Adding to the international designated lists – Worth considering?

July 20, 2014

Following on from yesterday’s MH17 entry, would there be anything gained in doing the following?

The Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics have – unsurprisingly – been designated terrorist organisations by Ukraine for some time.  Is it now worth considering by other nations and international organisations following the MH17 incident?

That the act and its aftermath caused the feeling of terror for some is without question.  That public figures outside of Ukraine employed the term “terrorist” when referring the MH17 is also a matter of record.

Of course some will employ the rhetoric of “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”  – but that a matter of perception and/or belief, and is not the direction this entry intends to go.

Leaving aside national legislation and national terrorist organisation lists, which are on the whole far less ambiguous in their definitions of “terrorism” and also easier to add an organsiation to, or subtract an organisation from, it is against the international lists that the MH17 incident and its offenders  is to be assessed.

There is an issue legal consistency – There is no universally accepted and statutorily agreed definition of “terrorism” by international governments or organisations.  The same can be said for academia too.  A global consensus and agreed definition is missing in both spheres.

As yet the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism remains without conclusion – let alone adoption.  Thus any global “terrorism” definition within remains without legally binding meaning.  Though there are about a dozen UN “sectoral” conventions and protocols relating to terrorism open to State parties to sign and ratify, nonetheless, no singular legal and binding international definition exists regard “terrorism”.

Perhaps a good thing – or perhaps not.  It allows a wide scope for inclusion – or not.  Certainly, many organisations on the international lists would argue that they do not employ acts of terrorism as part of their military doctrines in pursuit of their goals.  Others, quite clearly would certainly meet the definition of terrorism of any “reasonable person”.

With regard to Ukraine, some readers may have the opinion that the “People’s Republics” in Ukraine, due to well documented beatings, kidnappings and killings, have long since been sufficiently of a “terrorist” nature – so as a reasonable person would understand “terrorism” – that the MH17 act is yet one more act to underscore what was already their opinion.

However, the MH17 downing has significantly impacted other nations in a most tragic way from which they had been previously spared.  To move from concerned on-looker to victim is quite a shift for governments and their populations.

Collective grief will turn to collective anger.  Demands will be made.  Justice will be sought.

Just as is the case in Ukraine, the idea of negotiating with those responsible for such acts will be viewed in a very negative light by vast swathes of the population.  Just as in Ukraine, a politically soft approach is unlikely to be tolerated.  Directly affected foreign governments in particular, will be expected to do something.

Aiding Ukraine first and foremost may be seen as the right thing – and it is – by grieving foreign constituencies, but they will also want to see more punitive measures against those perceived to be responsible too – even if such acts are generally going to be ineffective..  The old story of governments being seen to do “something” – even if that “something” is really very little or “nothing”.

So will other governments add the DPR and LPR to designated terrorist lists over the next few weeks or months?  (It is unlikely they would add Russia as a “State sponsor”).  If so, would that further complicate matters for The Kremlin and its asymmetric war in Ukraine?  It would certainly put into further jeopardy any almost non-existent hopes of the DPR and LPR that any international recognition regarding any form of sovereignty will happen.

It would also go some way to ending the slim hopes of any directly negotiated settlement involving the DPR and LPR, reaffirming the international normative of not negotiating with terrorists.  Thus to some extent removing the current option of talking peace whilst making war for the Ukrainian authorities.

Something worth considering, if not now, then in the future?  Possibly so, for it does seem somewhat too hopeful that even in the unlikely event The Kremlin ceases its current support, that ad hoc violent and/or destructive acts under the banners of DPR and LPR will simply stop on the territory of Ukraine in the coming years.



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