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Prithvi asked: Why is the United States against the inclusion of military attacks during peacetime with respect to the CCIT?

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  • Arpita Anant replies: It is important to first clarify the phrase “military attacks during peacetime” in the question. This phrase lends itself to multiple interpretations. However, in the context of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), the issue pertains to actions of the armed forces during the armed conflict. So, the reply that follows uses the latter phraseology.

    One of the most strenuous interventions of the United States (US) on the CCIT was about the exclusion of actions of the armed forces of states from the purview of CCIT. In this regard, the US had made its position very clear early on in the debate on CCIT. The US argued that military action undertaken by the forces of the state came under the jurisdiction of several conventions adopted to counter terrorism, beginning with the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, 1997 that had been endorsed by 162 countries. The US, therefore, endorsed the 2002 Coordinator’s text of the CCIT which had used the provision of the 1997 Convention (A/C.6/62/SR.5, 30 October 2007).

    The reason this became an issue is that member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in their intervention in 2002, sought to include the actions of “all parties” to an armed conflict, including that of the armed forces of a state within the scope of the CCIT under Article 18 of the CCIT (A/57/37, Annexure IV). Their opinion was that CCIT encouraged impunity of the armed forces. This, for them, amounted to condoning “state terrorism”, as exemplified mainly by the actions of Israel’s Defence Forces. Moreover, in the post-9/11 years, there was also a concern regarding military deployments as part of the coalition against terror. This would imply that the actions of a state’s armed forces could be equated with acts of non-state actors and labelled as criminal acts of terrorism. 

    As has been countered and clarified by the US and several other countries, the OIC’s fear is a bit exaggerated since actions of the armed forces have for long been in the purview of international humanitarian law.

    Editor’s Note: For more on the subject, please refer to the author’s earlier replies posted on February 04, 2019 and July 17, 2018.

    Posted on July 17, 2020

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.