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Violence aimed at creating fear and intimidating populations is not a new phenomenon. The word 'terror' was first used to describe the Jacobin 'Reign of Terror' that followed the French Revolution in 1789. The first legal responses to terrorism and attempts to define the word can be traced to the 20th century. The first organized international legal attempt to define terrorism dates back to the International Conferences for the Unification of Penal Law, a series of events convened in various European capitals throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Since then lawyers, academics, national legislatures, regional organizations and international bodies, such as the United Nations, have produced a bewildering array of definitions. 'Terrorism' is now widely deployed in both political debate and legal discourse, and is referred to in an array of national and international legislative (and executive) regimes. For example, national laws now criminalise 'terrorist acts', give police enhanced powers of investigation and arrest in regard to such offences, establish regimes for the electronic surveillance of people suspected of terrorism, deny visas to people engaged in terrorism, freeze the assets of 'terrorist organisations' and impose trade sanctions on countries that harbour or support terrorists.
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