Critical analysis of doctrinal approaches to the definition of “biological terrorism”

Keywords: terrorism, technological terrorism, pathogenic agents, biological weapons, biological warfare agents, biological disaster.


With the purpose of formulating a universal definition of the “biological terrorism” concept, the author clarifies the content and features of the generic concept of “terrorism”. In particular, the author examines the definitions of terrorism and its main features available in the scientific literature, as well as the approaches to the interpretation of its content used in national legislative and international legal acts. It has been argued that terrorism is not only criminal behaviour, but also a certain ideology which justifies the purpose of terrorist activity and the mechanisms for achieving it. On this basis, two doctrinal approaches to understanding terrorism, such as comprehensive and applied, have been identified. The article illustrates the use of the method of defining terrorism in international law by criminalising certain of its socially dangerous manifestations using specific examples. The main criminal features of terrorism have been identified. Terrorism has been defined as socially dangerous criminal acts provided for by international and national law, which consist of demonstrative public violence in a generally dangerous manner or with particular cruelty, as well as threats, organisation, preparation, logistical, financial and other support or incitement to commit such acts aimed at intimidating the population, inducing specific institutions or individuals to commit or refuse to commit certain acts, or with the aim of destabilising or destroying law and order.

National researchers’ approaches to the definition of “biological terrorism” have been analysed. It has been concluded that most of them have certain shortcomings, do not take into account doctrinal interpretations of terrorism and its features, and the peculiarities of pathogenic agents as a key component of biological weapons. The content of the legislative terms “technological terrorism” and “international terrorism” has been studied. Based on the results of the critical analysis and on the basis of the formulated definition of terrorism, it has been proposed to consider biological terrorism as a type of technological terrorism, and, if certain features are present, as international terrorism, and to understand it as socially dangerous culpable acts provided for by international and national legislation, which consist in demonstrative public use of biological weapons or their components (biological agents of biological destruction of biota), as well as threatening, organising, preparing, providing logistical, financial and other support or inciting to commit such actions aimed at intimidating the population, with the aim of inducing specific institutions or individuals to commit or refuse to commit certain actions, disrupting law and order or causing a biological disaster.


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Author Biography

О. V. Shamsutdinov , National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine (Kyiv)

Candidate of Law.
Interagency Research Center on Problems of Combating Organized Crime.


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How to Cite
Shamsutdinov О. V. (2023) “Critical analysis of doctrinal approaches to the definition of ‘biological terrorism’”, Bulletin of Kharkiv National University of Internal Affairs, 102(3 (Part 1), pp. 172-186. doi: 10.32631/v.2023.3.16.