“Terrorism and the Criminal Justice System”
MR. JUSTICE IFTIKHAR MUHAMMAD CHAUDHRY
CHIEF JUSTICE OF PAKISTAN
CONCEPT OF DEFINITION
There is no precise or widely accepted definition of the word, ‘terrorism’.
‘Terrorism’ often refers to and is applied to a variety of acts of violence that are not
strictly within the realm of terrorism. The definition of terrorism has become a matter for
political as well as intellectual struggle. Because the term is pejorative, politically
antagonistic parties label their opponents’ activities with it. However, core elements of a
definition seem clearly to include the use or threat of violence; political motivation; and
the creation of psychological pressure for some specific or generalized purpose.
UNITED NATION‘S DIFFICULTIES IN ARRIVING AT A WIDELY ACCEPTED DEFINITION.
The phenomenon of terrorism, though very old, assumed new dimensions and
alarming proportions in the early 70’s and thus attracted increased attention and concern
of the international community. The United Nations has spent considerable time to
provide a definition of terrorism. This is essential to prevent and punish various acts of
terrorism. But the international community is hampered in reaching any single definition
of the term ‘terrorism’, for many reasons. There are difficulties of interpretation, ‘one
man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter’, there are misgivings emanating from the
current campaign against terrorism. In the post 9/11 period, the issue of dealing with
international terrorism has become the primary objective of the international community.
Terrorism is the greatest evil of the present times. Its perpetrators are indifferent to the
sanctity of human life.
MEASURES ADOPTED BY UN TO CURB TERRORISM
Despite the differences of perceptions on the issue and in absence of a
universally acknowledged definition, terrorism, the international community has made
significant headway in combating terrorism in specific areas. About a dozen major
International Conventions/Protocols, apart from the regional legal instruments, have
been adpoted to provide legal framework to check the menace of terrorism in specific
forms and in specific fields.
The offences and certain other acts committed on board aircraft, e.g. unlawful
seizure of aircraft threatening the lives of innocent people travelling by air etc. were
considered by the international community to be so clear cut a form of terrorism that the
international community did not feel necessary to go into motives or purposes or causes
for which these acts were committed. Thus, three Conventions were adopted on these
issues calling the international community to take appropriate remedial measures.
In 1972, the UN General Assembly appointed an Ad-hoc Committee to study the
question of international terrorism. The salient features of the General Assembly
Resolution adopted at that time were: –
(a) Unequivocal condemnation of all acts of international terrorism which
endanger or take innocent human lives or jeopardize fundamental
(b) Underlining the need of all States devoting immediate attention to find just
and peaceful solutions to the underlying causes which gives rise to such
acts of violence;
(c) Condemnation of the continuation of repressive and terrorism acts by
colonial, racist and alien regimes in denying peoples their legitimate right
to self-determination and independence and other human rights and
(d) Taking of appropriate measures at the national level with a view to speedy
and final elimination of the problems of international terrorism and urging
the States to become parties to international conventions which relate to
various aspects of the problem;
(e) Recognitioin of the importance of international cooperation in devising
measures to effectively prevent terrorism acts and studying their
underlying causes in order to find just and peaceful solution.
In 1985 the UN General Assembly, by consensus, adopted Resulution on
measures to prevent international terrorism, which, inter alia, unequivocally condemned
all activities, methods and practices of terrorism by whomsoever committed and urged
all States to contribute towards progressive elimination of causes underlying terrorism
and to pay special attention to all situations, including colonialism, racism and situations
involving mass and flagrant violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and
those involving alien occupation that may give rise to international terrorism and may
endanger peace and security.
The international community thus has continued to adopt international legal
instruments to combat various forms of terrorism. Some of the instruments are: –
(i) Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against
Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents 1973.
(ii) International Convention against the Taking of Hostages, 1979.
(iii) Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, 1979.
(iv) Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports
Serving International Civil Aviation, supplementary to the Convention for
the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation,
(v) Convention for the Suppression of unlawful Acts against the Safety of
Maritime Navigation 1988;
(vi) Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of the
Fixed Platform located on the Continental Shelf, 1998;
(vii) Convention on the Marking of Plastic Explosives for the Purpose of
(viii) International Convention for the Suppression of the Terrorism Bombings,
(ix) International convention for the suppression of the Financing of
DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IN LIGHT OF
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CRIME AND JUSTICE
The criminal justice system may be considered from at least three perspectives.
First, it can be considered a normative system, that is, a body of legal rules expressing
social values through prohibitions backed by penal sanctions against conduct viewed as
seriously wrong or harmful. Second, the criminal justice system can be regarded as an
administrative system. This view comprehends the official apparatus for enforcing the
criminal law, including the police and other front-line enforcement agencies,
prosecutorial authorities, the judiciary, and penal and correctional facilities and services.
