International laws to combat terrorism: 5 question to Professor Shubhra Sanyal

General Assembly, United Nations, NY

1. International laws to control terrorism are complex and need a better commitment and consensus worldwide. What would be your 3 top priorities when it comes to international laws to control terrorism?


Among other things, top priorities primarily include improving ways to check the flow of money to terror groups for financing their operations, internationally accepted ways overcoming lock-in situations like China blocking global action against a terrorist group based in Pakistan, and an evolved mechanism checking the flow of arms to these groups. Besides, in an ever-evolving scenario on the terrorism front at the international arena, there is a need to evolve strategies to counter ideological dimension, religious, racial etc.


2. The international community has elaborated 19 international legal instruments to prevent terrorist acts. Those instruments were developed under the auspices of the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and are open to participation by all Member States. What measures should be taken into account that are not currently included?


No counter-terrorism strategy can be worked out to check the menace which changes itself every now and then in terms of strategies employed by terrorists in their operations across the world. As the terrorist operations differ on various parameters, the counter-terror measures have to be evolved on a case-by-case basis. Every emergent situation provides new challenges not seen before, legally or otherwise. The Pulwama attack and the New Zealand attack can't be compared. Depending on the nature of the crisis, the use of veto by an UNSC member to hold action against a particular terror group or any other needs to be dealt with accordingly. These challenges might provide an indication to the direction to overcome a similar crisis in the future. A major hurdle is to overcome member-states' reluctance to take action within or to allow any action in their territory, with adequate safeguards for their sovereignty.


A major hurdle is to overcome UN member-states' reluctance to take action within or to allow any action in their territory, with adequate safeguards for their sovereignty.

3. Tackling the problem of terrorism needs a multidimensional approach and does not lie in using only military action, which can only cure the symptoms of terrorism – the outward manifestation – and not the problem itself. There is a need for a change in the way people perceive terrorism. This change can be achieved by campaigns, both at the grassroots and upper levels. This change is where the role of NGOs and other international organizations becomes indispensable. What should these actors do to reach upper levels and impact counter-terrorism policies and laws? What is stopping them?


Everyone's perception of terrorism can't be same. One man's terrorist can and will always remain others' freedom fighter. International organizations/NGOs have a limited role in anti-terror operations. Either of these bodies can prevent acceptance of terrorist ideology/actions among the people. Those with areas and backgrounds which are more vulnerable, or whose role comes after military actions against terror groups, are over. They can bridge the communication gap between the victims, perpetrators, and the authorities. These actors can influence the counter-terror strategies/policies and laws by facilitating the flow of relevant information to the establishments and ensure suitable actions on the resultant polices/laws. Several factors, including their acceptance by the parties involved in the conflict, could be hindering their involvement in conflict mitigation and resolution.


Those with areas and backgrounds which are more vulnerable, or whose role comes after military actions against terror groups, are over. They can bridge the communication gap between the victims, perpetrators, and the authorities.

4.  Counter terrorism should be extremely linked to human rights; both are complementary and should be adopted in the cause against terrorism. Another approach would lead to the abuse and denial of human rights. What should human rights bodies do to increase their participation and liaise with other stakeholders to achieve better-designed counter-terrorism laws and policies in line with the respect of human rights?  

 

Apart from providing support to the victims of terror, human rights bodies or NGOs can try to facilitate the transmission of information to the actors in a conflict. As a counter-terrorist move can lead to a hardening stance on both sides, which can lead to human rights violations by actors on both sides, human rights bodies or NGOs can help isolate terrorists by regular interaction with the masses of the affected regions. In terrorist-controlled regions, they can help reduce effects on the common population.


5. Let's talk about ISIS. According to international laws, what would be the best option to prosecute ISIS fighters if an ad hoc system (an international court) is created to prosecute them?


They can be tried the way the perpetrators of the second World War were held accountable, by a special purpose judicial mechanism. 


NGOs can help isolate terrorists by regular interaction with the masses of the affected regions. In terrorist-controlled regions, they can help reduce effects on the common population.

Dr Shubhra Sanyal is a researcher, professor and criminal psychologist. Professor Sanyal has researched the relations between law and terrorism for decades. Her work has impacted national and international policies around the world. She is a Former Senior Reader (NICFS Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science, Sector 3 Rohini, Delhi).

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