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Counter-Terrorism Law and Practice: An International Handbook

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The Application of International Law to Wars of National Liberation BY Noelle Higgins, Law Lecturer, School of Law and Government, Dublin City University; Ph.D. Candidate, Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, Galway. Introduction The PLO 1 , KLA 2 and PKK 3 often summon up visions of fear, indiscriminate death and violent destruction. These groups are viewed in many quarters as dissident rebels or 'terrorists' attempting to undermine legitimate governments. The groups themselves, however, have a diametrically opposing view of the situation. These national liberation movements 4 see themselves as 'freedom fighters', 5 waging a war of national liberation 6 on 1 Palestine Liberation Organisation. 2 Kosovo Liberation Army. 3 Partia Karkaren Kurdistan - Kurdish Workers Party. 4 Regarding the term 'national liberation movement' see Sluka's comment - The use of the term 'national liberation movements' has political implications, particularly when the groups so named are generally referred to by states and the media as 'terrorists'. No one opposed to or critical of these movements calls them 'national liberation movements' because liberation (freedom) has positive value connotations for most people. Nowadays, in the conservative global New Right era we live in, most academics seem to prefer the term 'armed separatist (or secessionist) movements', which they claim is a more objective or neutral description - Sluka 1996. It is to be noted that the present discussion does not attempt to address the issue of terrorism. Terrorism is an extremely controversial topic that has defied definition - see Higgins 1997, 14 - 9. Also see generally Laqueur, 2001. While it is accepted that acts of terrorism have, at times, been committed during a war of national liberation and that a distinction must be made between an act of terrorism and a legitimate act of war committed during a war of national liberation, an indepth discussion of the phenomenon of terrorism falls outside the remit of this discussion. 5 See Sluka 1996 - Every nation people will defend its identity and territory from breakup and eradication. Facing absorption and subjugation, many nations have no other choice than to militarily resist the colonizing / conquering states. This is a defensive reaction. To defend their nations from being annihilated, many peoples have taken up arms and engaged in wars of national liberation. 6 A war of national liberation has been described as: the armed struggle waged by a people through its liberation movement against the established government to reach self-determination - Ronzitti in Cassese 1975, 321. 1
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behalf of their 'people' against an established oppressive government 7 to fulfil their legitimate right of self-determination. 8
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