This paper examines essential issues relating to the rise and nature of violent extremism involving non-state actors and groups in the early 21st century. The global trends in terrorism and violent extremism are examined in relation to Western governments’ counter terror operations. The paper analyses the existing legal framework for fighting violent extremism and terrorism and highlights the inherent limitations of the current International Law of War in dealing with the growing challenges posed by terrorists and violent extremist groups. The paper discusses how terrorist groups use civilians, women and children as tools and weapon of war to fuel their campaign of terror and suggests ways in which the international community could deal with the challenge of fighting terrorist groups without putting civilians, women and children in harm way. The paper emphasises the need to uphold human rights values and respect for the law of war in our response to global terrorism. The paper poses the question as to whether the current legal framework for dealing with terrorist groups is sufficient without contravening the essential provisions and ethos of the International Law of War and Human Rights. While the paper explains how terrorist groups flagrantly disregard the rule of law and disrespect human rights in their campaign of terror, it also notes instances in which the current Western strategy in fighting terrorism may be viewed or considered as conflicting with human rights and international law.
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