LIE Bahia (eds), Making the Voice of Humanity Heard, Leiden/Boston, M. Nijhoff, 2004, pp. 255-270.   LIETZAU William, “Combating Terrorism: The Consequences of Moving from Law Enforcement to War”, in WIPPMAN David & EVANGELISTA Matthew (eds), New Wars, NewLaws? Applying the Laws of War in 21st Century Conflicts, New York, Transnational Publishers, 2005, pp. 31-51.   LINNAN David K., Enemy Combatants, Terrorism and Armed Conflict Law: a Guide to the Issues, Westport, London, Praeger Security International, 2008, 400 pp.   LOBEL Jules, “The Use of Force to Respond to Terrorist Attacks: the Bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan”, in The Yale Journal of International Law, Vol. 24/2, 1999, pp. 537-557.   MCDONALD Neil & SULLIVAN Scott, “Rational Interpretation in Irrational Times: The Third Geneva Convention and War on Terror”, in Harvard International Law Journal, Vol. 44/1, 2003, pp. 301-316.   MOFIDI Manooher & ECKERT Amy E., “‘Unlawful Combatants’ or ‘Prisoners of War’: the Law and Politics of Labels”, in Cornell International Law Journal, Vol. 36, 2003, pp. 59-92.   MOORE Catherine, “The United States, International Humanitarian Law and the Prisoners at Guantánamo Bay”, in The International Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 7/2, Summer 2003, pp. 3-27.   NEUMAN Gerald L. “Humanitarian Law and Counterterrorist Force”, in EJIL, Vol. 14/2, April 2003, pp. 283-298.   PETIT Françoise Camille, “Terrorisme et droit international humanitaire : quelles leçons tirer du statut controversé des prisonniers de Guantánamo ?”, in Droit et Défense, Vol. 3, 2002, pp. 25-32.   PLAW Avery, “Upholding the Principle of Distinction in Counter-Terrorist Operations: a Dialogue”, in Journal of Military Ethics, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2010, pp. 3-22.   POWELL C.H. & ABRAHAM Garth, “Terrorism and International Humanitarian Law”, in African Yearbook on International Humanitarian Law, 2006, pp. 118-147.   QUENIVET Noëlle, “The Applicability of International Humanitarian Law to Situations of a (Counter-)Terrorist Nature”, in ARNOLD Roberta & HILDBRAND Pierre-Antoine (eds), International Humanitarian Law and the 21st Century’s Conflicts, Lausanne, Edis, 2005, pp. 25-59.   RATNER Steven R., “Predator and Prey: Seizing and Killing Suspected Terrorists Abroad”, in Journal of Political Philosophy, September 2007, Vol. 15, Issue 3, pp. 251-275.   ROBERTS Adam, “The Laws of War in the War on Terror”, in IYHR, Vol. 32, 2002, pp. 193-245.   ROBERTS Adam, “Counter Terrorism, Armed Force and the Laws of War”, in Survival, Vol. 44/1, 2002, pp. 7-32.   RUBIN Alfred P., “Applying the Geneva Conventions: Military Commissions, Armed Conflict, and Al-Qaeda”, in The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Vol. 26/1, 2002, pp. 79-81.   SANDOZ Yves, “Lutte contre le terrorisme et droit international: risques et opportunités”, in Revue Suisse de Droit International et de Droit Européen, Vol. 3, 2002, pp. 319-354.   SASSÒLI Marco, “Terrorism and War”, in Journal of International Criminal Justice, Vol. 4, Issue 5, 2006, pp. 969-981.   SASSÒLI Marco, “La définition du terrorisme et le droit international humanitaire”, in Revue québécoise de droit international, Vol. 19, hors-série, 2007, pp. 29-48.   SASSÒLI Marco, “La ‘guerre contre le terrorisme’, le droit international humanitaire et le statut de prisonnier de guerre”, in CYIL, Vol. 39, 2001, pp. 211-252.   SASSÒLI Marco, “Use and Abuse of the Laws of War in the ‘War Against Terrorism’”, in Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, Vol. 22, 2004, pp. 195-221.   SASSÒLI Marco, “The Status of Persons Held in Guantánamo Under International Humanitarian Law”, in Journal of International Criminal Justice, Vol. 2/1, March 2004, pp. 96-106.   SAUL Ben, Defining Terrorism in International Law, Oxford, OUP, 2006, 373 pp.   SAYAPIN Sergey, “The Application of the Fair Trial Guarantees to Alleged Terrorists in Non-International Armed Conflicts”, in Humanitäres Völkerrecht, Vol. 3, 2004, pp. 152-159.   SPEROTTO Federico, “Targeted Killings in response to Security Threats: Warfare and Humanitarian Issues”, in Global Jurist, Vol. 8, Issue 3, 2008, pp. 1-32.   SVARC Dominika, “The Use of Military Force in the Fight Against Terrorism: International Legal Framework”, in ISILYearbook of International Humanitarian and Refugee Law, Vol. 6, 2006, pp. 142-168.   TIGROUDJA Hélène, “Quel(s) droit(s) applicable(s) à la ‘guerre au terrorisme’ ?”, in AFDI, Vol. 48, 2002, pp. 81-102.   TOMAN Jiri, “The Status of Al Qaeda/Taliban Detainees Under the Geneva Conventions”, in IYHR, Vol. 32, 2002, pp. 271-304.   TRAVALIO Gregory M., “Terrorism, International Law, and the Use of Military Force”, in WisconsinInternational Law Journal, Vol. 18/1, 2000, pp. 145-191.   VAREILLES Thierry, Encyclopédie du Terrorisme International, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2001, 549 pp.   VEUTHEY Michel, “Le droit international humanitaire face à la guerre contre le terrorisme”, in DOUCET Ghislaine (ed.), Terrorisme, victimes et responsabilité pénale internationale, Paris, Calmann-Lévy, 2003, pp. 516-529.   VIERUCCI Luisa, “Prisoners of War or Protected Persons qua Unlawful Combatants? The Judicial Safeguards to which Guantánamo Bay Detainees are Entitled”, in Journal of International Criminal Justice, Vol. 1, 2003, pp. 284-314.   WAXMAN Matthew C., “Detention as Targeting: Standards of Certainty and Detention of Suspected Terrorists”, in Columbia Law Review, 2008, Vol. 108, pp. 1365-1430   WAXMAN Matthew C., “The Structure of Terrorism Threats and the Laws of War”, in Duke Journal of Comparative and International Law, Vol. 20, No. 3, 2010, pp. 429-455.   WEDGWOOD Ruth, “Responding to Terrorism: the Strikes Against Bin Laden”, in The Yale Journal of International Law, Vol. 24/2, 1999, pp. 559-576.   YOO John C. & HO James C., “The Status of Terrorists”, in Virginia Journal of International Law, Vol. 44, Fall 2003, pp. 207-228.