A third view of criminal justice is that of a social system. In this perspective, defining and
responding to criminal conduct involves all elements of society. This definition of criminal
conduct includes not only the penal law enacted by the legislature but also the way in
which these provisions are interpreted by the citizenry at all levels. The arrest and
prosecution of an offender for the theft can be considered simultaneously as a
manifestation of a legislative prohibition against knowingly taking another’s property, as
a response by the police, prosecution, judiciary, and penal-correctional system to conduct
that appears to be criminal and as a community interpretation of the behaviour in
question. Criminal justice as a whole results from the interaction between legal rules,
administrative practices, and social attitudes and behaviour. The criminal justice system
does indeed have a substantial degree of coherence in this sense. Thus, in the law of
crimes itself the penalties for deliberate homicide are much more severe than the
penalties for assault. This differential is rationally coherent if one assumes that the
underlying value is protection of human life and that an attack resulting in death is a
more serious impairment of that value than an attack which leaves the victim alive.
Similarly, it is rational that adjudication of guilt by the court system should follow after
investigation of an offence by the police, if the underlying value is that guilt should be
determined on the basis of a disinterested weighing of evidence and not upon
ROLE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IN CURBING CRIMES
The criminal justice system does have and will continue to have a role and an
important one, in addressing terrorism in all its forms. It has proven effective and fair in
many cases and it will continue to be an important counter-terrorism tool. But surely, the
justice system is not the panacea for the ills of terrorism. There are reasons for it.
Many crimes are committed with premeditation and under certain arrangements
conceived by the criminal. That is why, the prosecutors find it difficult to trace such
crimes and book the culprits. Terrorism is a more organized crime. It is ruthless and
reckless. In the ordinary crimes, the culprit tries to escape from punishment. Here, the
perpetrator blows himself up. It is the burden of the justice system, both at the
investigation stage as well as the trial stage to devise new techniques.
It is essential that the problem of crime should receive careful attention at the
hands of legislators and reformers, for human happiness is directly dependent on it.
There is always an apprehension of danger to life and property if crime is not properly
put under control. In the absence of security, trade and commerce cannot flourish. There
is thus loss of national dividend to the country. Besides, there is huge expenditure of
money in the prevention and detection of crime. A large contingent of police force has to
be employed for this purpose. Then there is the judicial machinery for dispensation of
justice. All this involves huge resources.
PUNISHMENT & CRIMES
Crime is a malady and the aim of every punishment should be reclamation of the
offender by prescribing proper treatment. As observed by Victor Hugo, “we should look
upon crime as a disease. Evil will be treated in charity instead of anger. The change will
be simple and sublime. The cross shall displace the scaffold.” This theory of punishment
identifies crime with disease.
In awarding punishment to the offenders, the criminal justice system mainly
remains wedded to the deterrent theory of punishment. The primary objective of criminal
justice is to administer a stern warning to the potential perpetrators of the crime and
deter people from committing crime. The infliction of punishment serves as a check on
others who are evil minded. The rigour of penal discipline is made a terror and a warning
to himself and others. Commission of offences must be made a bad bargain for the
offender so as to stop him and other members of the society from taking to criminal
LIMITED DETERRENT EFFECT OF PUNISHMENT
Efficacy of the criminal justice system in dealing with terrorist accused is clogged
with obvious, and may be some not so obvious – limitations. One limitation of the
criminal justice system is that it necessarily has only limited deterrent effect. This is true
in relation to other offences too. In any event, putting dangerous terrorists in jail and
taking them out of circulation for life or for many years means that some bombs are not
built and detonated; some planes are not hijacked; some innocent people are not
assassinated. Thus, some would-be terrorists are deterred from engaging in terrorist
acts. Any measure of general deterrence is obviously a good thing.
FAIR HEARING, AN ABSOLUTE PRINCIPLE
Justice demands that the parties should have an opportunity of submitting to the
person by whose decision they are to be bound such considerations as in their judgment
ought to be brought before him. Fair hearing ensures the scrupulous administration of
justice. The rule cannot be sacrificed at the altar of administrative convenience or celerity,
for “convenience and justice”, as Lord Atkin put it, “are often not on speaking terms”. The
hearing must be genuine and not formal. Assurance of a fair trial is the first imperative of
the dispensation of justice. Every accused person in a criminal case has an unqualified
right to a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. Even the
most detested person has a right to be heard.
DIFFICULTIES IN TRACING THE CRIME OF TERRORISM, INVESTIGATION &
Another limitation of the criminal justice system in dealing with international
terrorism in particular is the difficulty of using it successfully. They are very difficult
cases, especially when the terrorist acts occur abroad or when much of the evidence of
the terrorist plot is obtained abroad inasmuch as in such eventuality, evidence is
obtained and suspects are often first questioned by the foreign officials under very
different systems and rules. Although as a legal matter, those differences do not
generally prevent the evidence being used at the place of trial, sometimes these
differences lead prosecutors to decide, in their discretion, not to use evidence obtained
in ways that deviate sharply from their own system.
