Legislating for Otherness: Debating the Proscription of

Legislating for Otherness:
Terrorism, Proscription and
[email protected]
19 NOVEMBER 2014
 Proscription powers:
 Render specific terrorist groups illegal within
a particular territory
 Criminalise support for and membership of
proscribed groups
 Trigger further crimes, e.g. uniforms
 Outlawing ‘enemies of the state’:
 Widespread within and beyond liberal
 Considerable history
Proscription in the UK
 The Home Secretary has the power to proscribe an
‘…if it commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares
for, promotes or encourages terrorism or is otherwise
concerned in terrorism’
Extended, in 2006, to include glorification offences
Both Houses may debate, but not amend proscription orders
 As of August 2014:
 60 international terrorist organisations
 14 in Northern Ireland
Proscription in practice
 ‘Discretionary factors’:
 the nature and scale of an organisation’s activities;
 the specific threat that it poses to the UK;
 the specific threat that it poses to British nationals overseas;
 the extent of the organisation’s presence in the UK; and
 the need to support other members of the international community
 Four purported functions:
 Make the UK a hostile environment for terrorists and their supporters
 Signal condemnation of proscribed groups
 Support international partners in counter-terrorism
 Sends ‘a strong message’ re. UK intolerance to terrorism
 Orders targeting multiple organisations are common
Efficacy and ethics
 Two questions dominate academic debate:
 Does proscription work?
No real evidence but much scepticism
Is proscription justifiable?
Freedoms of speech and assembly; Parliamentary scrutiny; Rights to
resistance; Criminalisation of wider communities
 Preoccupation with causal questions:
 What does proscription do?
To terrorist groups; to liberal democracy; to minority communities?
 Alternative – constitutive - questions:
 How has proscription come to be seen as an appropriate response to
 How do proscription processes constitute identities of self and other?
Constitutivity and Parliamentary debate
 Identity as performative, contingent and
‘Whether we are talking of “the body” or “the state,”
or of particular bodies and states, the identity of
each is performatively constituted. Moreover, the
constitution of identity is achieved through the
inscription of boundaries that serve to demarcate an
“inside” from an “outside”, a “self” from an “other”, a
“domestic” from a “foreign”’ (Campbell 1998: 9).
 Methodology:
 27 Parliamentary debates between October 2002
and June 2014
 Discourse analysis:
Proscription powers; Counter-terrorism policy
Self-identity; Terrorist others (general and specific)
The terrorist threat
 Otherness:
 ‘like battling a hydra’ (Heath, 2006)
 ‘cowards like to target civilians’ (Hopkins, 2011)
 ‘a small number of contorted and evil individuals can grab
international headlines’ (Mercer, 2013)
 Irrational, non-political, and ‘new’:
 ‘fundamentalist organisations are, by their nature, barking
mad’, (Simpson, 2005)
 ‘the random slaughter of innocent individuals can play no
part in the process of trying to bring about political
change’ (Grieve, 2005)
 ‘we all know that the nature of terrorism has changed’
(Smith, 2013)
 A considerable, and continuing, threat:
 ‘a perpetual threat in this country’ (Ruffley, 2008)
 ‘We will be attacked again’ (Mercer 2005)
Proscribed organisations
 Identity-based designations:
 Asbat Al-Ansar: ‘a Sunni Muslim terrorist organisation’ (Filkin, 2002)
 Minbar Ansar Deen: ‘a Salafist group based in the UK’ (Atlee, 2013)
 ‘Turkiye Halk Kurtulus Partisi-Cephesi…is a left-wing organisation’ (Brokenshire,
 Chronological catalogues of atrocities:
 Al-Shabaab: ‘…has also launched terrorist attacks outside areas under its control,
most notably in October 2008 when five co-ordinated suicide attacks were
mounted against targets in Somaliland and Puntland, including the Ethiopian
embassy, presidential palace and UN Development Programme compound’
(West, 2010)
 Specific threat emphasised:
 Al-Shabaab: ‘a very nasty group’ (Hawee, 2010)
 Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan: ‘a murderous organisation’ (Green, 2011)
 Four groups have: ‘Discernible links with al Qaeda’ (Blunkett 2002)
The UK Self
 Liberal, democratic and multicultural:
 ‘Free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy’ (Blunt, 2010)
 ‘We must ensure that we properly respect individual freedoms and liberties while
providing collective security for the country as a whole’ (Brokenshire, 2013)
 ‘I want to say how lucky we are that the relations between different cultures and
races in this country are so good’ (Field, 2013)
 A responsible global citizen:
 ‘supporting the rest of the international community to tackle terrorism’ (Blears,
 A responsible legislator:
 Proscription decisions are:
‘tackled with the utmost seriousness and care’
(Blunkett, 2002)
‘only after the most thorough scrutiny of all the
intelligence’ (Bassam, 2005)
Repetition and dissent
 Repetition within and across Parliamentary debates:
 Formulaic structure and explicit citation
 Similar questions and criticisms resurface each time
‘Why now?’; ‘Why not X group?’; ‘How does deproscription work?’
 Genuine dissent is rare, although existent:
 Organisations change:
Subjectivity of terrorism:
‘The Government’s argument…can be summed up this way: once a terrorist,
always a terrorist. This is a nonsense’, (Corbett, 2008)
‘We also recognise that one man’s terrorist activity outside Britain is another
person’s armed resistance’, (Wallace, 2008)
Right to resistance:
‘whenever it is argued that the organisations that we are proscribing seek to
overthrow a legitimate government, we should have a thorough discussion
about the legitimacy of that government. We must be sure that not all those who
are engaged in armed struggle are defined as terrorists (McDonnell, 2005)
(Re)producing self and other
 More frequently, critics of proscription reproduce
self/other distinction:
‘British citizens are made the subject of the criminal law and
their rights to support political organisations are constrained
by what is very largely an Executive action’ (Hogg, 2002)
‘When we put names on a list of proscribed organisations, it
seems reasonable to ask what evidence we have of the
involvement of any of them in current
actions that have threatened the security
of the United Kingdom. To be unable to
get an answer to that is deeply worrying
in the democratic process’
(Simpson, 2005)
 Limited conception of security politics within
academic debate:
Executives, exceptionalisms and emergency powers dominate
debate (see Neal 2012a, b, c)
Similarly the case for critical/constructivist research:
‘Securitization studies…suffer from being elitist. What matters
above all for the school is ‘top leaders’, ‘states’, ‘threatened elites’
and ‘audiences’ with agenda-making power’ (Booth 2005: 166).
 Proscription matters:
 An important, yet neglected, counter-terrorism technique
 For the (re)production of national and other identities
 For our understanding of the contemporary politics of security
Thanks for listening!
Presentation from ongoing research with Dr. Tim
Legrand, Australia National University (ANU).
Comments and feedback most welcome:
[email protected] and [email protected]

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