Examining The Practice Of Counter Terrorism Criminology Essay

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Since the terrorist attacks on September 11th in New York, democratic countries have had to address the threat of terrorism. However, the manner of which a democratic society is run, may cause conflict with some of the enforcements that may be crucial in the prevention of terrorism, for example freedom of speech and movement. If such restrictions are to be put in place, it is important to evaluate whether it is actually effective and worth the sacrifice. Also in some cases it is arguable that introducing such restrictions and laws may in fact fuel terrorism.

One of the most controversial laws that democratic countries such as America and the UK have introduced is detaining people with out charge. This is evident in such prisons as Belmarsh in the UK and Guantanamo bay in Cuba which is controlled by the USA. This is controversial as it means people are unable to defend them selves or prove their innocence as they are not aware of the charge against them. Some argue that this violates human rights as individuals have the right to know why they are a suspect, however this is seen as a way to avoid future terrorist attacks, and in many ways is seen as justified by the government in response to such events as 9/11 and 7/7. However some argue that it is doing the opposite, for example in the UK, it was proposed that suspects should be able to be detained for up to 90 days without charge the "former Metropolitan police commissioner, warned that "the battle against terrorism is a battle that will last for decades. It is a battle for hearts and a minds…." He feared that on balance, "and it is a very fine balance," the extension of detention without charge might be counterproductive "in the sense of encouraging martyrdom rather than preventing it." (1M1a1l1j1e1v1i.A,Wade.M:2010:339)****Pg 339 1A1 1W1a1r1 1o1n1 1T1e1r1r1o1r1?1:1 1T1h1e1 1E1u1r1o1p1e1a1n1 1S1t1a1n1c1e1 1o1n1 1a1 1N1e1w1 1T1h1r1e1a1t1,1 1C1h1a1n1g1i1n1g1 1L1a1w1s1 1a1n1d1 So it is possible that certain laws could worsen the problem of terrorism rather than addressing it.

Another difficulty which democratic societies face is the impact anti-terror laws have on freedom of speech. For example in the case of Abu Izadeen who was arrested for 'glorifying' terrorist acts in London. This law was criticised by the OSCE who pointed out the "joint declaration by the UN special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, whiles accepting that it may be legitimate to prohibit incitement to acts of terrorism the joint declaration remarked that such terms such as 'glorifying' or 'promoting' were 'vague and potentially very overbroad terms.'" (Cram.I:2009:102)*****Pg 102 google books Terror and the war on dissent: freedom of expression in the age of Al-Qaeda. This shows that in many ways it is unjustifiable to arrest people under such charge as it restricts the freedom of speech and the term 'glorifying' is so broad, which makes it open to interpretation and is against the foundations of a democratic society. After the London bombings there were a number of cases where members of the Muslims community were arrested and extensively detained and released without charge. This lead to the Muslim community feeling targeted and stigmatised. Therefore it is hard to achieve a balance between protecting a community and marginalising members of it.

There can be many different reasons for why anti-terror laws and regulations may be counterproductive, this includes making terrorist groups illegal as it would be harder to trace them as they would be driven underground, which would make their activities harder to discover. It is argued that "Outlawing the terrorist organizations will cause it to become more extreme: it will strengthen the radicals amongst it ranks, who will soon go over to the use of violence"(Ganor.B:2005:195)****** Page 195 google booksThe counter-terrorism puzzle: a guide for decision makers. Also international military intervention to prevent terrorism may also be counterproductive, for example it can be argued that in Iraq the US provoked more terrorism, as Iraqis were used to a dictator who violently surpressed any political groups forming and operating. However "The US presence in Iraq also strengthened the motivation of forces that were already to employ terrorist means in the global fight against the United States and its allies and thus reinforced the war on terrorism and gave it a new self-created rationale." (Thakur.R,Sidhu.W:2006:135)******Pg Pg258-259 The Iraq Crisis And World Order . This shows that military intervention can sometimes be counterproductive and therefore not beneficial to the democratic process in societies.

Efforts to enforce political peace policies have been made by democratic countries for example the 'Good Friday Agreement' in 1998 between the British government and the IRA. And the 'Oslo Declaration' in 1993 between Israel and the PLO. However, this approach poses problems as it is seen as unacceptable for democratic countries to negotiate with 'terrorists' and both the PLO and IRA are seen as terrorist organisations. However this is not unusual as "Colombia has negotiated with various domestic rebel groups, and Spain has negotiated with the Basque ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna [Homeland and Freedom]). Even the United States under president Reagan provided TOC missiles to Iran to win the release of hostages held by Hezbollah."(Blum.G,Heymann.P:2010:135)****** 135 Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists: Lessons from the War on Terrorism

By Gabriella Blum, Philip B. Heymann. This demonstrates that democratic countries have to go against their own principles of democracy in order to achieve important goals.

Probably the biggest problem democratic countries face when enforcing policies against terrorism is that the term 'terrorism' is so vague and difficult to define that enforcing laws under such a term, in a democratic manner, seems almost impossible, "law should be clear and precise and its effect foreseeable. […] the term 'terrorist', used in the Terrorism Acts, is vague and imprecise, and therefore, at least arguably, its meaning is not foreseeable. The essence of this point is that the definition of 'terrorism' does not refer to any specific offence, and terrorism is not itself an offence." (David.H,Rowe.j:2010:381)*****Hoffman, David. Rowe, John. Q.C. Human Rights in the UK An Introduction to the Human Rights Act 1998. 3rd edn. (Essex: Pearson Education Limited, 2010) p.381. This in fact is the most difficult issue that governments face as they want to safeguard against incriminating innocent people, so it is ironic that to defend democracy governments may have to move away from being democratic where terrorism is concerned.

In conclusion it is evident that democratic countries face many legal difficulties when counteracting and preventing terrorism. However it is evident there have been many gaps in legislations and democratic countries have strayed from some of their most important democratic policies e.g. not negotiating with terrorists, or detaining people without charge. It is clear that democratic countries need to think of more ethical methods in preventing further terrorist attacks, and democratic policies should be instilled into the legal framework of democratic societies. If in difficult and dangerous cases, policies have to be altered, then it is important that they are highly effective otherwise such moves end up compromising the very foundations of democratic societies.


Blum. G, Heymann.P.B (2010) Laws, Outlaws, and Terrorists: Lessons from the War on Terrorism, United States of America: MIT press.

Cram. I (2009) Terror and the war on dissent: freedom of expression in the age of Al-Qaeda, London: Springer.

3 3M3a3l3j3e3v3I, 3A3l.33 Wade, M3 (2010) A war On terror?The European stance on a new threat, changing laws and human rights implications, Germany: Springer.

Ganor. B (2005) The counter-terrorism puzzle: a guide for decision makers, The United States Of America; the library of congress cataloguing.

Thakur. R, Sidhu. W. P. S (2006) The Iraq Crisis And World Order, Tokyo: The United Nations University Press.

Hoffman, D. Rowe. J. Q. C (2010) Human Rights in the UK an introduction to the human rights act 1998, 3rd edn., Essex:Pearson Education Limited.