House of Lords must ensure Prevent is subject to independent review


The government’s Prevent strategy – which forms one strand of the government’s overarching counter terrorism strategy, CONTEST – seeks to pre-empt acts of terrorism by identifying those at risk of committing such attacks, including by ‘intervening to stop people moving…from extremism into terrorist-related activity’.

Developed without a firm evidence base and rooted in a vague and expansive definition of ‘extremism’, Prevent has been widely criticised for fostering discrimination against people of Muslim faith or background and chilling legitimate expression. [1]

There have been repeated calls to establish an independent review of the Prevent strategy. [2] Three UN independent experts have called on the United Kingdom to launch an independent review of Prevent that incorporates a comprehensive assessment of its impact on human rights. [3]

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill is currently passing through the House of Lords. Amendments 57 and 57A would require an independent review of Prevent.

We urge members of the House of Lords to support these amendments and take this opportunity to ensure Prevent is at last subject to independent review.


Amnesty International


Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ)

Human Rights Watch

Index on Censorship



Rights Watch (UK)

Adriana Edmeades Jones, Legal and Policy Director of Rights Watch (UK), said:

“In the face of mounting evidence that Prevent is undermining relationships of trust and chilling expression in classrooms and consultation rooms across the country, it is clear that Prevent is simply not fit for purpose.  It is in everyone’s interests – the communities who are targeted, the teachers, doctors and social workers tasked with implementing it, and the Government itself – that Prevent is subject to an independent review.”

Joy Hyvarinen, Head of Advocacy at Index on Censorship, said:

“An independent review of the Prevent strategy is overdue and essential if the government wants to tackle the widespread doubts about Prevent. The House of Lords should ensure that the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill includes a review of Prevent”

Brian Gormally, Director of CAJ, said:

“If the categories, criteria and methods of Prevent were applied in Northern Ireland there would be an explosion of resentment in both Loyalist and Republican communities. Why then is it alright to use them in communities in Britain?”

Rachel Logan, Amnesty International UK’s Legal Expert, said:

“Prevent is a highly dubious scheme built on shaky, almost evidence-free, foundations – it’s sorely in need of a proper review. Peers need to ensure that Prevent is rigorously and independently assessed, with all the human rights impacts of the scheme fully investigated.”

Letta Tayler, HRW Senior Researcher on terrorism and counterterrorism, said:

“This amendment to the UK counterterrorism bill provides a good opportunity to ensure long overdue scrutiny of Prevent, a key part of the country’s counterextremism program. Intrusive security powers should have independent oversight.”


[1] See for example Fahid Qurashi, The Prevent strategy and the UK ‘war on terror’: embedding infrastructures of surveillance in Muslim communities; Miqdaad Versi,The latest Prevent figures show why the strategy needs an independent review; Anna Lockley-Scott Preventing what? The flawed assumptions at the heart of the Prevent duty; David Goldberg, Sushrut Jadhav and Tarek Younis, Prevent: what is pre-criminal space; Charlotte Heath-Kelly and Erzsébet Strausz, Counterterrorism in the NHS: Evaluating Prevent Duty Safeguarding by Midlands Healthcare Providers; Teachers back motion calling for Prevent strategy to be scrapped; Royal College of Psychiatrists London, Counter-terrorism and Psychiatry Position Statement PS04/16; Liberty; Rights Watch (UK), Preventing Education? Human Rights and UK Counter-Terrorism Policy in Schools and Open Society Justice Initiative, Eroding Trust: The UK’s Prevent Counter-Extremism Strategy in Health and Education.

[2] See for example 7/7 Survivor and Charity CEO Calls for Urgent Independent Review of Prevent Strategy and  MPs and Lords call for review of Prevent anti-terror strategy in schools,  

[3] See Letter of the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism concerning the draft Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill which is currently under consideration of the UK’s House of Commons; Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on his follow-up mission to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; and End of mission statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related Intolerance at the conclusion of Her mission to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1542383020058-48aac27c-d559-4″ taxonomies=”27743″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Annual review of listed terrorist organisations would be a step in the right direction for counter-terror bill


The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill is currently being debated in the House of Lords. Index is very concerned about the bill’s impacts on freedom of expression.

