Définitions du terrorisme

Geneviève Ouellet

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voir aussi :
1. descripteurs du terrorisme
2. analyse des définitions

Définitions scientifiques

1. Raymond Aron
« Une action violente est dénommée terroriste lorsque ses effets psychologiques sont hors de proportion avec ses résultats purement physiques ».

2. Bruce Hoffman et Donna Kim Hoffman (RAND-St.Andrews Chronology of International Terrorist Incidents, 1995) :
"[...] terrorism is defined by the nature of the act, not by the identity of the perpetrators or the nature of the cause. Terrorism is violence, or the threat of violence, calculated to create an atmosphere of fear and alarm. These acts are designed to coerce others into actions they would otherwise not undertake or refrain from taking actions that they desired to take."


Denning, Dorothy
Cyberterrorisme : « l'usage calculé de cyberattaques ou la menace de cyberattaques pour susciter la peur - avec l'intention de contraindre ou d'intimider des gouvernements ou des sociétés, en poursuivant des objectifs qui sont généralement politiques, religieux, ou idéologiques » (Terrorisme.net).

2. A. Schmid and J. de Graaf, 1980 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 36) :
"Terrorism is the delibarate and systematic use or threat of violence against instrumental (human) targets (C) in a conflict between two (A, B) or more parties, whereby the immediate victims C -- who might not even be part of the conflicting parties -- cannot, through a change of attitude or behaviour, dissociate themselves from the conflict."

Mark Juergensmeyer (Au nom de Dieu, ils tuent ! Éditions Autrement, Paris 2003, p.13)
Terrorisme religieux : aux actes de terreur, perpétrés à l’encontre de civils, que la religion a motivés, justifiés, organisés. »

3. Alex Schmid, 1983 (in Jeffrey Ian Ross and Ted Robert Gurr, 1989: 406) :

"After an exhaustive analysis of over one hundred expert definitions, Schmid concludes that there is no "true or correct definition. ..." Nevertheless, he outlines twenty-two elements of definitions and ostensibly develops a consensus definition consisting in five parts. First, terrorism is a method of combat in which random or symbolic victims are targets of violence. Second, through previous use of violence or the credible threat of violence, other members of that group or class are put in a state of chronic fear. Third, the victimization of the target is considered extranormal by most observers, which, fourth, creates an audience beyond the target of terror. Fifth, the purpose of terrorism is either to mobilize secondary targets of demands (for example, government) or targets of attention (for example, public opinion)."


4. Alex Schmid (1984) :

"Terrorism is a method of combat in which random or symbolic victims serve as an instrumental target of violence. These instrumental victims share group or class characteristics which form the basis for their selection for victimization. Through previous use of violence or the credible threat of violence other members of that group or class are put in a state of chronic fear (terror). This group or class, whose members' sense of security is purposefuly undermines, is the target of terror. The victimization of the target of violence is considered extranormal by most observers from the witnessing audience on the basis of its atrocity, the time (e.g. peacetime) or place (not a battlefield) of victimization, or the disregard for rules of combat accepted in conventional warfare. The norm violation creates an attentive audience beyond the target of terror; sectors of this audience might in turn form the main object of manipulation. The purpose of this indirect method of combat is either to immobilize the target of terror in order to produce disorientation and/or compliance, or to mobilize secondary targets of demands (e.g., a government) or targets of attention (e.g., public opinion) to changes of attitude or behaviour favouring the short or long-term interests of the users of this method of combat."


5. Alex Schmid, Albert J. Jongman et al. (1988: 28) :

"Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi)-clandestine individual, group, or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal, or political reasons, whereby -- in contrast to assassination -- the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators. Threat- and violence-based communication processes between terrorists (organization), (imperiled) victims, and main targets are used to manipulate the main target (audience(s)), turning it into a target of terror, a target of demands, or a target of attention, depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily sought."

6. Alex Schmid (1992) :
Act of Terrorism = Peacetime Equivalent of War Crime.


7. Brian Jenkins :

"Terrorism is the use or threatened use of force designed to bring about political change."


8. Brian Jenkins, 1975 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 36) :

"The threat of violence, individual acts of violence, or a campaign of violence designed primarily to instill fear -- to terrorize -- may be called terrorism. Terrorism is violence for effect: not only, and sometimes not at all, for the effect on the actual victims of the terrorists. In fact, the victime may be totally unrelated to the terrorists' cause. Terrorism is violence aimed at the people watching. Fear is the intended effect, not the byproduct, of terrorism. That, at least, distinguishes terrorist tactics from mugging and other forms of violent crime that may terrify but are not terrorism."


