The Prohibition of Terrorism as a Jus Cogens Norm

Authors Aniel de Beer, Dire Tladi

ISSN: 2521-2583
Affiliations: Research Associate: South African Research Chair in International Law, University of Johannesburg; Professor of International Law, University of Pretoria
Source: South African Yearbook of International Law, 2017, p. 1 – 41


In the years after 9/11, various resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council have condemned terrorism as a flagrant violation of international law and a grave threat to international peace and security. Furthermore, terrorist acts have been declared as unjustifiable regardless of the reasons invoked by its perpetrators. In light of the universal condemnation of terrorism, the question arises whether the prohibition of terrorism has attained the status of a peremptory norm of international law (jus cogens). This article analyses the criteria for jus cogens norms as set out in article 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties as well as the characteristics of jus cogens norms as have emerged under international law. It then considers whether the prohibition of terrorism meets the criteria for jus cogens norms, and in addition to this, whether it possesses the characteristics of jus cogens norms. Finally, it evaluates whether the prohibition of terrorism has attained the status of a jus cogens norm.