The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime website contained the following introduction to the difficulties in defining the term terrorism (accessed Feb. 15, 2007):
"The question of a definition of
terrorism has haunted the debate among states for decades. A first
attempt to arrive at an internationally acceptable definition was made
under the League of Nations, but the convention drafted in 1937 never
came into existence. The UN Member States still have no agreed-upon
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), in its website section titled "Convention of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Combating International Terrorism" defined terrorism in the following passage (accessed Feb. 15, 2007):
"Terrorism means any act of
violence or threat thereof notwithstanding its motives or intentions
perpetrated to carry out an individual or collective criminal plan with
the aim of terrorizing people or threatening to harm them or imperiling
their lives, honor, freedoms, security or rights or exposing the
environment or any facility or public or private property to hazards or
occupying or seizing them, or endangering a national resource, or
international facilities, or threatening the stability, territorial
integrity, political unity or sovereignty of independent
The US Department of State, in an Apr. 30, 2001 report titled "Patterns of Global Terrorism - 2000," released by the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, stated:
"No one definition of terrorism has gained universal
acceptance. For the purposes of this report, however, we have chosen
the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States
Code, Section 2656f(d). That statute contains the following
The term 'terrorism' means premeditated,
politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant* targets by subnational groups or
clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.
The term 'international terrorism' means terrorism
involving citizens or the territory of more than one country.
The term 'terrorist group' means any group
practicing, or that has significant subgroups that practice,
international terrorism. The US Government has employed this
definition of terrorism for statistical and analytical purposes
For purposes of this definition, the term 'noncombatant' is
interpreted to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel
who at the time of the incident are unarmed or not on duty... We also
consider as acts of terrorism attacks on military installations or on
armed military personnel when a state of military hostilities does not
exist at the site, such as bombings against US bases in Europe, the
Philippines, or elsewhere."
The United Nations General Assembly's Dec. 17, 1996 resolution 51/210, defined terrorism as follows:
"Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them."
[Editor's Note: Consensus among UN member nations has not been reached about the above definition. Dissent is based upon whether or not a distinction should be made between terrorism and the "struggle against foreign occupation." Resolution 51/210 was adopted without a vote.]
The League of Nations Convention of 1937 stated:
"All criminal acts directed against a State and
intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of
particular persons or a group of persons or the general public."
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000, 4th edition), defined terrorism as follows:
"The unlawful use or threatened use of force or
violence by a person or an organized group against people or property
with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or
governments, often for ideological or political reasons."