(Eric Rosand is a senior fellow at the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation in New York and a nonresident fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation).
Thanks, Matt, for following this thread.
On the definition issue, at risk of stating the obvious, the distinction between “terrorists” and “freedom fighters” is given weight it doesn’t deserve because of the inherently political nature of any discussion of who is and who isn’t a terrorist. The fact that the US only recently took Nelson Mandela off of its terrorist list is a reminder of this.
I don’t think it’s realistic to expect one to divorce the politics from the law here, particularly in the context of efforts to reach agreement among the diversity of countries within the UN. It’s worth noting that many sitting governments in sub-saharan Africa (and elsewhere) saw themselves as “freedom fighters” (and were often labeled by Western governments as “terrorists”) when they fought to “overthrow” the colonial regimes that had been in place.
Thus, to the extent there is any hope to finally reach agreement on a global definition of terrorism, the task can’t be left to the lawyers (I was one of them!) to try to resolve the differences in the draft UN comprehensive convention on international terrorism that has been in play for some years now. Instead, high-level political engagement is needed. This needs to come from the UN Secretary-General, the US President, and leaders from key Islamic and African countries. Finding a way to get President Abbas to come to the UN General Assembly and condemn all indiscriminate attacks against civilians carried out for political purposes, even if committed by Palestinian “freedom fighters”, for example, would be an important first step.
On Matt’s 1267 Committee point, the issue is a bit more complicated. For example, it’s worth recalling that the US was one of the loudest critics of the Monitoring Group that was disbanded in 2004. In fact, the US lead the charge in the UNSC to not renew the mandate. Much of the criticism had to do with the occasional failure of the group to stay within it its mandate and back up its often pointed assertions in its reports with the necessary factual support.
As for whether the UNSC should establish an independent panel, this is something that I hope to address in a broader discussion of the UN’s role in CT, which I hope will be prompted.
— Eric Rosand
This week long terrorism salon will continue to be hosted by The Washington Note and UN Dispatch.