Criminal Justice News and VIews

Interesting items related to criminal justice

My Photo
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona, United States

I love teaching and sharing knowledge. The Internet is a free passage to an amazing amount of knowledge provided by some of the greatest minds of the day. MIT, Oxford and other universities are now sharing lecture notes with the public and allowing us to dip into the overflowing fonts of wisdom that abound. Yale is but one university that has put actual lectures on the web.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Bin Laden - Today's Blackbeard?

The Summary appeared in the Chronicle Of Higher Education on July 27, 2005

July/August issue of Legal Affairs: Bin Laden, the new Blackbeard?

In 1856 international law recognized two entities: people and states. People followed the rule of their governments, while nations bowed to international pacts. When the Declaration of Paris was signed that year, a category was created for a third group: pirates. Almost 200 years later, says Douglas R. Burgess Jr., an author and expert on international law, the parameters of that category can be used to fight an enemy of today: terrorists.

In 2005 no international law defines terrorism, says Mr. Burgess. Following older standards can work, he says, because terrorists, like pirates, lack the protection of law afforded to citizens. They also lack the sovereignty of legitimate nations. That unique status means pirates can be captured wherever by whomever.

"The ongoing war against pirates," he argues, "is the only known example of state vs. nonstate conflict until the advent of the war on terror."

But how can terrorism be compared to piracy? The corollaries, says Mr. Burgess, can be "profound and disturbing." Both declared war against civilization. Both have prepared their attacks in hiding, whether in a remote cove or in a secret cell. Both have aimed to bring attention to their causes. They share the goals of destruction, homicide, and frustration of commerce. Most important, he says, "both are properly considered enemies of the rest of the human race."

A more effective war against terrorism could be fought, says Mr. Burgess, if these actions were taken: Terrorists would be enemies of all states if an international definition for terrorism existed. Universal jurisdiction would also keep nations from harboring terrorists as freedom fighters by distinguishing between legitimate insurgents and outright terrorists. Above all, though, nations would not balk at helping the United States if a defined crime of terrorism could be prosecuted before the International Court of Justice, in The Hague.

The article, "The Dread Pirate Bin Laden," is available on the Web at