This Day in International Law—March 27

By: Jozefien Van Caeneghem |

On March 27, 2002, a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 30 civilians and injured 143 in Israel during Passover. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the deadly attack. Seven years later, on March 27, 2009, a suicide bomber killed 83 civilians and injured more than 100 in Pakistan. Although no organization claimed responsibility for the latter attack, it was suspected to be the work of pro-Taliban fighters. These are just two examples of a much larger number of suicide attacks executed by terrorist organizations in Israel, Pakistan and elsewhere. Such violent attacks deliberately targeting civilians are crimes against humanity and the persons planning and/or carrying out the attacks are war criminals and should be held individually and criminally responsible. The absence of arrests and prosecutions creates a climate of impunity that glorifies the horrible crimes committed among those supporting the acts, while generating a climate of fear among the targeted populations. While suicide bombing may not be the most frequently-used method employed by terrorist organizations, their impact in terms of fatality numbers and installment of a climate of terror turns them into a highly effective means of warfare. Despite repeated condemnation of the practice by international organizations such as the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, there has been a global rise in the occurrence of suicide bombings. In more recent years, the characteristics of the attacks seem to be changing. Terrorist organizations no longer refrain from using women and children in suicide attacks.