9. Brian Jenkins, 1975 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 42) :

"The most simple definition of international terrorism comprises acts of terrorism that have clear international consequences: incidents in which terrorists go abroad to strike their targets, select victims or targets because of their connections to a foreign state (diplomats, local executives or officers of foreign corporations), attack airliners in international flights or force airliners to fly another country... International terrorism may also be defined as acts of violence or campaigns of violence waged outside the accepted rules and procedures of international diplomacy and war."


10. Walter Laqueur :

"Terrorism constitutes the illegitimate use of force to achieve a political objective when innocent people are targeted."


11. James M. Poland :

"Terrorism is the premeditated, deliberate, systematic murder, mayhem, and threatening of the innocent to create fear and intimidation in order to gain a political or tactical advantage, usually to influence an audience."


12. R.P. Hoffman (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 4) :
"Terrorism is a purposeful human political activity which is directed towards the creation of a general climate of fear, and is designed to influence, in ways desired by the protagonist, other human beings and, through them, some course of events."


13. Gerhard Schmidtchen (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 5) :

"an action theory of illegal political behaviour."


14. Th. P. Thornton (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 7) :

"terror is a symbolic act."


15. V.K. Anand, 1984 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 34)

"... terrorism is decribed as the art of compelling an individual, group, or authority to adopt a particular disposition or accept the imposed demands under conditions of fear created by passive action or violence -- demonstrated, threatened or implied."


16. U. Backes and E. Jesse, 1985 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 34)

" Terrorisme has a communicative function. By means of a systematic application of acts of violence involving the element of surprise, fear and terror -- according to the etymological meaning of the word -- are intended to be produced in the social group that is fought; at the same time it is intended to arouse the attention and (in the long run) sympathy of larger sections of the population for certain political purposes."


17. A.H. Buckelew. 1986 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 34) :

"... terrorism is definded as violent, criminal behavior designed primarily to generate fear in the communicty, or in a substantial segment of the community, for political purposes."


18. R.S. Cline and Y. Alexander, 1985 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 34-35) :

" It is suggested that state-sponsored terrorism be defined as: 'The deliberate employment of violence or the threat of use of violence by sovereign states (or sub-national groups encouraged or assisted by sovereign states) to attain strategic and political objectives by acts in violation of law intended to create overwhelming fear in a target population larger than the civilian or military victims attacked or threatened.' It is further suggested that recent history indicates: The main goal of this state-sponsored terrorism now at the en of the twentieth century is to undermine selectively the policies, the psycho-social stability, and political governability of pluralist states with representative governments."


19. M. Crenshaw, 1983 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 35) :

"... a basic definition would include the following attributes: the systematic use of unorthodox violence by small conspiratorial groups with the purpose of manipulating political attitudes rather than physically defeating an enemy. The intent of terrorist violence is psychological and symbolic, not material. Terrorism is premeditated and purposeful violence, employed in a struggle for political power. As Harold Lasswell defined it: 'Terrorists are participants in the political process who strive for political results by arousing acute anxieties'."


20. Ronald D. Crelinsten (1987: 6-7) :

"[...] terrorism is conceived as a form of political communication. More specifically, it is the deliberate use of violence and threat of violence to evoke a state of fear (or terror) in a particular victim or audience. The terror evoked is the vehicle by which allegiance or compliance is maintained or weakened. Usually, the use and threat of violence are directed at one group of targets (victims), while the demands for compliance are directed toward a separate group of targets. Hence, we tend to speak of a triangular relationship between the terrorist and two distinct target groups. As for allegiances, the allegiance to be established or maintained is that between the terrorist and one group of targets, while the allegiance to be weakened is that between that same group of targets from whom allegiance is sought and other groups perceived by the terrorist to be enemies to his cause. No matter what the specific end, all terrorism is designed to affect, in some way or another, relationships among people, individuals or groups. In sum, then, terrorism is a tactic involving the use and threat of violence for communicative purposes. How and why it is used varies according to the particular context."


