The answer is far from obvious. Some relevant multilateral organizations, such as the United Nations, do not have a standard globally accepted definition. Each country, based on its experience, legal tradition and strategic vision, establishes its own definition. This includes the idea of violence, who carries it out, against whom and what are its objectives. The basic common element is violence, its use or threat of its use, to cause terror, as a tactic to achieve a certain objective (for example: a change of situation). From this point on, the definition becomes obscure and difficult.

This obscurity is given by the response options to the initial questions. First, who: a subnational actor? The state itself? Does another state, a group or an individual, use violence routinely or sporadically, within a broader framework of tactics? . Second, against whom: law and order? government? Our government and / or another government? The public? The social environment? Third, what are their goals: destabilization? Religious? Political? Ideological? Ethnic? Each question can include more than one answer in the definition, combining in a different way in each jurisdiction and tending to change in different historical periods. Given the above, finding a definition in the legislation of the jurisdiction itself is relevant, so as not to be mere recipients of conceptualizations or threats from others. There is a factor that tends not to be included in the definition, but in the gradual nature of the sanctions and this is the “scale” of the means used and the damage produced: are telephone threats, stabbings, rifle gunshots, bomb explosions, cyber-attacks the same? Is one person terrified, wounded or dead, the same as hundreds or thousands of them?

Adding to the confusion, let’s include the idea of “your terrorists” versus “my freedom fighters.” In other words, what is “terrorist” for one jurisdiction is may not be for others, given the strategic interests of each country, especially those of great power. In that sense, establishing whether a group is a terrorist or not has much of an administrative decision, where it tends to exclude those who attack my strategic rivals, regardless of whether the definition fits them or not. These are not permanent and can change over time. Therefore, the “lists” of terrorist groups from particular jurisdictions, although they have clear cases, they also have gray areas that must be analyzed with caution.