‘Illegal but Justifiable’ Revolution : a Solution to the ‘Terrorists v Freedom Fighters’ Dilemma?

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Title: ‘Illegal but Justifiable’ Revolution : a Solution to the ‘Terrorists v Freedom Fighters’ Dilemma?
Author: Sihvo, Olena
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Oikeustieteellinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Law
Helsingfors universitet, Juridiska fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingfors universitet
Date: 2017
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201705304298
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Kansainvälinen oikeus
International law
Abstract: The underlying goal of this thesis is to bring some clarity to the perennial ‘terrorist v freedom fighters’ dilemma. The importance of this undertaking is hard to overestimate considering the increased vulnerability of non-state actors pursuing progressive anti-dominant political agendas in the post-9/11 environment when it is much easier and less costly for states in terms of international acceptance to suppress opposition movements by applying the label ‘terrorism’. Because the legal definition of terrorism is yet to be agreed just like the conceptual ramifications and legal scope of the notion of revolution as the most widespread form of modern freedom-fighting are still highly under-theorised, a recourse is had to the second-tier framework of principled restraint based on the moral distinction between just and unjust wars. Such revival of the just war theory in the twenty-first century is occasioned by the increased invocation of the substantive-legitimacy talk in the contemporary conditions of rapid change and reigning uncertainty as to the law’s ability to adapt in order to bridge a gap between what law requires and what morality demands. A net outcome of such development is the emergence of the ‘illegal but justifiable’ formula where a certain action can be technically illegal but morally justified if undertaken in conformity with the second-order principles of legitimate aim, legitimate goal, legitimate target and a set of legitimate conditions. Ergo, if freedom-fighting can be ‘illegal but justifiable’, it is by definition not terroristic. Importantly, the substantive-legitimacy framework of the second-order norms might appear as lacking sufficient clarity and legal robustness by virtue of being too abstract to serve as a clear guide for action. Yet, it introduces additional avenues of debate over controversial conduct and provides a setting of more controlled criteria for the interpretation of first-tier legal rules with a view of adapting those to changing circumstances.

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