21. Ronald D. Crelinsten (1989: 167-168) :

"I defined terrorism as the combined use of threat and violence against one set of targets (victims) to compel compliance or allegiance from another set of targets (the object of explicit or implied demands) and to impress a wider audience. As such, terrorism is a phenomenon of communication that can involve a multiplicity of targets and audiences. This essentially behavioral definition underscores the fact that terrorism can be exercised by just about anyone -- an insurgent, an agent of the state, a vigilante, a protester, or a law enforcer. Terrorism can occur in a war context (the bombing of Dresden or of Hiroshima), in a criminal context (protection rackets), in a context of political protest (propaganda of the deed), or in the context of repression (torture and disappearances)."


22. B. Crozier, 1974 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 35) :

"... 'terrorism' means 'motivated violence for political ends' (a definition that distinguishes terrorism from both vandalism and non-political crime). Measures of extreme repression, including torture, used by State to oppress the population or to repress political dissenters, who may or may not be terrorists or guerrillas, are termed 'terror' (the converse of terrorism)."


23. R.D. Duvall and M. Stohl, 1983 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 36) :

" Terrorism ... is action intended to induce sharp fear and through that agency to effect a desired outcome in a conflict situation."


24. H. Hess, 1982 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 36) :

"By Terrorism I wish to understand (1) a series of intentional acts of direct physical violence executed (2) at [various] points unpredictably, yet systematically, (3) with the aim of physic effect on others than the physically affected victim (4) in the framework of a political strategy."

25. Bruce Hoffman (La mécanique terroriste, 1999)
« la création délibérée de la peur, ou son exploitation, par la violence ou la menace de violence, dans le but d’obtenir un changement politique. Tous les actes terroristes mettent en jeu la violence ou la menace de la violence. Le terrorisme est spécifiquement destiné à produire des effets psychologiques qui touchent un cercle plus large que la ou les victimes immédiates et l’objet direct de l’attentat. Son but est de susciter la peur, et donc d’intimider une « audience cible » plus large : groupe ethnique ou religieux rival, pays entier, gouvernement ou parti politique, opinion publique en général. Le terrorisme a pour but de s’approprier le pouvoir quand il ne l’a pas, ou de le consolider quand il est faible. A travers la publicité générée par la violence, les terroristes cherchent à obtenir la puissance, l’influence et le pouvoir qui leur font défaut, afin d’effectuer le changement politique, sur un plan local ou international ».

26. Pierre Mannoni (Les logiques du terrorisme, 2004 : 58)
« Le terrorisme correspond à l’emploi systématique d’un ensemble de techniques diverses d’une violence extrême, sans limites et sans lois, recourant à des moyens à haute valeur symbolique, utilisés par un groupe (en quête ou en possession du pouvoir politique) comme moyen de pression sur un autre groupe – ou une société entière. Procédure d’influence du comportement humain, son mode d’action principal passe par la manipulation psychologique de ses victimes, à travers la mise en scène médiatique des attentats qu’il organise comme autant d’actes ostentatoires dans la perspective précisément de leur dramatisation par les moyens de communication de masse. Cette procédure générale est sujette à variation épiphénoménale en fonction du contexte circonstanciel dans lequel elle s’applique. Le résultat final escompté est toujours la désorganisation adaptative de l’adversaire et son abandon de la lutte. »

25. Edward Mickolus (1980: xii) :

"[...] the use, or threat of use, of anxiety-inducing, extranormal violence for political purposes by any individual or group, whether acting for or in opposition to established governmental authority, when such action is intended to influence the the attitudes and behavior of a target group wider than the immediate victims and when, through the nationality or foreign ties of its perpetrators, through its location, through the nature of its institutional or human victims, or through the mechanics of its resolution, its ramifications transcend national boundaries."


26. Benjamin Netanyahu (1986: 9) :

"Terrorism is the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming, and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends."


27. G. Wardlaw, 1982 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 36-37) :

"Political terrorism is the use, or treath of use, of violence by an individual or a group, whether acting for or in opposition to established authority, when such action is designed to create extreme anxiety and/or fear-inducing effects in a target group larger than the immediate victims with the purpose of coercing that group into acceding to the political demands of the perpetrators."


28. J. Adams (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 37) :

"A terrorist is an individual or member of a group that wishes to achieve political ends using violent means often at the cost of casualties to innocent civilians and with the support of only a minority of the people they claim to represent."


29. D. Della Porta (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 37) :

"Terrorism is the action of clandestine political organisations, of small dimensions, which try to reach political aims through a continuous and almost exclusive use of violent forms of action."


