Peace, Terrorism, Armed Conflict and War Crimes

in Security and Human Rights
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Terrorism has often been associated with armed conflict. The so-called Islamic State is the most prominent example of a group that rose to power amidst armed conflict. Against this backdrop, it sounds rather strange to associate terrorism with peace. Terrorism, however, has also been called, “the peacetime equivalent of war crimes”. This raises the question how the concepts of terrorism, peace, armed conflict and war crimes relate. This article defines these concepts and applies them in the context of International Humanitarian Law, which is also known as the law of armed conflict. It also discusses today’s fight against is in light of the November 2015 Paris Attacks, thereby questioning the consequences and desirability of a war paradigm.




Johan Galtung, ‘A Structural Theory of Aaggression’, in Journal of Peace Research, 1964, vol. 1, no. 2, 1964. pp. 95–119.


D.C. Rapoport, ‘“The Four Waves of Rebel Terror and September 11”’, in Anthropoetics, 2002, vol. 8, no. 1. 2002.


B. Ganor, ‘“The Relationship Betweenbetween International and Localized Terrorism”’, in Jerusalem Issue Brief, 2005, vol. 4, no. 26. 2005.


 See e.g. M.P. Scharf, ‘“Defining Terrorism as the Peacetime Equivalent of War Crimes: Problems and Prospects”’, in Case W. Res. J. Int’lL. 2004, vol. 36, 2004, pp. 359–374.


H. Duffy, The ‘“War on Terror”’ and International Law, Doctoral thesis, Leiden University, 2013, E.M. Meijers Instituut.


 Idem, and see T. Hoffmann, ‘“Squaring the Circle?–International Humanitarian Law and Transnational Armed Conflicts”’, in International Humanitarian Law and Transnational Armed Conflicts. Hague Academy of International Law, 2010, pp. 217–274.


M. Milanovic, ‘“Lessons for Human Rights And Humanitarian Law in the War On Terror: Comparing Hamdan and the Israeli Targeted Killings Case”’, in International Review of the Red Cross, 2007, vol. 89, no. 866, 2007, pp. 373–393.


E. MacAskill, “Isis Document Leak Reportedly Reveals Identities of 22,000 Recruits’”, The Guardian, 9 March 9, 2016,


M.H. Hoffman, ‘“Terrorists Are Unlawful Belligerents, Not Unlawful Combatants: A Distinction with Implications for the Future of International Humanitarian Law”’, in Case W. Res. J. Int’lL. 2002, vol. 34, 2002, pp. 227–230.


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