IMPORTANCE OF INTELLIGENCE
There is a need for broader, more comprehensive measures to detect and
prevent terrorism. Greater emphasis on intelligence and prevention is critical; if we are to
get better at preventing terrorist attacks, it is vital that we enhance our abilities to collect
information and analyze it real-time, and then share it real-time throughout the world. A
global, systematic, military, diplomatic, and financial strategy to effectively deal with the
ultimate causes of terrorism is plainly necessary if we are to be successful in preventing
as many terrorist attacks as possible in the long term.
We have to engage in the public debate about all of the issues associated with
the war against terrorism, we must distinguish between what is constitutional and lawful
in these times of heightened threat, should or should not be done as a matter of sound
LEGISLATIVE RESPONSE FROM PAKISTAN
Legislative response from Pakistan to meet the challenges created by terrorism
begins with the enactment of the Suppression of Terrorist Activities (Special Courts) Act,
1975, which made special provisions for the purposes of suppressing acts of sabotage,
subversion and terrorism and provided for speedy trial of offences committed in
furtherance of, or in connection with such acts. With the unfolding of new dimensions of
terrorism, new laws had to be framed from time to time. The Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997,
which is the latest in the series of laws on the subject, was promulgated to provide for
the prevention of terrorism, sectarian violence and for speedy trial of heinous offences.
The Act criminalizes the striking of terror in the people, or any section of the people, or
alienating any section of the people or adversely affecting harmony among different
sections of the people, through any act or thing by using bombs, dynamite or other
explosive or inflammable substances, or fire-arms, or other lethal weapons or poisons or
noxious gases or chemicals or other substances of a hazardous nature in such a manner
as to cause, or to be likely to cause the death of, or injury to, any person or persons, or
damage to, or destruction of, property, or disruption of any supplies of services essential
to the life of the community or displays firearms, or threatens with the use of force public
servants in order to prevent them from discharging their lawful duties. The Act makes
cognizable by the Anti-Terrorism Court the offences committed with a cannon, grenade,
bomb, rocket or a light or heavy automatic weapon, the offences committed against
members of police, armed forces, civil armed forces or public servants, offences
subjecting the victim to cruelty, brutality, torture, or burning. The Act provides that the
officer-in-charge of a police station shall complete the investigation of a terrorism case
within seven working days and forward directly to the Special Court a report under
section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Default on the part of the investigating
officer is deemed to be a wilful disobedience of the orders of the Special Court and
made punishable for contempt of Court. Further, failure of the investigating officer to
pursue the case properly has been made punishable with imprisonment up to two years.
The Special Court is required to proceed with the trial of the case from day to day and
decide the case within seven working days. Likewise, the Act provides a period of seven
days for filing of appeal by the convict and its decision by the appellate Court within
seven days. The Act prohibits adjournment of a case for more than two working days.
JUDICIAL RESPONSE TO CHALLENGE OF TERRORISM IN PAKISTAN
The judicial response to the challenge of terrorism in Pakistan first came with the
the judgment of the Supreme Court in 1998 in Mehram Ali’s case, which refined various
provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act. The Supreme Court’s verdict in Sheikh Liaquat
Hussain’s case, rendered in 1999 was another important decision inasmuch as the Court
further strengthened and clarified the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act, bringing the
law in accord with the Fundamental Rights, guaranteed in the Constitution. The Court,
inter alia, directed: –
• One case be assigned at a time to a Special Court and till judgment is
announced in such case, no other case be entrusted to it.
• Challan of a case should be submitted to a Special Court after full preparation
and after ensuring that all witnesses are produced as and when required by
• The Chief Justice of the High Court concerned shall nominate one or more
Judges of the High Court for monitoring and ensuring that the cases/appeals
are disposed of in terms of these guidelines while the Chief Justice of
Pakistan may nominate one or more Judges of the Supreme Court to monitor
the implementation of the guidelines. The Judge or Judges so nominated will
also ensure that if any petition for leave or appeal with the leave is filed, the
same is disposed of without any delay in the Supreme Court.
These guidelines are fully followed.
Terrorism is both national as well international phenomenon. It has no religion
and knows no boundaries. The whole of the world is in the grip of terrorism. No region or
country is safe. Terrorism in all its forms – political struggle, national liberation
movement, tribal rivalries and sectarian conflict, ethnicity and cross border – afflicts the
region. It taxes the poor nations heavily. It impedes their already slower pace of
development. It requires deeper analysis. It calls for a multidimensional approach and
strategy. We have to decide where force is needed to suppress it and where other
means are to be employed to resolve the outstanding issues. There are cross-versions
and cross-allegations in our region. This is unfortunate. Our interest requires us to sit
together and make individual as well as collective efforts aimed at eradication of this
menace. To leave no hiding place for the guilty we have to wrestle with the injustices
that provide the noxious fumes in which terror is conceived. There has to be cohesion,
cooperation and understanding. It must be sought through better peace making, through
engaging with the needs of the neediest and forming partnerships with the oppressed
and tyrannized so that they are nurtured and helped. It must light a path to a common
edifice of compassion that is the shared inheritance of all people. We have the potential
to deal with it.