Dissertation: Anti-terrorism effort suppressing the voices of non-violent dissidents

The fight against terrorism has also restricted opportunities for non-violent protest, states a dissertation being examined at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Law. According to MSSc LLic Julia Jansson, the political aspect of terrorism has long hindered legal cooperation on an international scale. However, terrorism has been depoliticised since the 1990s to facilitate cooperation.

Placing terrorism in the context of non-political crime has made it possible to differentiate it from “acceptable” political criminal activity. This is a distinct change from previous decades, as terrorism has typically been viewed as a political crime. One reason for this depoliticisation is the political offence exception to extradition that emerged in extradition treaties in the 1830s. Political criminals were long thought of as more “noble” than other criminals, because their motivations were “unselfish”.

In the spirit of liberalism, many states wanted to reserve the right to refuse extraditing criminals whose offences were seen as political in nature. When terrorism began to emerge in the 1960s and 70s as an international threat, it became increasingly difficult to apply the political offence exception. Courts could cite the exception and refuse extraditing people considered by some to be terrorists, which elicited criticism. Consequently, limitations were set on the exception to reduce the opportunities for protecting violent criminals.

According to the dissertation, the threat of terrorism has ended the romanticising of political criminals. As a result of the change, political offenders have less room in which to operate and fewer legal protections. This means that non-violent protesters have been partially swept away by the fight against terrorism. It’s also possible that the protection of political offenders will be entirely revoked.


MSSc, LLic Julia Jansson defended her doctoral dissertation entitled The Death of the Freedom Fighter - How the Threat of Terrorism is Suffocating the Protection of Political Criminals on 9 June 2018 at 10.15 at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Social Sciences. The public defence was be held in Metsätalo, Unioninkatu 40, lecture room 6.

Opponent of the dissertation was Dr Saskia Hufnagel, Queen Mary University of London and custodian professori Jukka Kekkonen.

The dissertation abstract is available in the E-thesis service

Contact details of the doctoral candidate:
Julia Jansson