Professor Lyal S. Sunga Co-authors Book Chapter on International Law and Terrorism
JCU Political Science Professor Lyal S. Sunga co-authored a chapter in the second edition of the Research Handbook on International Law and Terrorism with Dr. Ilaria Bottigliero, Director of Policy, Research and Learning at the International Development Law Organization (IDLO). Recently published by Elgar, the volume was edited by Ben Saul. Prof. Sunga and Dr. Bottigliero’s section, titled “Redress for victims of terrorist acts in a deteriorating international political climate” takes account of developments since their work appeared in the 2014 version of the handbook.
Terrorists often attack soft civilian targets, kill and injure indiscriminately, and produce victims of various nationalities. Provision of compensation, medical and psychological rehabilitation, trauma counseling and other forms of redress for these victims should not depend upon whether the territory in which the terrorist act happens to have taken place has the requisite laws, funds, and procedures to meet their needs, nor should redress depend on the nationality of either the victim or the perpetrator, for these are merely incidental factors. In terms of justice and fairness, what should matter is the level of harm to victims and the extent of their needs. That is why back in 2014, Bottigliero and Sunga urged in their contribution to the first edition of the Research Handbook (entitled “Victims’ redress amid terrorism’s changing tactics and strategies”) that more just and effective fulfillment of the right of victims of terrorist acts requires genuinely multilateral global and regional approaches, such as through international criminal courts and tribunals, the work of the UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur on terrorism, and relevant regional and sub-regional mechanisms, for example, those taken in the European Union and Organization of American States. Moreover, domestic legal frameworks should be brought more in line with applicable international standards which would also help harmonize them.
The authors point out that redress for terrorism victims should be fully recognized as an important human rights issue instead of being treated as an afterthought of counter-terrorism strategies or national security efforts. In the present follow-up article, Bottigliero and Sunga note that while the number of victims of terrorism remains small, the potential persists for terrorist cells or lone wolves to intensify attacks of greater lethality, particularly if they manage to deploy weapons of mass destruction. Regrettably, the international political climate has steadily deteriorated over recent years with lessened East-West trust, stalled progress on the right to redress at the UN level, and increasing disregard on the part of many States of their basic human rights and humanitarian law obligations concerning armed conflict situations and counter-terrorism measures. Bottigliero and Sunga consider that the deteriorating international political climate currently worsens prospects for developing fair and effective international and regional norms and implementation to meet the redress needs of victims of terrorist acts, and they urge renewed attention to this important issue.