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On June 14, 1985, Robert Stethem was shot to death aboard a hijacked TWA airliner. On October 7, 1985, the Italian cruise-liner, Achille Lauro, was hijacked and the next day Leon Klinghofer was killed and thrown overboard. On Julyu 2, 1986, Rodrgio Rojas was mortally wounded when he was doused with gasoline and set afire while walking with protesters in Santiago, Chile. Soviets are said to leave booby-trapped dolls for Afghan Moujahadeen children. There is evidence that the United States government directly supports the Nicaraguan contras who, in waging their guerilla war, allegedly have killed innocent citizens. It is said that the Nicaraguan Sandinistas have done the same in fighting to maintain their power. In September 1982, civilians and other non-combatants were slaughtered in the refugee camps at Sabra and Shatila, Labanon, by Lebanese-Christian forces dependent on Israel. These tragic episodes and events exemplify the ugly saga of terrorism, a modern “mal du siècle” that masks as righteous warfare.

A war of national liberation is, by definition, murderously violent—“a war that gives no quarter.” Such a war inevitably turns many of the combatants on both sides into victims, executioners, or both. The important question today is whether certain conduct—whether perpetrated by governmental officials, soldiers, police, freedom fighters, insurgents in a civil war, or dissidents—is criminal, notwithstanding that it may be deemed by nations and other groups to be acceptable or even “morally” justifiable because of the cause it supports or promotes.

Publication Citation

19 Conn. L. Rev. 895 (1987).