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Terrorism

The Difficulty With Words and When is a Terrorist a Terrorist?

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Words are beautiful and they give us so much. Through using words we can share ideas and more importantly we can develop concepts and literally take things forward. They inform, they entertain and they explain.

They form the framework through which we understand everything from science to art to religion. They are created by our culture and in turn they create our culture. And they are dynamic, evolving and developing as we create new words and change the meaning of existing words to reflect the changing world that we live in. But it is perhaps their dynamic nature that creates the greatest challenge that words present.

In some ways the creation of words is simple. All that it takes is for one person to say something and another to understand it and we have a new word. Changing the meaning of a word is not as simple but it still happens. And it happens often. Collectively as we modify the meaning and the usage of words in everyday use we change their meaning. Sometimes entirely, sometimes subtly and sometimes we expand their meaning and dictionaries are amended and updated to reflect the change. That is except for in a legal context where their meaning cannot be as dynamic and in this context at least, their meaning can be literally carved in stone.

In legal English we find words in use that have fallen out of use in everyday language as they are no longer relevant or because they relate to concepts that are rarely encountered in our modern lives. Whereas the legal definition of words that have fallen out of everyday usage can remain straightforward, what of the words whose definition has changed. Here we have one use for most contexts and one for legal usage. A forest is a densely wooded area, correct? Well, yes and no. In everyday speech yes, a forest is a densely wooded area, but the legal definition of a forest is an area reserved for hunting, possibly for but not necessarily exclusively by a monarch. And what of the word assault? To assault means to attack. We hear it in the news when one person attacks another or in a military context when one nation attacks another. But in a legal context we have to turn the clock back to see how the word was being used when its legal definition was determined under common law as to act in a manner that would make one feel that they were about to be attacked. In fact one can be assaulted without any physical contact occurring, which is significantly different from the situation where a person is attacked or a nation invaded. With the need for the law to be known and be predictable the definition of words in a legal context must also be known and predictable. Although the law is dynamic, the definition of the words used to create the law must be static.

In most cases, although we have conflicting definitions for the same word, we rarely face any complications. If we incorrectly use the word forest, or even assault, it is unlikely that there will be any significant consequences. But what about words that relate to more complex and more serious concepts such as terrorism. Although terrorism doesn’t have two conflicting meanings, there is significant debate about what is terrorism, what isn’t terrorism and more importantly what might be terrorism. And this is particularly challenging as in many cases there are serious legal sanctions reserved only for those convicted of terrorism including execution or the removal of citizenship.

So what is terrorism? If we take a simple definition it is the use of violence in the pursuit of a political aim. Ok, that’s straightforward enough but it is very broad. Is it any violence? And what about terror? Surely a definition of terrorism should include a reference to terror. If we look in more detail at a more academic definition we might find terrorism defined as the use of violent acts with the aim of inducing a feeling of terror in the general population in the pursuit of a political aim. Now this definition tells us a little more, it is not the acts of violence in themselves that are intended to advance the political aim but the perception that they create amongst the population. But the academic definition introduces it’s own confusion by looking at not just the acts and their purpose but also considers whether they are justifiable. It is often said that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Nelson Mandela and Jose Gusmão were both labeled as terrorists at one time.

Although academia can help us to understand terrorism in its broadest sense it is in a legal setting that we really must have an accurate and reliable definition of terrorism but unfortunately it is one where perhaps we don’t. Over recent years many nations have updated their existing and introduced new anti- terrorism legislation. Arguably this is necessary as terrorism has changed significantly. Whereas it typically consisted of relatively small acts of violence designed to induce fear they have evolved to include massive and catastrophic acts of mass murder. As a result ant-terrorism laws have been expanded to include more and more specific acts within the definition of acts of terrorism. But does this evolution of terrorist tactics really warrant this expansion of the legal definition of terrorism?

Given the sizeable amount of anti-terrorism legislation that many nations have introduced in recent years it is perhaps the legal definition of terrorism rather than the everyday definition that has changed the most. Although both definitions have expanded, the everyday and academic definitions have essentially remained the same in that terrorism is the pursuit of a political aim through a campaign of violent acts intended to create feelings of terror in the general population. The legal definition by comparison has expanded to include criminal acts that may or may not be motivated by a political aim. Arguably it is the everyday and academic definitions that give us the most accurate, reliable and credible definition of terrorism and it is this definition that we should use in a legal context also.

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Terrorism

Terrorists potentially target millions in makeshift biological weapons ‘laboratories’

MD Staff

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Rapid advances in gene editing and so-called “DIY biological laboratories”which could be used by extremists, threaten to derail efforts to prevent biological weapons from being used against civilians, the world’s only international forum on the issue has heard.