30. I. Fetscher (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 37) :

"Application of violence (kidnapping, bombing, killing) in order to intimidate (terrorise) government and/or establishment groups and to impose certain changements (a) in the situation of ethnic minorities (up to independence), (b) in the strength and control of criminality and/or deviating behaviour (right-wing and vigilantism), (c) in the structure of the society (in the direction of more democracy and 'real equality' (left-wing millenarism in developed countries), (d) in the international relations (international terrorism's fight for 'independence' both legal-political and/or economic)."


31. T.R. Gurr (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 37) :

"Terrorism is [coercive, life-threatening] action intended to induce sharp fear and through that agency to effect a desired outcome in a conflict situation." (Modified version of a definition used by Raymond Duvall and Michael Stohl.)


32. A. Merari (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 38) :

"The systematic use of violence by sub-state groups or individuals in the service of political, social or religious objectives, whose intended psychological impact considerably surpasses the physical results."


33. R. Thakrah (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 38) :

"An organized system of extreme and violent intimidation"


34. Ch. Townsend (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 38) :

"The use of force by the armed [meaning not merely 'weaponed' but also psychologically prepared] against the unarmed."


35. A. Yoder (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 38) :

"Terrorism is the use of violence, usually systematically, to coerce or intimidate a population or government into changing policy."


36. Milbank, 1976 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 41-42) :

" [...] international and transnational terrorism are defined as follows : Common Characteristics : The threat or use of violence for political purposes when (1) such action is intended to influence the attitudes and behavior of a target group wider than its immediate victims, and (2) its ramifications transcend national boundaries (as a result, for example, of the nationality or foreign ties of its perpetrators, its locale, the identity os its institutional or human victims, its declared objectives, or the mechanisms of its resolution).


"International Terrorism: Such action when carried out by basically autonomous non-state actors, wheter or not they enjoy some degree of support from sympathetic groups controlled by a sovereign state.


"Transnational Terrorism: Such action when carried out by basically autonomous non-state actors, whether or not they enjoy some degree of support from sympathetic states."


37. A.P. Pierre, 1976 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 42) :

International Terrorism = "... acts of violence across national boundaries, or with clear international repercussions, often within the territory or involving the citizens of a third party to a dispute."


38. W.H. Smith, 1977 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 42) :

International Terrorism = "... when the terrorist is of one nationality and at least some of his victims are of another."


39. Richard Shultz (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 47) :

(1) Revolutionary Terrorism may be defined as the threat and/or employment of extranormal forms of political violence, in varying degrees, with the objective of successfully effecting a complete revolutionary change (change of fundamental political-social processes) within the political system ...


(2) Sub-Revolutionary Terrorism may be defined as the threat and/or employment of extranormal forms of political violence, in varying degrees, with the objective of effecting various changes in the structural-functional aspects of the particular political system. The goal is to bring about changes within the body politic, not to abolish it in favor of a complete system change...


(3) Establishment Terrorism may be defined as the threat and/or employment of extranormal forms of political violence, in varying degrees, by an established political system, against both external and internal opposition.


40. Ayla Schbley (2003: 107) :

"Terrorism is any violent act upon symbolic civilians and their properties."


41. P. Wilkinson, 1974 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 42) :

International Terrorism = "... terrorism committed outside the borders of one or all of the parties to the political conflict... when it is motivated by revolutionary objectives."


42. P. Wilkinson, 1976 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 37) :

"Terrorism is a special mode or process of violence which has at least three basic elements: the terroristic aims of its perpetrators, their modus operandi in deploying particular forms of violence upon the victims and the target audience ... I have defined political terrorism as the systematic use of murder and destructions, and the threat of murder and destruction, to terrorise individuals, groups, communities or governments into conceding to the terrorists' political aims."


43. Paul Wilkinson (1986) :

"it is the systematic use of murder and destruction, and the threat of murder and estruction in order to terrorize individuals, groups, communities or governments into conceding to the terrorists' political demands."


44. Paul Wilkinson (1997: 51) :
"It has five distinguishing characteristics:

1) it is premeditated and designed to create a climate of extreme fear;
2) it is directed at a wider target than the immediate victims;
3) it inherently involves attacks on random or symbolic targets, including civilians;
4) it is considered by the society in which it occurs as "extra-normal", that is in the literal sense that it violates the norms regulating disputes, protest and dissent;
5) it is used primarliy, though not exclusively, to influence the political behaviour of governments, communities or specific social groups."

