Terrorism a Curse or Blessing to International Humanitarian Law

Topics: Human rights, Law, Laws of war Pages: 7 (2229 words) Published: March 31, 2011

Executive summary

This paper looks into terrorism and the effect it has had on international humanitarian law. Whether it has had a negative impact on the already existing laws that deal with conflict situations or whether it has had a positive impact. It also looks into the situations terrorism has led to and the various ways the fight against terrorism has been used to undermine human rights and given states a leeway to commit crimes and walk away without facing the consequences. It also looks into how prisoners or detainees who have been arrested because they have been linked to terrorism have a disadvantage if compared to prisoners or detainees of war who are protected under international humanitarian law. It also gives various solutions to the problem the world is currently facing of dealing with terrorism without undermining the current laws in place. The paper also provides for solutions that include using existing laws that complement each other to find a lasting resolution to terrorism.


Terrorism is a relatively new phenomenon in the world. It became a great issue when the most powerful nation, United States of America, became a victim of this new phenomenon. Before the attacks on the United States of America, there were several attacks such as the bomb attacks in Kenya and Uganda. However after the attacks on the United States was when terrorism was taken as a serious issue and debates begun all over the world on how to solve the problem and eventually the term war on terror or fight against terror was born. This war on terror also led to a situation where existing laws were questioned on whether they can deal with terrorism efficiently.

Terrorism and International Humanitarian Law

The fight against international terrorism has also led to states ignoring and threatening human rights of their citizens and other people such as refugees and immigrants. States have ignored the fact that it is their responsibility and duty to make sure that their citizens are safe without undermining the basic human rights standards. Current initiatives being taken up by states to counter the problem of terrorism have no respect for human right and at times lead to the oppression of the people in the name of fighting terrorism. Defining the term terrorism has been discussed but no international definition has been decided and this gives room to states to use this to their advantage giving them a leeway to criminalize whomever they want to under the umbrella of terrorism. This can also lead to the states revoking certain rights such as the freedom of expression and the right to privacy all in the name of fighting terrorism.

States have also used the fight against terror as a front of making the world safer on the contrary the world is more dangerous than it was because international laws are being undermined, human rights are being ignored and governments are committing atrocities and breaking the law and hiding behind the fight against terrorism. The fight against terror has also caused more conflicts to do with religion and race. This has caused fear among the rich and also the poor because the impact is felt by all.

Attention to international humanitarian law has increased over the years because of the fight against terrorism since terrorism acts are now rampant around the world. September 11th attacks in the United States of America and how the international community dealt with the attacks have led to various entities questioning the ability of or lack of provision in international humanitarian law to deal with terrorist attacks and other modern day acts of violence. International humanitarian law has been put on the spot light on whether or not it is still relevant.

These claims can only be clarified if the definition of the term terrorism can be looked at from the different sources of law that have defined the term....

Bibliography: http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/faq/terrorism-faq-050504.htm. International Humanitarian Law and Terrorism, Questions and Answers (2004). Retrieved 23/10/2010.
http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/misc/66ema9.htm. The relevance of international humanitarian law in contemporary armed conflicts (2004). Committee of legal advisers on public international law (CADHI), 28th meeting Lausanne, September 2004 - Intervention by Dr. Jakob Kellenberger, President of the ICRC. Retrieved 1/11/2010.
http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/statement/ihl-statement-080508.htm. International humanitarian law: its relevance in contemporary conflict (2008). Annual lecture, SOAS, University of London, address by Angelo Gnaedinger, director-general of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Retrieved 1/11/2010.
Alison Parker and Jamie Fellner, Above the Law: Executive Power after September 11 in the United States (2004), World Report, Human Rights Watch.
Report 2004, War on Global values (May 26, 2004), Amnesty International.
International Convention for the Supression of the Financing of Terrorism, United Nations General Assembly, Resolution 54/109, December 9, 1999.
Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their two Additional Protocols of 1977.
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