Research Handbook on International Law and Terrorism
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Research Handbook on International Law and Terrorism

Edited by Ben Saul

This newly revised and updated second edition provides a comprehensive overview of international counter-terrorism law and practice. Brand new and revised chapters provide critical commentary on the law from leading scholars and practitioners in the field, including new topics for this edition such as foreign terrorist fighters, the nexus between organized crime and terrorism, and the prevention of violent extremism.
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Chapter 20: Terrorism and self-determination

Elizabeth Chadwick


This chapter seeks to clarify and distinguish the purpose and role of the use of non-state violence in liberation struggles, not least because the current trend in global condemnation of all such violence as ‘terrorism’ places a heavy burden on apprehended persons faced with extradition and/or prosecution for ‘terrorism’. Inasmuch as many struggles for self-determination have indeed been exceedingly violent, it is useful to recall that violence to effect system change has been deemed necessary throughout history. On this basis, a wide and inclusive approach to self-determination and ‘freedom struggles’ is adopted. Further, given the IHL regulatory framework is designed to restrain the use of force by all parties in conflict, and is situated at the crossroads of ‘peace’ and war, it is particularly useful by way of reference to highlight many meaningful distinctions between purposeful ‘liberationist’, and indiscriminate ‘terrorist’, forms of non-state violence. IHL also helps to illustrate the legal gap which has widened in recent years between IHL standards and those in domestic law-and-order policies, which latter are prone increasingly to exempt from official censure excessive uses of state force. It is concluded that, as the resort to tactical violence to achieve strategic goals cannot be prevented but is instead a question of context, violent ‘terrorist’ struggles for self-determination will likely continue to occur.

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