23 May 2016

New publication by Beatrice de Graaf & Alex P. Schmid: Terrorists on Trial

Boek 'Terrorists on Trial: A Performative Perspective'

In their new book Terrorists on Trial: A Performative Perspective, editors Prof. Dr Beatrice de Graaf (History of International Relations) and Prof. Dr Alex P. Schmid present a performative perspective on terrorism trials, drawing attention to the mechanisms and effects of these trials in and outside the courtroom. Prof. Dr Jacco Pekelder (History of International Relations) also wrote a chapter to the book. In his contribution he investigates the prosecution of the central figures of the Rote Armee Fraktion during the Stammheim-trial.

trial and theatre

This volume views terrorism trials as a form of theatre, where the “show” that a trial may offer can develop often unexpected dynamics, which at times might inconvenience the government. Seeing terrorism trials as a stage where legal instruments are used (and abused) to argue the validity of contested political constructs, this study presents a performative perspective to draw attention to the mechanisms and effects of terrorism trials in and outside the courtroom. With a special focus on how the power of these performances may in turn shape new narratives of justice and/or injustice, it offers vital insights into terrorism trials involving different types of terrorism suspects, from left-wing to ethno-nationalist and jihadist terrorists, in Spain, Russia, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States.

Why terrorism trials?

Terrorism trials represent an exceptional opportunity for better understanding and, hence, countering terrorism since they are often the only place where most if not all of the actors of a terrorist incident meet again, and where the media report and broadcast their respective accounts. A nexus between terrorist violence, law enforcement and public opinion, terrorism trials showcase justice in progress and thus demonstrate to the world how terrorism suspects are treated under national law. 

Prof. dr. Beatrice de Graaf.  Foto Ed van Rijswijk
Prof. Dr Beatrice de Graaf


Beatrice de Graaf holds a chair in the History of International Relations & Global Governance at Utrecht University. She was co-founder of the Centre for Terrorism and Counterterrorism at Leiden University, publishes on security-related themes and is currently working on security in the nineteenth century for an ERC Project SECURE.

Alex P. Schmid is an historian by training. He was Officer-in-Charge of the Terrorism Prevention Branch of UNODC and held a chair in International Relations at the University of St. Andrews. Currently he is Editor-in-Chief of Perspectives on Terrorism and Research Fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism in The Hague.


  • Title: Terrorists on Trial: A Performative Perspective (2016)
  • Editors: Beatrice de Graaf & Alex P. Schmid
  • Publisher: Leiden University Press
  • ISBN: 9789087282400