45. David Claridge (1996: 50) :
"Terrorism is the systematic threat or use of violence, whether for, or in opposition to, established authority, with the intention of communicating a political message to a group larger than the victim group by generating fear and so altering the behaviour of the larger group. Either the victim or the perpetrator, or both, will be operating outside a military context; both will never be operating within a military context."

46. Avishag Gordon (1995: 172) :
"Terrorism: the systematic use of violence and intimidation to achieve an end; terrorist activity may be a single domestic or international event, or a series of events.

International terrorism: events of terrorism which extend across the boundaries of two or more nations, involving actions such as skyjacking and the bombing of targets in international offices and airports.

Terrorist tactics: an aspect of international terrorism concerned with the ways and means by which terrorists perform their actions, their immediate and delayed targets, and the techniques they use to secure objectives, tactics may change and conform to technological developments which the terrorists adjust to their strategy."

47. Anthony Kellett et al. (1991: 23) :
"[...] terrorism consists of acts of serious violence, planned and executed clandestinely, and committed with clear intention to achieve political ends; it is frequently compounded by the threat of further violence, primarily to communicate demands and to gain publicity, and to extort, intimidate and disrupt; and to realize these goals, a terrorist act may involve one or more targets -- the target(s) of violence, the target(s) of demand, and those persons to be sensitised and thereby converted to the terrorit cause."

48. Arend et Beck (International Law and the Use of Force: Beyond the UN Charter Paradigm, 1993) :
A terrorist act is distinguished by at least three specific qualities:

a. Violence, whether actual or threatened;
b. A "political" objective, however conceived, and;
c. An intended audience, typically though not exclusively a wide one.

B. Terrorist actors are:

a. Those without state toleration, support or sponsorship;
b. Those with state toleration, but without state support or sponsorship;
c. Those with state support, but without immediate state sponsorship;
d. Those with state sponsorship. 

49. Soliman M. Santos :

The employment by states, groups or individuals of acts or threats of violence or use of weapons deliberately targeting the civilian population, individuals or infrastructure for the primary purpose of spreading terror or extreme fear among the civilian population in relation to some political or quasi-political objective and undertaken with an intended audience.


50. Jaffee Center (in Schmid and Crelinsten (eds.), 1993: 31) :

"[...] a terrorist group is defined as an organization other than a state (although it may enjoy state support and/or act in the service of a state) that resorts to the systematic use of violence in order to achieve political ends. A terrorist incident is any violent activity conducted by a non-state organization in order to attain political objectives (...) In addition to these categories, the JCSS data base monitors international terrorist activity conducted by direct emissaries of states on foreign territory. International terrorist incidents are defined as those events in which more than one country is involved."


51. Centre de recherche sur le terrorisme international (CRTI) :

"Une utilisation illégale de la force contre des personnes ou des propriétés, intimidation ou contrainte d’un gouvernement et de la population afin de promouvoir un changement ou un avancement politique, religieux ou social."



Définitions institutionnelles (légales, officielles)


1. Définition du Larousse (2004) :

"Emploi de la violence à des fins politiques"


2. Définition du Petit Robert :

"Emploi systématique de la violence pour atteindre un but politique"


3. Définition selon la loi 36 :
i. is taken or threatened for political, religious or ideological purposes and threatens the public or national security by killing, seriously harming or endangering a person, substantial property damage that is likely to seriously harm people or by interfering with or disrupting an essential service, facility or system.
ii. knowingly collects or provides funds, either directly or indirectly, in order to carry out terrorist crimes.
iii. knowingly participates in, contributes to or facilitates the activities of a terrorist group.
iv. instructs anyone to carry out a terrorist act or an activity on behalf of a terrorist group.
v. knowingly harbours or conceals a terrorist".


4. Code criminel du Canada :
Soit un acte - action ou omission, commise au Canada ou à l'étranger :
(1) d'une part, commis à la fois :

(a) au nom -- exclusivement ou non -- d'un but, d'un objectif ou d'une cause de nature politique, religieuse ou idéologique,
(b) en vue -- exclusivement ou non -- d'intimider tout ou partie de la population quant à sa sécurité, entre autres sur le plan économique, ou de contraindre une personne, un gouvernement ou une organisation nationale ou internationale à accomplir un acte ou à s'en abstenir, que la personne, la population, le gouvernement ou l'organisation soit ou non au Canada,

(2) d'autre part, qui intentionnellement, selon le cas :
(a) cause des blessures graves à une personne ou la mort de celle-ci, par l'usage de la violence,
(b) met en danger la vie d'une personne,
(c) compromet gravement la santé ou la sécurité de tout ou partie de la population,
(d) cause des dommages matériels considérables, que les biens visés soient publics ou privés, dans des circonstances telles qu'il est probable que l'une des situations mentionnées aux divisions (A) à (C) en résultera,
(e) perturbe gravement ou paralyse des services, installations ou systèmes essentiels, publics ou privés, sauf dans le cadre de revendications, de protestations ou de manifestations d'un désaccord ou d'un arrêt de travail qui n'ont pas pour but de provoquer l'une des situations mentionnées aux divisions (A) à (C).

