This module is a resource for lecturers  


Terrorism international framework: General UNSC resolutions on terrorism


In addition to the 19 international instruments, the UN Security Council has taken an increasingly active role in countering terrorism since the late 1990s. The Council has adopted a series of counter-terrorism resolutions, some of which are legally binding upon UN Member States as they were adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and form a core part of the international legal framework to counter terrorism. Below is an overview of some of the principal counter-terrorism resolutions issued by the UN Security Council: 1373 (2001), 1456 (2003), 1566 (2004), and 2178 (2014). Some of the UN Security Council resolutions linking terrorism to specific crime types, such as trafficking in firearms, cultural property, human trafficking and migrants smuggling are also briefly analysed, such as UNSC resolutions 2199 (2015), 2331 (2016) and 2388 (2017).

Following the attacks on the United States in 2001, the UNSC issued resolution 1373 (2001), which requires all States to ensure that terrorism related offences and terrorist financing be treated as serious crimes. UNSC resolution 1373 mandates States to harmonize their national laws with the existing international framework on terrorism. The resolution did not include a definition of terrorism, which some scholars have argued leads to "decentralized and haphazard national implementation" (Saul, 2015).

Subsequently, the Security Council adopted resolutions 1456 (2003) and 1566 (2004). UNSC 1456 is the first counter-terrorism resolution to mention State responsibility to uphold and protect "human rights" (para. 6). It also notes the relationship between terrorism and criminal activity: "terrorists must also be prevented from making use of other criminal activities such as transnational organized crime, illicit drugs and drug trafficking, money-laundering and illicit arms trafficking." UNSC resolution 1566 sets out guidelines for improved national implementation of UNSC 1373.UNSC 1566 calls on States to prevent and punish:

(C)riminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing an act […] are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature […] (para. 3).

In response to the rise of the entity called the Islamic State, the Security Council issued resolution 2178 (2014), which requires all States to ensure that travel related to the planning, preparing, or execution of terrorist training, or to participate in terrorist acts, are criminalized under national legislation and be treated as serious offences. This resolution requires that States prohibit individuals believed to be "foreign terrorist fighters" from crossing their borders, ban funding for such individuals; prosecute, rehabilitate and reintegrate "returning foreign fighters"; and stop "recruiting, organising transporting or equipping" anyone going abroad for terrorist acts or training. Subsequently, Security Council resolution 2396 (2017) reiterated the importance of adopting strategies in connection with the movement, prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Returnees and of strengthening judicial measures and international cooperation.

Furthermore, with the aim of putting an end to the trade with Al-Qaida Associated Groups, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2199 (2015), condemning the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and Syria and deciding that all Member States should take steps to prevent the trade in items of cultural, scientific and religious importance from either country. The same resolution also reaffirmed, inter alia, States' obligations to prevent the groups from acquiring arms and related material.

The Security Council has voiced in multiple resolutions its condemnation of the crime of trafficking in persons carried out by terrorist groups (e.g. see: 2331 (2016), 2379 (2017), 2380 (2017) and 2388 (2017)). Notably, resolution 2331 (2016) specifically condemned "all acts of trafficking, particularly the sale or trade in persons undertaken by the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' (ISIL, also known as Da'esh), including of Yazidis and other persons belonging to religious and ethnic minorities," as well as "trafficking in persons and violations and other abuses committed by Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, the Lord's Resistance Army, and other terrorist or armed groups for the purpose of sexual slavery, sexual exploitation, and forced labour." In UNSC resolution 2388 (2017), the Council reiterated such condemnation and stressed that trafficking undermines the rule of law and contributes to other forms of transnational organized crime that could foster insecurity and instability and exacerbate conflict. Lastly, the Council also passed relevant resolutions mentioning potential linkages between trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants and terrorism, mostly with reference to the situations in Libya and Mali (e.g. see 2240 (2015) and 2380 (2017) on Libya, and 2374 (2017) on Mali).

In 2019, the Security Council reiterated the concern that terrorists can benefit from organized crime (domestic or transnational) as a source of financing or logistical support, and from offences such as trafficking in persons and arms, drugs, cultural property, illicit trade of natural resources, kidnapping for ransom, extortion, bank robbery and transnational organized crime at sea. The Security Council highlighted the importance of continuing strengthening the efforts to prevent corruption, the financing of terrorist acts, money laundering and illicit drug-related activities (see resolutions 2462 (2019) and 2482 (2019)).

Next: Organized crime international framework: The Organized Crime Convention and its Protocols
Back to top