Counter-Terrorism, Human Rights and the Rule of Law

Counter-Terrorism, Human Rights and the Rule of Law

Crossing Legal Boundaries in Defence of the State

Edited by Aniceto Masferrer and Clive Walker

The initial responses to 9/11 engaged categorical questions about ‘war’, ‘terrorism’, and ‘crime’. Now the implementation of counter-terrorism law is infused with dichotomies – typically depicted as the struggle between security and human rights, but explored more exactingly in this book as traversing boundaries around the roles of lawyers, courts, and crimes; the relationships between police, military, and security agencies; and the interplay of international and national enforcement. The contributors to this book explore how developments in counter-terrorism have resulted in pressures to cross important ethical, legal and organizational boundaries. They identify new tensions and critique the often unwanted outcomes within common law, civil law, and international legal systems.

Chapter 2: What does ‘terrorism’ mean?

Mariona Llobet Anglí

Subjects: law - academic, criminal law and justice, human rights, terrorism and security law


Nowadays almost everyone, everywhere, feels free to talk about ‘terror- ism’. Expressions like ‘domestic terrorism’, ‘ecological terrorism’, ‘forest terrorism’ or ‘traffic terrorism’ have been coined by politicians, public opinion and in academia in recent times. Within the mass media, the term ‘terrorism’ appears every day in news or opinion articles of many occidental newspapers. The trend has also infiltrated the legal practices of different European countries. They have considered as acts of terrorism a range of activities, including common forms of criminal damage to property, arson or breaches of the peace. For example, the German Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt) and the German General Attorney Office (Bundesanwaltschaft), in 2007, labelled as ‘terrorist’ the group Militante Gruppe (MG), though it only committed arson attacks that did not put in peril the life of any person. In like manner, the Terrorism and Organized Crime Prosecutor’s Office in Greece decided to initiate investigations in order to clarify whether the arson attacks that devastated Greece in August 2007 could be considered as acts of terrorism. By the same token, Spanish criminal courts have punished as terrorism some public disorders merely because of their capacity for disturbing security on the streets. Moreover, the term, ‘terrorism’, has historically been used to name distinct phenomena in different time periods, and terrorist methods are employed in many scenarios. Thus, terrorism as a method, that is, the resort to violent acts capable of filling people with terror, appears together with other forms of political violence.

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