Lack of Definition
The achievement of a universal definition of terrorism has encountered extensive challenges despite the urgent need to realize a clarified definition. The reason behind challenges in definition lies with the emotional and political emotions appropriated to terrorism. The legal and political confrontations on terrorism have compounded the definition trajectory resulting in irreconcilable divergences.
The Term Terrorism
Most nations and terrorism have adopted individualized definitions leading to the sustenance of definitive differences. Further, the term has evolved and continues to evolve leading to continued differences. According to the United Nations, the definitions carries a subjective end and an objective end. The former insists on the perpetrators’ motives as the precedence behind the construction of terrorism. The latter indicates that terrorism can acquire its definition from the profiling a definable size. Most definitions across countries take this direction.
Then the Cause of not having Definition
While terrorism comprises criminal activities, the lack of a definition commences from ambiguous descriptions around crimes and the motives behind perpetrators. A country can invade another and kill thousands of people illegally. A lone gunman can orchestrate the death of hundreds of people. The former may not qualify as terrorism while the latter manifests as a fully-fledged terrorism activity. These variations in interpretations cannot allow a harmonized definition.
History of Definition by the Mid-19th Century
The definition of terrorism in the 19th century can be traced to the presence of radicalized revolutionaries. Such figures as Karl Marx, Mikhail Bakunin and Pierre-Joseph heavily promoted anti-establishment ideals. The start of their actions opened up revolutionary actions across Europe. The lack of favorable government response forced the radicals to adopt violent means. It is the mass execution of violence that raised interest on the possibility of terrorism. The targeted assassinations indicated a defined motive.
The Problem with the Definition in International Law
International law proposes the interpretation of terrorism from an incident perspective. The United Nations retained the definition of terrorism from such isolated events as taking hostages, mass bombings and nuclear actions. Given that perpetrators do not undertake them from a collective angle, international law retains a vacancy in definition formulation. One of the factors behind the problem in international definition is the possible presence of state support in terrorism activities. Given that states remain signatory of international laws, it becomes impossible to realize a unified definition.
The Reason for that Comprehensive Definition
The existent definition of terrorism arises from agreements on the extents of crimes and the motives therein. For example, most acts qualified as terrorist events often end up causing mass fear among populations. It is the issue of causing widespread fear that has made many people profile certain actions as terror acts.
The Saudi Definition
Saudi Arabia determines the level of a terrorist activity based on the disruption of ‘public order’. Saudi Arabia proceeds to indicate that terrorism remain acts that risk the stability of the state, and interrupts community security.
The Crown Prosecution Service, within the United Kingdom, interprets terrorism as any activity designed to disrupt the working of any international organization or dedicated towards reigning intimidation over the people. The UK also profiles acts as terrorist events if they are designed to cause disruption to a mass electronic system.
Walker C, Terrorism and the Law (Oxford University Press 2011)