War on the Enemy: Self-Defence and State-Sponsored Terrorism


In the international law system, internal mechanisms are the appropriate responses to terrorist acts through domestic criminal law. The weakness of domestic criminal law is however evident in the face of transnational terrorists groups whose scope spreads across many borders. The challenge is compounded when States actively or passively support terrorism. Though traditionally State responsibility has been the vehicle through which pressure is exerted on States sponsoring terrorism, the lethal capabilities of terrorists demonstrated by the September 11, 2001 attacks has fundamentally changed the landscape. The consequences of breaches arising out of a failure by a State to effectively curtail terrorist organisations based or operating out of its territory have expanded sharply, permitting not just financial reparations or other traditional benign countermeasures, but even the extensive use of deadly military force. With the linkage between the terrorist and the sponsoring state becoming crucial to providing States with the justification for a response against rogues States, this Article discusses the issue of State-sponsored terrorism and the use of military force in combating terrorism in the context of the UN Charter regime on the use of force by States.


International Law

Date of this Version

May 2006