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SSRN-id1373590

Counter-Terrorism Law and Practice: An International Handbook

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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1373590 1 Beyond “Freedom Fighters” and “Terrorists”: When, if Ever, is Non-State Violence Legitimate in International Law? 1 Frédéric Mégret Assistant-Professor, Faculty of Law, McGill University Canada Research Chair in the Law of Human Rights and Legal Pluralism Contents Legitimate ends ............................................................................................................................... 5 Resistance to colonization ........................................................................................................... 6 Resistance to aggression and illegal occupation ......................................................................... 8 Resistance to international crimes and massive human rights violations ................................. 10 Resistance to tyranny and totalitarianism ................................................................................. 12 Legitimate means .......................................................................................................................... 13 Humanitarian law ...................................................................................................................... 15 Human rights law ...................................................................................................................... 16 Legitimate conditions .................................................................................................................... 20 Subsidiarity ............................................................................................................................... 20 Proportionality .......................................................................................................................... 22 “Right authority” ....................................................................................................................... 23 Reasonable prospects of success ............................................................................................... 25 Conclusion .................................................................................................................................... 26 1 I am grateful to Vrouyr Makalian and Allison Rhoades for their precious research assistance on this paper.
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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1373590 2 There is no doubt that “terrorism” as a label covers some acts, particularly wanton and indiscriminate violence against civilians. Professor Kalliopi Koufa never recoiled from using the label when it was deserved. However, one of her great contributions as Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Terrorism was also her alertness to the fact that the label has been used to describe behavior that should not by any standard fall under it, and her constant refusal to encourage that movement. She has been constantly worried, for example, about “the tendency of some States to obstruct international purview of the true internal situation by use of the ‘terrorist’ rhetoric.” 2 I am particularly interested here in the way in which terrorism has sometimes been used to disqualify any form of non-state actor resort to violence, regardless of the means or, for that matter, the cause or any contextual element. Indeed, this is a favorite ploy of states, many of whom have used the newfound popularity of the designation of groups as terrorist to disqualify not only legitimate political participation, but also what might be described as legitimate political violence. 3 In fact, even international lawyers only ever seem to be able to address non-state violence from the point of view of illegitimacy, marginality, and repression. 4 This is reflected in the emphasis on such non-state actors as “warlords”, 5 “private security companies”, 6 “international crime syndicates”, 7 and, of course, “terrorists.” Increasingly, the dominant international criminal law focus means that violent non-state actors only enter the legal psyche as authors of war crimes, 8 or torture, 9 who pose a major threat the state 10 and to the international legal order. 11 Negative discourses about non-state violence thus abound, and the question of legitimate non-state violence seems to remain one of the last taboos of international legal thinking.
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