The Political Offense Exception as Applied in French Cases Dealing with the Extradition of Terrorists

This article does not attempt to deal with all of the multifarious aspects of contemporary terrorism; its ambition is much more modest in scope, centering upon traditional legal mechanisms and doctrines that can be adapted to deal with terrorism. Using the decisional law of France as an illustrative model, this article analyzes the transnational and political character of terrorist acts and seeks to establish the implications of those characteristics for litigation dealing with the extradition of terrorist offenders. Several assumptions underlie the analysis. First, the effort to repress international crime is seen as a laudable objective of the international legal order and cooperation among nations. Second, concomitantly, terrorism-political or otherwise-is perceived as a significantly disruptive form of criminality, the continued presence and growth of which must be curtailed. Finally, the view that terrorist acts constitute a non-criminal means of expressing dissenting political opinions is deemed to be an untenable position-at least in terms of the articulation of applicable legal norms and the elaboration of applicable juridical standards.