A GROUP of legal experts drew attention yesterday to the importance of establishing an internationally recognised definition of terrorism. Current lack of definition may even be serving vested interests they claim. A congress on International Criminal Justice has been taking place in Alcudia, set up by the Balearic Islands Jurists' Association led by Joaquín Martín Canivell, a distinguished figure in this field. Participants have been debating the work of a United Nations group of experts who have drafted a set of definitions on what precisely is meant by the term terrorism.
As yet, an unambiguous final agreement has not been reached.
Joan Garcés, special prosecutor in the Pinochet case, recognised important legal developments facing an international community plagued with worldwide terrorism and the latent threat of a phenomenon on the increase. He expressed his conviction that although historically, an International Criminal Court has been an ad hoc scenario, responding to specific world events such as Nüremburg, Tokyo or Rwanda, in the not too distant future, such courts would be deliberating on cases of aggression, terrorism, as well as genocide, crimes against humanity, and war. Martín Canivell, who acted as an International Criminal judge last May on behalf of the former Yugoslavia, drew attention to the reticence that the United States is demonstrating in recognising an international definition of terrorism. This reluctance, he purported, is rooted in the superpower's unvoiced acknowledgement of the possibility that their citizens may have to stand trial when a legally unambiguous definition is established.
Rosario Huesa, head of International Law at the Balearic University, followed this theme in her contribution to the Congress, entitled Trials and Tribulations of an Internationalist in 2003. Her commentary was based on fresh sets of legal questions arising following the terrorist attacks on the United States in September, 2001.
As well as debating the issue of whether the existence of international terrorism has changed the concept of international law, the ambiguous position of the United Nations' Security Council was addressed in terms of its handling of actions undertaken by the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq.
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