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Role of the united nations in combating Cross-border Terrorism

Terrorism is a menace which has the ability to plague a society. The effect of it may vary from country to country but seeing the facts no country is fully immune to this predicament. It hampers peace, creates conflict and fear among people. Terrorism should not be confused to murder or any other similar use of threat. The basic difference can be that it has a higher objective which is to target government or military etc. in a country. It creates damage to the larger chunk of the society through its actions. Cross border terrorism in its very simple terms means an illicit or illegal activity which crosses from one soil to another thereby creating terror in that country. The Resolution No. 1566/2004 passed by the United Nations (UN), defines terrorist acts as “criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, which constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature, and calls upon all States to prevent such acts and, if not prevented, to ensure that such acts are punished by penalties consistent with their grave nature”.

There are various examples of cross border terrorism, such as: The Munich Massacre[1] which dates back to the 1972 Summer Olympics, wherein the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and were brutally killed by a militant group known as Black September. Other examples include, The Moscow theatre hostage crisis, also known as the 2002 Nord-Ost siege was the seizure of a crowded Moscow theatre on October 23, 2002 by about 40-50-armed Chechen rebel fighters who claimed allegiance to the separatist movement in Chechnya.[2]

India has also witnessed several instances of cross-border terrorism, like, the terrorist intrusions in Kashmir and the Mumbai terror attack of 26th November 2008 which claimed thousands of innocent lives, was orchestrated by 10 men who belonged to a terror group called Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT).

UN Conventions and Treaties Against Terrorism

Some of the major conventions are as follows:

1. The Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, adopted in Tokyo in 1963, is considered to be the first international treaty against terrorism.[3] It was adopted on 14 September 1963 and was enforced from 4th December, 1969. This convention focuses on acts which affects safety in flights.

2. Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, which came into force on 14th October 1971, mandates the member nations, to make hijacking punishable by penalties and they are also required to either extradite the offender or submit that particular case for prosecution.

3. Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, which came into force on 26th January 1973, is also related to offences on aircrafts and looks to curb hijacking.

4. Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, adopted on 26th October 1979 and entered into force on 8th February 1987. This convention very well criminalizes the illegal possession, use, transfer or theft of nuclear material and threats to use nuclear material to cause death, serious injury or substantial property damage.

5. Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation, came into force on 6 August 1989. It is a multilateral treaty in which member states agree to prohibit and punish severely which threatens the safety of civil aviation through terrorist acts.

6. Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation, came into force on 1st March 1992. This convention is applicable to acts which threatens the safety of International Maritime Navigation.

7. Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purpose of Detection, came into force on 21st June 1998. It is a multilateral treaty which aims to prohibit or limit the manufacture or usage of unmarked plastic explosives.

8. International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, adopted on 15th December 1997 and entered into force on 23 May 2001. This Convention aims to expand its jurisdiction over the illicit and intentional use of explosives and other lethal objects in, into or against public places with the actual intention to kill or cause serious bodily injury or cause destruction of public space.

9. International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, adopted on 9 December 1999 and entered into force on 10 April 2002. This Convention requires state parties to take appropriate steps to prevent and to act on the direct and indirect financing of terrorists.

Role of UN in combating Terrorism

Combating terrorism requires a multilevel approach. The UN cannot alone make the conventions successful but it is the states whose cooperation in curbing terrorism is necessary. The UN has been very vocal about the issues pertaining to terrorism as compared to the cold war times. For example- In 1992, the Security Council imposed sanctions against Libya over Tripoli’s non-cooperation with the investigation of two incidents of airline bombing, it also imposed sanctions against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 1999 for harbouring the leadership of Al Qaida[4] etc. The International Criminal Court (ICC) plays a vital role as the only permanent court which has the power with respect to holding accountability in terms of international crime. Even though ICC is the court to reach out for international criminal cases but the reality is that very few cases reach the ICC, as very few member states have ratified the Rome Statute. It should be the responsibility of states to cooperate with each other when it comes to cross border crimes.

There are several cases where municipal Courts have done very well and prosecuted the criminals responsible for acts of terrorism. In the case of Regina v Tarik Hassane et al[5], Mr. Hassane, the son of a Saudi Arabian ambassador, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to murder and preparation of terrorism. He was sentenced to prison for planning to kill policemen, soldiers and even civilians. Another example is the case of Salah Abdeslam[6] the main perpetrator behind the Paris attacks, he was caught in Brussels as a suspect for planning and taking part in terror attack. There is a need for the UN to become more proactive in combatting terrorism. Its high time now that the Rome Statute, should incorporate the offences related to ‘terrorism’ which shall in my opinion, send a strong signal to the world.

In 2005, the former Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan came up with a blue print for global counter terrorism strategy that was meant to place greater emphasis on recognizing the root cause and respect for human rights. The stand of the UN has always been clear on this issue, it has time and again said that the struggle against terrorism cannot be served by compromising human rights and successful counter terrorism strategy can only be made by upholding human rights under any circumstances.[7]


Terrorism (in any way) poses a major threat to the entire civilization. It is necessary that states take major steps to contain this threat. One such step could be by not financing any terrorist organisations whether in a direct or indirect manner and ratifying international conventions relating to the suppression or prevention of any kind of terrorism. Cooperation and mutual trust among states would be an effective way to proceed in the right direction. Instead of blaming each other, there is an urgent need for states to come up with more defined laws on this very subject.


*Advocate-On-Record, Supreme Court of India and Managing Associate- L&L Partners, New Delhi. [1] Tiwari, Abha, Cross Border Terrorism: Jurisdictional and Other Issues (January 4, 2010). Available at SSRN: or [2] For more details visit “They took 850 hostages and demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya and an end to the Second Chechen War. The siege was officially led by Movsar Barayev (aged 22).” [3]Daniel O’Donnell, International treaties against terrorism and the use of terrorism during armed conflict and by armed forces, Volume 88, Int. Rev. Red Cross 853,854, (2006). [4] Sebastian von Einsiedel, Assessing the UN’s Efforts to Counter Terrorism, United Nations University, (October 2016) [5] Regina vs Tarik Hassane et al cited in Pantucci, R, “The Islamic State Threat to Britain: Evidence from Recent Terror Trials”, 9(3) CTC Sentinel (2016) 19, p. 20 at (accessed 10 Feb 2021). [6] The Guardian, Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam charged with murder, at (accessed 10 Feb 2021). [7] Javier Ruperez, The United Nations in the fight against terrorism,


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