At meetings taking place at the United Nations in Geneva which ended on Thursday, representatives from more than 100 Member States which have signed up to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) – together with civilian experts and academics – also discussed how they could ensure that science is used to positive ends, in line with the disarmament blueprint set out by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Although the potential impact of a biological weapons attack could be huge, the likelihood is not currently believed to be high. The last attack dates back to 2001, when letters containing toxic anthrax spores, killed five people in the US, just days after Al Qaeda terrorists perpetrated the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Nonetheless, the rise of extremist groups and the potential risk of research programmes being misused, has focused attention on the work of the BWC.

“There’s interest from terror groups and we’re also seeing the erosion of norms on chemical weapons,” said Daniel Feakes, head of the BWC Implementation Support Unit at the UN in Geneva.

“That could spread to biological weapons as well,” he said, adding that “at the worst, you could be talking of epidemics on the scale of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, or even a global pandemic that could result in millions of deaths.”

In a bid to stay on top of the latest biological developments and threats, the BWC’s 181 Member States hold a series of meetings with experts every year, traditionally in the summer. The reports that are discussed during these sessions are then formerly appraised in December.

At the eight-day session just ended, science and technology issues were debated for two days – a measure of their importance.

Among the developments discussed was the groundbreaking gene-editing technique CRISPR. It can be applied – in theory – to any organism. Outside the Geneva body, CRISPR’s use has raised ethical questions, Mr. Feakes said, but among Member States, security ramifications dominated discussions.

“Potentially, it could be used to develop more effective biological weapons,” he said, noting that the meetings addressed the growing trend of “DIY biological labs”. However, the meetings also focused on the promotion of “responsible science” so that “scientists are part of the solution, not the problem”.

In addition to concerns that the Biological Weapons Convention lacks full international backing, the body has also faced criticism that its Members are not obliged to allow external checks on any illegal stockpiles they might have.

The issue highlights the fact that the BWC lacks a strong institution, its handful of administrators dwarfed by larger sister organizations including the OPCW – the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The OPCW’s 500-strong staff – based in the Hague – have weapons inspectors training facilities, Feakes notes, explaining that the BWC’s focus is therefore much more “about what States do at a national level”.

Concern for the future

Looking ahead, and aside from the rapid pace of scientific change, the biggest challenge is keeping the Biological Weapons Convention relevant – which appears to still be the case today.

“There are no States that say they need biological weapons,” Mr. Feakes says. “That norm needs to be maintained and properly managed. You can’t ban CRISPR or gene editing, because they can do so much good, like finding cures for diseases or combating climate change. But we still need to manage these techniques and technologies to ensure they are used responsibly.” Gene editing, in simple terms, involves the copying of exact strands of DNA, similar to cutting and pasting text on a computer.

The latest BWC session in the Swiss city also involved key intergovernmental organizations, scientific and professional associations, academic institutions, think tanks and other non-governmental entities.

Formally known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, the BWC was the first multilateral disarmament treaty to ban an entire category of weapons.

It opened for signature in 1972 and entered into force in 1975. It currently has 181 States Parties, and six States that have signed but not yet ratified it.

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Terrorism

Where is Our Sovereignty?

Hareem Aqdas

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In the name of anti-terrorism, the Justice Department of U.S.A has urged its acquisition of all modes of powers since the birth of our country.  Following are some fundamental considerations.

Why, at all, do our civil rights have to be sacrificed in order to protect (so called) us from terrorists by this outside force, called as hegemony? Why even has U.S. taken the responsibility on interfering in Pakistan’s (and the worlds) internal matters as that of security? The argument is whether security is more crucial than our liberty. We are told that the Justice Department requires these powers in order to make us secure.  But the central question goes deeper – will the sacrifice of our liberty actually make us safer, for we accept their dominance and let them interfere in our matters, why?

Can we be made absolutely safe by U.S.’s interference in our security matters? No. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together realizes this. The War on Terrorism, occurring in Pakistan, will not be won, as this war is a political act, done by politicians for political reasons. We had a war on poverty, and lost. We had a war on drugs, and lost. These kinds of wars are not about resolving issues, they are about appearing to resolve issues.

The biggest blind liberty we openly give to The U.S. is the power to name anyone amongst us as a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism, without any proof or any judicial review of the claim; we trust American leaders to name someone a terrorist or a devotee of terrorism only for the reason of protecting from terrorists. They do this in secret, on the basis of whatever information or sources they characterize, and with no one ever able to review their decision.

Once they have determined that someone is a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism (remember no testimony required), they assert (or want) the right to detain indefinitely, and in clandestine.  That is, should they decide you are a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism; they get to secretly arrest you and hold you as long as they want without anyone knowing why or where.  No court is able to review this situation. Where is our sovereignty at this point?

