How Could Terrorism Be Justified?

  • Carl Wellman
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Law book series (BRIEFSLAW, volume 9)


Terrorism cannot be justified either as he least harmful option or because it protects human rights alone because it both inflicts harms and violates human rights. However under very exceptional circumstances it might be justified when it both protects rights and prevents harms more than it violates rights and harms its victims. Although it cannot be justified merely because it equalizes rights violations, this may be a relevant consideration because the right to equitable treatment cannot be ignored in any possible justification. Terrorism could be justified because it liberates an oppressed people only if on balance it protects rights and prevents harms more fully than it violates rights and inflicts harms. It cannot be justified merely as an exercise of the right to self-determination or as a necessary means to a moral right because no moral right is absolute and unconditional. When terrorism is justified as a permissible tactic in a just war or as an exercise of the right to self-defense, this is because in this instance it protects rights and prevents harms more fully than it violates rights and inflicts harms. This might also be true when it is necessary to overcome an extreme emergency, although possibly an extreme emergency might exclude any judgment of wrongness without implying that terrorism is morally right. There is no objective evidence of any religious duty to engage in terrorism.


Harms Human rights Equitable treatment Liberation Self-determination Just war Self-defense Necessary Supreme emergency Religious duty 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyWashington University - St LouisSaint LouisUSA

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