5. U.S. Congress, 1977 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 32)
" [International terrorism includes any other] ... unlawful act which results in the death, bodily harm, or forcible deprivation of liberty to any person, or in the violent destruction of property, or an attempt or credible threat to commit any such act, if the act, threat, or attempt is committed or takes effect (A) outside the territory of a state of which the alleged offender is a national; or (B) outside the territory of the state against which the act is directed; or (C) within the territory of the state against which the act is directed and the alleged offender knows or has reason to know that a person against whom the act is directed is not a national of that state; or (D) within the territory of any state when found to have been supported by a foreign state ... irrespective of the nationality of the alleged offender: provided, that the act of international terrorism is (i) intended to damage or threaten the interests of or obtain concessions from a state or an international organization; and (ii) not committed in the course of military and paramilitary operations directed essentially against military forces or military targets of a state or an organized armed group. "

6. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, 1980 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 32) :
" ... the threat or use of violence for political purposes by individuals or groups, whether acting for, or in opposition to established governmental authority, when such actions are intended to shock or intimidate a large group wider than the immediate victims. "

7. U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1980 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 32) :
"Terrorism is defined as the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives. A terrorist incident is defined as a violent act or an act dangerous to human life in violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any state to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

8. U.S. Department of Justice, 1984 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 33) :
"... violent criminal conduct apparently intended : (1) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (2) to influence the conduct of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (3) to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping. "

9. U.S. Army (and some Commonwealth armies as well), 1983 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 33) :
" ... The use or threat of violence in furtherance of a political aim."

10. U.S. Army, 1983 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 33) :
" ... the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to attain goals political, religious, or ideological in nature. This is done through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear. Terrorism involves a criminal act that is often symbolic in nature and intended to influence an audience beyond the immediate victims."

11. U.S. Department of Defense, 1983 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 33) :
" ... the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a revolutionary organization against individuals or property with the intention or cercing or intimidating governments or societies, often for political or ideological purposes. "

12. U.S. Department of Defense, 1986 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988:33) :
"... the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious or ideological objectives."

13. U.S. Department of State, 1983 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 33) :
"... premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine state agents."

14. Vice-President's Task Force (1986) :

Terrorism is the unlawful use or threat of violence against persons or property to further political or social objectives. It is usually intended to intimidate or coerce a government, individuals or groups, or to modify their behavior or politics.


15. German Federal Republic, Office for the Protection of the Constitution, 1985 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 33-34) :

" Terrorism is the enduringly conducted struggle for political goals, which are intended to be achieved by means of assaults on the life and property of other persons, especially by means of severe crimes as detailed in art. 129a, sect. 1 of the penal law book (above all: murder, homicide, extortionist kidnappinf, arson, setting off a blast by explosives) or by means of other acts of violence, which serve as preparation of such criminal acts."


16. United Kingdom, 1974 (in Schmid, Jongman et al., 1988: 34) :

"the use of violence for political ends, and includes any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public or any section of the public in fear."

17. Section 212 (a)(3)(B), US Immigration and Nationality Act :
(ii) "TERRORIST ACTIVITY" DEFINED - As used in this Act, the term "terrorist activity" means any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place where it is committed (or which, if committed in the United States, would be unlawful under the laws of the United States or any State) and which involves any of the following:

(I) The highjacking or sabotage of any conveyance (including an aircraft, vessel, or vehicle).
(II) The seizing or detaining, and threatening to kill, injure, or continue to detain, another individual in order compel a third person (including a governmental organization) to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the individual seized or detained.
(III) A violent attack upon an internationally protected person (as defined in section 1116(b)(4) of title 18, United States code) or upon the liberty of such a person.
(IV) An assassination.
(V) The use of any

(a) biological agent, chemical agent, or nuclear weapon or device," or
(b) explosive or firearm (other than for mere personal monetary gain), with intent to endanger, directly or indirectly, the safety of one or more individuals or to cause substantial damage to property.

