There have been several American efforts to deter acts of international terrorism. Among them are the Latin American Diplomats Convention, the United Nations Convention on the Protection of Diplomats and Diplomatic Agents, and the policy of “no negotiations, no ransoms” with terrorist groups. Of particular interest, however, was one specific effort, namely, the 1972 Draft Convention on International Terrorism, which was introduced by the United States in the fall of 1972 in the General Assembly of the United Nations, debated in the Sixth (Legal) Committee, and finally quite effectively killed by that committee.
The 1972 American Draft Convention and the accompanying debates are interesting because they provide an answer as to why it has been so difficult to negotiate a general multilateral accord to deal with the problem of transnational terrorism. There are, to be sure, numerous extradition treaties between states that provide for the extradition or punishment not only of common criminals, but also of certain categories of political offenders, such as individuals who have assassinated or attempted to assassinate a head of state or a member of a head of state's family. (This is the so-called Belgium clause in extradition treaties.) In addition, there are several multilateral conventions in effect that deal with certain specialized forms of international terrorism: the Latin American Diplomats Convention (negotiated in 1971), the United Nations Convention on the Protection of Diplomats and Diplomatic Agents (adopted by the General Assembly in 1973), and the three conventions on aircraft hijacking: the 1963 Tokyo Convention, the 1970 Hague Convention, and the 1971 Montreal Convention. However, the two major efforts to negotiate multilateral conventions against the general problem of international terrorism have both failed. The first was the 1937 League of Nations Conference on the Suppression of Terrorism, which produced a convention for that purpose. The convention never received sufficient ratification to be enacted and so has remained a dead issue. The second was the previously mentioned 1972 American Draft Convention on International Terrorism.
I will concentrate on explaining the 1972 convention's failure to be accepted. The 1937 convention is not without interest, but it was considered in a very different era and by a far more limited number of nations than the 1972