Who is the Terrorist in Syria?


Who is the Terrorist in Syria

SomalIlandsun -shall not attempt to find a political definition for terrorism lest I end up in the middle of a dispute between those who call a ‘terrorist’ a fighter defending himself against a foreign invader and those who call a ‘Jihadist’ one who kills children and rape women in the cause of a God no one has heard of.

But I will use the legal meaning of terrorism as defined by the Supreme Court (SC) in the UK in order to answer the question. This neither means that it is the best definition nor that it is the only one. But I shall use it not least because of the role of the UK in currently supporting terrorism in Syria. Another important element in the choice of the judgment of the SC is the fact that it’s the highest judicial authority in the UK whose judgment are laws binding on everybody and entity in the UK. Its judgments are also binding in some Commonwealth states and advisory in others and are cited with approval in other courts outside the Commonwealth such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). For these reasons, I shall rely on the definition of terrorism as made by the SC in London.

Having said that, it should not be assumed that I agree with all the judgments of the SC in London. Indeed I have differed on several occasions with its judgments citing the case of (R v Jones [1996] UKHL 16) as one such case where the House of Lords (the predecessor to the Supreme Court) ruled that Aggression is not a crime under the law of the UK. But the world we live in means that we have to abide by the laws whether or not we agree with them!

So what has the SC judgment in the case of defining terrorism been?

The legal issue that reached the SC originated in the case of a British citizen of Libyan decent. In February 2009, as a result of executing a search warrant at his house, police officers found videos on his computer uploaded onto various websites, including the YouTube website. These videos included ones that showed (i) attacks by members of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other proscribed groups on military targets in Chechnya, and on the Coalition forces in Iraq and in Afghanistan, (ii) the use of improvised explosive devices (“IEDs”) against Coalition forces, (iii) excerpts from “martyrdom videos”, and (iv) clips of attacks on civilians, including the 9/11 attack on New York. These videos were accompanied by commentaries praising the bravery, and martyrdom, of those carrying out the attacks, and encouraging others to emulate them.


After the second trial, the defendant was convicted and sentence for five years imprisonment. On appeal to the Court of Appeal (CA) the following question of general public importance was put:

“Does the definition of terrorism in section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 operate so as to include within its scope any or all military attacks by a non-state armed group against any or all state or intergovernmental organisation armed forces in the context of a non-international armed conflict?”


To which the CA response was: Yes. The defendant brought the case to the SC after it granted him leave.


The relevant findings of the SC to our question appear in paragraphs of 27 and 28 of its judgment (R v Gul (Appellant) 2013 UKSC 64):

                                                             “27. The effect of section 1(1) of the 2000 Act is to identify terrorism as consisting of three components. The first is the “use or threat of action”, inside or outside the UK, where that action consists of, inter alia, “serious violence”, “serious damage to property”, or creating a serious risk to public safety or health – section 1(1)(a), (2) and (4). The second component is that the use or threat must be “designed to influence the government [of the UK or any other country] or an [IGO] or to intimidate the public” – section 1(1)(b) and (4). The third component is that the use or threat is “made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause” – section 1(1)(c).


28. As a matter of ordinary language, the definition would seem to cover any violence or damage to property if it is carried out with a view to influencing a government or IGO in order to advance a very wide range of causes. Thus, it would appear to extend to military or quasi-military activity aimed at bringing down a foreign government, even where that activity is approved (officially or unofficially) by the UK government.”


Although the SC took an uncommon step in making comments on the scope of the definition of terrorism and invited Parliament to modify it, nevertheless, it remains the law in the UK. The SC ruled that the action of the UK Government in supporting any military or quasi-military action to topple a regime of another state is an act of terrorism or supporting terrorism in breach of the Law of the UK.


The implications of the SC judgment in relation to Syria are:


  • Firstly, it ruled that any organization that takes up arms against the Government in Damascus is a terrorist organization irrespective of how it is being presented or named. This means that labelling some armed organizations as moderate or non-extremist, such as in the case of the Free Syrian Army, makes no difference to the fact that it is a terrorist organization under the Laws of the UK.


  • Secondly, it held that any Government which supports any organization fighting against the Syrian Government, is in fact supporting terrorism and is subject to the punishment stipulated in the terrorist Acts in the UK. It follows that states like, the UK, USA, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE to name only a few, who have all admitted to supporting armed organizations fighting the Government in Damascus, are likely to be indicted before the courts in the UK for supporting terrorism.


  • Thirdly, it means that the Syrian Government is entitled to indict any of the armed organizations fighting against it before the courts in the UK. Even if it is unable to convict any individual it may succeed in freezing the assets of the armed terrorist organization.


  • Fourthly, it also means that the Syrian Government is entitled to initiate criminal proceedings before the Courts in the UK against any Government that has supported armed organization fighting it.


If the Syrian Government does not take such action it would be failing in its duty towards its people in securing legal remedy for the killing and destruction that has befallen when such remedy is available in the laws of those states that support terrorism.


Should the Syrian Government fail to take such measures for reasons which I am unable to understand, it is the duty of any Syrian citizen to do so and sue any state that had contributed to his demise.


Although I doubt that any Syrian citizen will take such a measure, I feel obliged to remind him that such right exists in case he wants to defend himself and his integrity that had been usurped by the Moguls of the 21st Century.

Abdul-Haq Al-Ani

24 September 2017