(VI) A threat, attempt, or conspiracy to do any of the foregoing. 

(iii) "ENGAGE IN TERRORIST ACTIVITY" DEFINED - As used in the Act, the term "engage in terrorist activity" means to commit, in an individual capacity or as a member of an organization, an act of terrorist activity or an act which the actor knows, or reasonably should know, affords material support to any individual, organization, or government in conducting a terrorist activity at any time, including any of the following acts:

(I) The preparation or planning of a terrorist activity.
(II) the gathering of information on potential targets for terrorist activity.
(III) The providing of any type of material support, including a safe house, transportation, communication, funds, false identification, weapons, explosives, or training, to any individual the actor knows or has reason to believe has committed or plans to commit a terrorist activity.
(IV) The soliciting of funds or other things of value for terrorist activity of for any terrorist organization.
(V) The solicitation of any individual for membership in a terrorist organization, terrorist government, or to engage in a terrorist activity.

18. Droit Turc :

The systematic use of pressure and violence, fear and threaten by publics, or individuals to attain a political objective, to destabilise the institutions of Republic of Turkey mentioned in its constitution or its economic regulations, to devastate its indivisible integrity, to weaken governmental authority, to endanger freedom of the Turkish people, and to vanish internal or international security of the government.


19. Criminal Intelligence Section (police de Vancouver) :
Terrorism is the use of violence, or the threat of violence, to create a climate of fear in a given population. Terrorist violence targets ethnic or religious groups, governments, political parties, corporations, media enterprises, and increasingly, innocent civilians.
Organizations that engage in acts of terror are almost always small in size and limited in resources compared to the populations and institutions they oppose. Through publicity and fear generated by their violence, they seek to magnify their influence and power to effect political change on either a local or an international scale.

20. Ligue des nations, 1937 (in Laqueur, 2003: 233) :
"all criminal acts directed against a state ... and intended to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons or the general public"


21. Nations unies, 1999 (in Laqueur, 2003: 233) :

"terrorism consisted of criminal acts intended to provoke a state of terror, and these were in any circumstances unjustified whatever the considerations -- that of a political, philisophical, ideological, racial, ethnic religious, or other nature."


22. TREVI (in Schmid and Crelinsten (eds.), 1993: 90) :

"An organized crime of a terrorist nature is understood to be the use of, or the threat with the use of violence by a coherent group of persons for the purpose of achieving political goals, excluding the waging of war. Included in these crimes are also punishable facts which in themselves are not violent but which are serious due to the circumstances that they are perpetrated in the same framework for the achievement of sid goals (so-called connected crimes)."

23. La Personnelle (assurances générales) :
« Tout acte ou série d'actes illégaux motivés par des considérations idéologiques, y compris, sans toutefois s'y limiter, le recours à la violence, à la force ou à la menace de violence ou de force, commis par ou pour un groupe, une organisation ou un gouvernement dans le but d'influencer tout gouvernement ou de semer la peur au sein de la population ou d'une partie de la population ou les deux à la fois. »

24. Convention arabe pour la lutte contre le terrorisme, 22 avril 1998
Article 1 er
Les termes ci-après sont désignés par la définition donnée à chaque terme [comme suit] :
1. Etat contractant : Tout État membre de la Ligue des États arabes qui aura ratifié la présente Convention et déposé les instruments de ratification auprès du Secrétariat général de la Ligue.
2. Terrorisme : Tout acte de violence ou menace de violence, quels qu'en soient les causes et les buts, commis pour mettre en œuvre un projet criminel individuel ou collectif et visant à semer la terreur parmi les gens ou à les effrayer en leur portant atteinte ou en mettant en péril leur vie, leur liberté ou leur sécurité ou à porter atteinte à l'environnement, à l'un des services publics, aux biens publics ou privés, ou à les occuper ou à s'en emparer, ou encore à mettre en danger l'une des ressources nationales.
3. L'infraction terroriste : Toute infraction ou commencement d'une infraction commis dans un but terroriste dans tout Etat contractant ou visant ses ressortissants, ses biens ou ses intérêts, et qui sont punis par la loi interne de l'État en question. Sont considérées également comme infractions terroristes, les infractions prévues par les Conventions suivantes, exception faite des infractions non prévues par les législations des États parties ou des États qui n'ont pas ratifié ces Conventions :

