Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism (Module 4, UNODC University Module series: Counter-Terrorism)

The series of Modules on Counter-Terrorism Education, developed within the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative, aim to provide a relevant and valuable resource for lecturers teaching courses on counter-terrorism in universities and academic institutions across the world. The Modules seek to enhance students’ understanding of terrorism, its implications and related issues by providing foundational knowledge on relevant international, regional and national instruments and approaches. To increase their effectiveness, the Modules aim to connect theory to practice, encourage critical thinking, and use innovative interactive teaching approaches such as experiential learning, case studies and group-based work. The Modules are multi-disciplinary and can be integrated in a series of courses ranging from law to international relations, sociology, anthropology, criminology and many other disciplines. Whilst the primary focus is on the United Nations instruments, the Modules leave room for diverse perspectives and lecturers can easily adapt them to different local and cultural contexts.

Counter-Terrorism_module_overview_imageModule 4. Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism

This Module introduces students to key concepts, principles, instruments and institutions underpinning criminal justice responses to terrorism, as envisaged in the United Nations CT Strategy. It also explores some of the underpinning reasons for, and implications associated with, there being no universal consensus regarding a definition of terrorism. Furthermore, it introduces students to the notion of international criminal law, in addition to different types of jurisdiction to prosecute serious international crimes, including those related to terrorism. Since issues relating to the fairness of trial proceedings are examined in Module 11, Module 4 focuses principally on substantive and some procedural elements of prosecuting individuals for terrorist acts, whether as treaty-based crimes of terrorism or as core international crimes. Although the presumption is that institutions generally operate within applicable legal frameworks, on occasion human rights violations can occur, some of which may involve the commission of crimes by State officials, themes which are explored in Module 14.

Learning outcomes

Comprehend the underlying conceptual and legal principles of effective criminal justice responses to counter-terrorism (national, regional or international levels).

Introduce students to principles of international criminal law and related institutional fora.

Understand the meaning of, as well as distinction between, treaty-based crimes of terrorism and established core international crimes relevant for prosecuting crimes related to terrorism.

Understand the principal reasons for, and implications associated with, the absence of a universal definition of terrorism, when pursuing criminal justice responses to terrorism.

Identify some of the principle obstacles to effective criminal justice responses when countering terrorism.

The full module is avaliable at UNODC website

TopicOrganized crime, Penitentiary Institutions, Preventing violent extremism


Themes: Organized crime, Penitentiary Institutions, Preventing violent extremism