Terrorism has continued to threaten global peace and security.Internationally, the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States were tragic. This terrifying act has been followed by other major attacks such as, the tourist facilities on Bali in 2002, the siege of a middle school in Breslain, Russia, Madrid in 2004, and the London transit systems in 2005. Nigeria is not an exception. Since the increase in proportion of kidnapping and blasting of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta, terrorism in the country took a new dimension with the incessant deadly attacks by the sect known as Boko Haram. Reports have also linked Boko Haram to Al Qaeda.[1]

But in specific terms, what is terrorism? This is crucial because the term is capable of deliberate misconception.  At one point or another, one may conceive terrorists as revolutionaries, rebels, resistance fighters, freedom fighters, members of democratic opposition or national liberation soldiers. To label a group as terrorists or an act as terrorism suggest violence, immorality or evil.

The international community has never succeeded in developing an accepted comprehensive definition of terrorism. During the 1970s and 1980s, the United Nations attempted to define the term founded mainly due to differences of opinion between various members about the use of violence in the context of conflicts over national liberation and self-determination. Terrorism as defined by the Australian Defence Force is the use or threatened use of violence for political ends, or any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public or any section of the public in fear.  

In Nigeria, a “terrorist” is defined as “any person involved in the offences under Section 1 to 14 of this Act and includ es sponsor.”[2] Also, “act of terrorism” is provided to mean any act specified in section 1 of this Act

Section 1 of the Act provides for the Prohibition of Acts of Terrorism. A person who knowingly –
(a)   Does, attempts or threatens to do an act preparatory to or in furtherance of an act of terrorism;
(b)   Commits to do anything that is reasonably necessary to promote an act of terrorism; or
(c)   Assists or facilitates the activities of persons engaged in an act of terrorism, commits an offence under this Act.

Also, the Act also states what “act of terrorism” means.[3] It is to the effect that any deliberate act done with malice or aforethought which may result in serious harm or damage to a country or international organisation, and acts intended to unduly compel a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing an act, seriously intimidate a population, or destabilise or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation, or influence such government or international organisation by intimidation or coercion, among others, are acts of terrorism.

The implicit or explicit purpose of terrorism is to intimidate or compel a population, government or organisation into some course of action. International law has traditionally dealt with the duties and rights of states in their relations with each other. This is related to the fact that most International Laws dealing with international terrorism concentrates on the duties of states to prevent and punish terrorism.

Certainly, terrorism in all its forms is considered a criminal act under International Law, but historically terrorists have generally been punished under the domestic law of the country harmed by the specific act in question. The use of terror as a means to achieve political ends is not a new phenomenon, but it has recently acquired a new intensity. In many cases, terrorists deliberately choose targets in uninvolved third states as a means of pressuring the government of a state against which it is in conflict or its real or potential or assumed allies.

Recently, Iran, seen as the most active state sponsor of terrorism, has been aggressively seeking a nuclear arms capability. Iraq is thought to be stockpiling chemical and biological agents, while also rebuilding its nuclear weapons program. And North Korea recently admitted to having a hidden program for uranium enrichment.  Also, indications have surfaced that the Al Qaeda organisation attempted to acquire chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. However, despite political difficulties, increasing progress at an international and regional level has been made to establish rules of international law with regard to terrorism.

In conclusion, states are obliged to refrain from organising, instigating, facilitating, financing terrorist activities ant to take practical measures to ensure that their territories are not used for installations, training camps or for the preparation of terrorist acts against other states and also to apprehend and prosecute or extradite perpetrators of terrorist acts by co-operating with other states in exchanging information and combating terrorism.

Till next week, have a wonderful weekend!

[1] Documents Link Boko Haram to Bin Laden, Articles | THISDAY LIVE April 30, 2012

http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/documents-link-boko-haram-to-bin-laden/114822/ Accessed January 18, 2013; Increasing Link Between Boko Haram, Al Qaeda Affiliates – All Africa Dec 11, 2012. Accessed January 18, 2013. 

[2] Section 40 of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011, which is the Interpretation section of the Act
[3] Section 1(2) of the Act

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Nigerian Law Today

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