The devastating events of 9/11 triggered the adoption of Resolution 1373 (2001) by the UN Security Council, a contentious development which was much debated and was widely seen as presaging a new type of activity by the Security Council – legislating for all UN member states. And yet, in the counter-terrorism sphere at least, the Council’s legislative activity in the years following 9/11 was relatively modest. Both quantitatively and qualitatively, that activity has been far exceeded by the Council’s response to the emergence of ISIL in 2014. This more recent activity is of interest beyond the confines of counter-terrorism, but has received far less scrutiny to date. This article will remedy this gap, revisiting, in light of the recent activity, the relative merits and disadvantages of making counter-terrorism law through Security Council resolutions. It makes two main contentions. The first is that – due to some factors which were anticipated in the early 2000s and many which were not – Security Council resolutions on terrorism constitute a distinctive category of international law-making and pose serious challenges for the application of organizing principles and processes of general international law. The second is that, for these reasons as well as doubts as to the necessity and efficacy of recent action, making counter-terrorism law through Security Council resolutions should be the exception rather than the norm.
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