The above, of course, has to do with the eavesdropping they want to do, or their ability to come into our homes without a warrant and copy our hard drive, and make it possible to copy all the keystrokes we make and harass us for whatever petty grievance they hold.

Now ask yourself, how does their interference in our matters of security make us safe from terrorists?  How does their power to name someone a terrorist or a supporter of terrorists, without judicial review, make us safer? Such a power only makes the judgments, of those who hold this power, safe from any abuse of that power. How the power to search and arrest without warrant make us safer? For it threatens not the terrorists, but our sovereignty.

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Terrorism

Nuclear Terrorism and Pakistan

Sonia Naz

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Nuclear terrorism is a potential threat to the world security. According to the EU representative terrorists can get access to nuclear and radioactive materials and they can use it to terrorize the world. Nuclear security expert Mathew Bunn argues that “An act of nuclear terrorism would likely put an end to the growth and spread of nuclear energy.”After 9/11 the world has observed that al-Qaida wanted to get nuclear weapons. In case terrorists acquire nuclear materials, they would use it for the production of a dirty bomb. A dirty bomb is not like a nuclear bomb. A nuclear bomb spreads radiation over hundreds of square while; nuclear bomb could destroy only over a few square miles. A dirty bomb would not kill more people than an ordinary bomb. It will not create massive destruction, but it will cause the psychological terror which will lead to a panic situation which is more devastating. The world has not experienced of any act of nuclear terrorism, but terrorists expressed their desires to gain nuclear weapons. The IAEA has observed thousands of incidents of lost, left and unauthorized control of nuclear materials and such materials can go into the wrong hands.

After 9/11 terrorism generated negative perceptions about the nuclear security of Pakistan. Often western community pressurizes Pakistan that its nuclear weapons can go into the wrong hands due to the terrorism in it.  The fact is that Pakistan has faced many terrorist attacks, but not any attack towards its nuclear installation facility and radiation has been occurred. Mostly, nations obtain nuclear weapons for the international prestige, but Pakistan is one of those states which obtained nuclear capability to defend itself from India which has supremacy in conventional weapons. It played a leading role in the efforts of nuclear security since inception of its nuclear weapons. The result is that no single incident of theft and sabotage has been recorded in Pakistan.

Pakistan is a very responsible state and it has taken foolproof measures to defend the its nuclear installations and nuclear materials against any terrorist threats. Pakistan is not the member of the nonproliferation(NPT), Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Fissile material cut off treaty (FMCT) because India has not signed them. If Pakistan signs these treaties and India does not, it would raise asymmetry between both rival states of South Asia. Pakistan’s nuclear non-proliferation policy is based on principles as per the NPT norms, although ithas not signed it. Pakistan had also proposed to make South Asia a nuclear free zone in 1970 and 80s, but India did not accept that.

However, Pakistan is a strong supporter of non-proliferation, nuclear safety and security. In this context, it is the signatory of a number of regimes. Pakistan has established the its Nuclear Regulatory authority (PNRA) since22 January, 2001 under the obligations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The PNRA works under the IAEA advisory group on nuclear security and it is constantly improving and re-evaluating nuclear security architecture. Pakistan has ratified the 2005 amendment to the physical protection convention for the physical security of nuclear materials. When Obama announced nuclear security summit in 2009,Pakistan welcomed it. It has not only attended all nuclear security summits, but proved with its multiple nuclear security measures that it is a responsible nuclear state. Pakistan’s nuclear devices are kept unassembled with the Permissive Action Links (PALs) to prevent the unauthorized control and detonation of nuclear weapons. Different US policy makers and Obama have stated that “we have confidence that the Pakistani military is equipped to prevent extremists from getting an access to the nuclear materials.”

The dilemma, however is that some major powers favour India due to their geopolitical interests, despite India’s low score in nuclear security than Pakistan, as is evident from the reports prepared by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).The US has always favoured India for the membership of the NSG ignoring Pakistan request to become a member of the NSG, despite that it has taken more steps than India to ensure nuclear safety and security. It is following United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540(which is about the prevention of proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDS) and it is the first state which has submitted its report to the UN.

The report explains the measures taken by Pakistan to ensure radiological security and control of sensitive materials and WMDs transfer. Although Pakistan has suffered a lot due to terrorism, but its nuclear security measures are strong and appreciable. Recently, IAEA director visited Pakistan and appreciated its efforts in nuclear safety and security. In view of Pakistan’s successful war against terrorism, its success in eliminating terrorism in the country, and strong measures that it has taken to secure its nuclear installations and materials, their should be no doubt left about the safety Pakistan’s nuclear materials.

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