State terrorism

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State terrorism refers to acts of terrorism conducted by governments. The definitions of "terrorism", "state-sponsored terrorism", and "state terrorism" remain without international consensus.[1]



Scholar Gus Martin describes state terrorism as terrorism "committed by governments and quasi-governmental agencies and personnel against perceived threats", which can be directed against both domestic and foreign targets.[2] The original general meaning of terrorism was of terrorism by the state, as reflected in the 1798 supplement of the Dictionnaire of the Académie française, which described terrorism as systeme, regime de la terreur.[3] Similarly, a terrorist in the late 18th century was considered any person "who attempted to further his views by a system of coercive intimidation."[3] The terms "establishment terrorism", "terrorism from above" (as opposed to "terrorism from below" (terrorism by non-state groups), and "structural terrorism" are sometimes used to denote state terrorism.

The Encyclopædia Britannica Online defines terrorism generally as "the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective", and adds that terrorism has been practiced by "state institutions such as armies, intelligence services, and police."[4] The encyclopedia adds that "[e]stablishment terrorism, often called state or state-sponsored terrorism, is employed by governments -- or more often by factions within governments -- against that government's citizens, against factions within the government, or against foreign governments or groups."[5]

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