  • La Convention de Tokyo relative aux infractions et à certains autres actes survenant à bord des aéronefs, signée le 14 septembre 1963.
  • La Convention de la Haye pour la répression de la capture illicite d'aéronefs, signée le 16 décembre 1970.
  • La Convention de Montréal pour la répression des actes illicites dirigés contre la sécurité de l'aviation civile, signée le 23 septembre 1971, ainsi que son Protocole, signé à Montréal le 10 mai 1984.
  • La Convention de New York pour la prévention et la répression des infractions commises contre les personnes jouissant d'une protection internationale, y compris les agents diplomatiques, signée le 14 décembre 1973.
  • La Convention internationale contre la prise d'otages , signée le 17 décembre 1979.
  • La Convention des Nations unies de 1983 (sic) [1982] sur le droit de la mer, notamment en ce qui concerne la piraterie maritime.

Article 2
) Ne constituent pas une infraction tous les cas de lutte armée, [menée] avec les divers moyens, y compris la lutte armée contre l'occupation étrangère et contre l'agression en vue de la libération et de l'autodétermination, conformément aux principes du droit international. Tout acte portant atteinte à l'intégrité territoriale de l'un des États arabes n'est pas parmi ces cas.
b ) Aucune des infractions terroristes mentionnées à l'article précédant ne constitue une des infractions politiques.
Dans l'application des dispositions de la présente Convention, les infractions suivantes ne sont pas considérées comme infractions, même si le motif en est politique :
1. L'agression contre les rois et les présidents des États contractants, les gouvernants et leurs épouses ou leurs ascendants et descendants.
2 . L'agression contre les princes héritiers ou contre les vice-présidents, les chefs des gouvernements ou contre les ministres de n'importe quel État contractant.
3 . L'agression contre les personnes jouissant d'une protection internationale, y compris les ambassadeurs et les diplomates (se trouvant) dans les États contractants ou accrédités auprès de ceux-ci.
4 . L'homicide volontaire, le vol accompagné de contrainte contre les individus ou contre les autorités, les moyens de transport et de communication.
5 . Les actes de sabotage et de destruction des biens publics et des biens destinés à un service public, même s'ils appartiennent à un État contractant.
6 . Les infractions de fabrications, de contrebande ou de détention d'armes, de munitions, d'explosifs, ou d'autres matières conçues dans le but de commettre des infractions terroristes.


Définitions politiques


1. Colombo, Nov. 27 :

The leader of the Tamil Tigers, Mr. Velupillai Prabhakaran, today asked the West to redefine its concept of terrorism to exclude groups like his own that, according to him, used violence for "a concrete political objective." In an address to commemorate "Heroes' Day," observed by the LTTE every year on this day in memory of its cadres killed in action, Mr. Prabhakaran denied being a terrorist and said he represented a "people's movement."


2. "Une opposition violente à un système démocratique" - ceci semble être une définition que Laqueur aimerait aussi (v. No End to War). Ceci rend le terrorisme fondamentalement mauvais dans un monde moderne.


3. Ronald D. Crelinsten (1987) :

le terrorisme est une forme de communication politique et devrait être étudié en tant que tel, c'est-à-dire sans les a prioris conventionnels ci-dessus et dans son ensemble, afin de permettre une analyse comparative. il suggère également un troisième modèle d'analyse: le modèle du contrôle.


4. Daniel Hermant et Didier Bigo (in Fernando Reinares (ed.), 2000: 75) :

"Croire après cela à une définition objective du phénomène qui pourrait éviter de prendre parti (et de prendre parti pour le vainqueur du combat sur la légitimité, mais est-ce forcément le plus juste ou simplement celui qui dispose des ressources les plus efficaces en matière de propagande et plus généralement de discours et de symboles à forte efficacité symbolique?) relève d'une certaine naïveté, utilisée par certains en fonction d'intérêts politiques. Il faut donc admettre que le terme de terrorisme oscillera en fonction des options éthiques et politiques, non par mauvaise volonté, absence dommageable de consensus sur des valeurs, mais avant tout parce que son usage, à la différence de termes comme combattant, est une arme dans le combat politique et symbolique entre les adversaires."


5. Walter Laqueur, 1987 (in Andrew Silke, 1996: 12) :

"Any definition of political terrorism venturing beyond noting the systematic use of murder, injury, and destruction or the threats of such acts towards achieving political ends is bound to lead to endless controversies."

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