Commentary and Newsletters

Anne Bayefsky

The New UN "Counter-Terrorism" Handbook

Thursday, February 22, 2007

With great fanfare on February 16, 2007 the UN launched its Counter-Terrorism Online Handbook part of its claimed effort to implement the "UN counter-terrorism strategy" an oxymoron if there ever was one.

Robert Orr, Chairman of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force briefed non-governmental organizations on developments February 21, 2007. He told the assembled crowd that the UN was taking "historic" steps concerning the fight against terrorism. Buried in his remarks was a passing comment that the drafting of a UN comprehensive convention against terrorism is "still hung up over some definitional questions on how to specifically define who is a terrorist. With that one stumbling block, the last major pillar in the international legal framework remains yet undone."

Huh? The UN is celebrating the creation of a strategy, a task force and now a handbook, about its supposed role in a fight against something it can't define. The scary part is that nobody at the UN sees anything wrong with this picture.

After all, to the UN crowd it's just same old same old. A day before the launch, on February 15, the UN concluded another round of failed negotiations to adopt a comprehensive convention against terrorism. The talks ended in deadlock as they have for a decade because the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) believes blowing up Americans and Israelis (and anybody else they claim get in the way of "self-determination") is not terrorism. Of course, self-determination for the millions living under undemocratic rule across the Arab world is not quite what they have in mind. Meanwhile, the rest of the globe slinks away from a nasty confrontation that would certainly ensue if anyone dared to insist on adopting a treaty or a terrorism definition over the OIC's objections.

Will you be sleeping better knowing the UN online counter-terrorism handbook to counter who-knows-what is just a click away?