(Matthew Levitt is a Senior fellow and Director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy).
Eric raises excellent points. I’ll just add that on top of the question of whether the existing treaties do in fact cover the full waterfront on possible terrorist offenses, the lack of a common definition of terrorism has several other implications. Among them:
First, much of the debate over terrorism still focuses on the groups themselves and their underlying grievances or political objectives, not the actual acts of terrorism — the criminal terrorist offenses — they carry out. As such, the “terrorism v resistance” argument is given weight it does not deserve since the legal issue at hand is not why one carries out a criminal act of terrorism like a suicide bombing but the fact that such an act was carried out at all.
Second, the 1267 committee is only authorized to deal with al Qaeda and the Taliban, so all other groups — from Hamas and Hezbollah to FARC and ETA to Kach and Kahane Chai — can only be designated unilaterally by individual countries or by regional bodies like the EU. This too is a factor of the lack of a common definition of terrorism.
Finally, on a somewhat tangential note, the U.N. should re-establish an independent monitoring group not under the thumb of the Security Council, as my colleague Mike Jacobson has argued. In January 2004, the United Nations replaced the monitoring group with a team with far less autonomy after some member states complained that its reports were too critical. The monitoring team has done excellent work, and should be given full and free reign to accomplish its important mission.
— Matthew Levitt
This week long terrorism salon will continue to be hosted by The Washington Note and UN Dispatch.