Index is disappointed by the lacklustre engagement by most peers in the debate and the unwillingness of the House of Lords to challenge the bill.

While there has been little progress in the House of Lords when it comes to protecting freedom of expression in the bill, a proposed new amendment by Lord Anderson deserves support. The former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, together with Baroness Manningham-Buller and Lords Judge and Paddick, is proposing an annual review of the list of proscribed (terrorist) organisations.

There are currently 88 proscribed organisations, including 14 in Northern Ireland. Most have been proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000. Proscribing an organisation has severe consequences, including ones related to freedom of expression.  

It is a crime to belong to – or claim that you belong to – a proscribed organisation, to invite support for a proscribed organisation or to wear clothes or carry or display articles in public in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that you are a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation.

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill aims to create new offences related to proscribed organisations with further restrictions on freedom of expression. For example, it would become an offence to make a statement that is “supportive” of a proscribed organisation if you do so in a way that is reckless as to whether another person is encouraged to support a proscribed organisation (Index opposes this clause).

However, the Home Office has told Lord Anderson that at least 14 proscribed organisations do not meet the conditions for proscription, because they are not “concerned in terrorism”.

An organisation that wishes to be deproscribed must apply to the Home Secretary. It is the only way for an organisation to be removed from the list. Three organisations have been deproscribed: the Peoples’ Mujaheddin of Iran in 2008, the International Sikh Youth Federation in 2016 and Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin in 2017. The high legal costs involved, especially if it involves appealing a decision to refuse deproscription, are likely to be a significant deterrent.

During debate on the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill Lord Anderson offered the case of the Irish women’s organisation Cumann na mBan as an example, pointing out that it was once aligned with the Irish Republican Army and remains proscribed despite no evidence that the organisation has been concerned in terrorism during this century at least.

Because of the far-reaching implications of proscription, including the restrictions related to freedom of expression, organisations that do not meet the conditions for proscription should not remain on the list.

The amendment proposed by Lord Anderson (amendment 59) would require the Secretary of State to review each proscribed organisation at least once every year, including determining if the organisation satisfies the conditions for proscription, publish each decision and report to Parliament.

Index urges members of the House of Lords to support this amendment.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1541582801710-de97750c-50b3-5″ taxonomies=”27743″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Groups urge House of Lords to rethink Counter-Terror and Border Security Bill

The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill would restrict freedom of expression and press freedom, threaten the protection of journalistic sources, and undermine academic research in Britain. It would limit the right to access information online and it would sneak in a new, harsh border regime for Northern Ireland.

The Bill has been slipping through Parliament with little attention. The House of Lords will consider it next on 29 October.

The Bill would criminalise expressing an opinion that is ‘supportive’ of a proscribed (terrorist) organisation if the person does so in a way that is ‘reckless’ as to whether it encourages someone else to support a proscribed organisation. The vaguely defined offence comes far too close to making opinion a crime. It would shut down democratic debate: who would dare to argue in favour of removing an organisation from the proscribed list if you risk 10 years in prison? (Clause 1)

The Bill would make it a crime to view online content that is likely to be useful for terrorism, even if you have no terrorist intent. The crime would carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years. It would make the work of investigative journalists and academic researchers difficult or impossible. (Clause 3)

The Bill would bring in a vaguely defined crime of “hostile activity” accompanied by wide-ranging new powers to stop, search and detain. A journalist taking a domestic flight could be stopped without any suspicion of wrong-doing. It would be an offence for the journalist not to answer questions or hand over materials, with no protection for confidential sources. Special rules would apply in the border area in Northern Ireland, meaning that anyone could be stopped, whether the person was planning to cross the border or not. (Section 3)

Joy Hyvarinen, Head of Advocacy at Index on Censorship, said “The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill would change the law on freedom of expression in Britain, restrict press freedom, damage academic research and endanger fundamental rights. The Bill is fatally flawed and we urge the House of Lords to ensure that the government rethinks the Bill”.

Rebecca Vincent, UK Bureau Director for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said “This bill has extremely worrying implications for press freedom and the protection of journalistic sources. We have underscored our concerns over a number of specific clauses that should be struck, or at a very minimum, amended to include clear exemptions for journalistic activities. We call on Lords to carefully scrutinise this problematic bill and amend it to ensure that it does not contribute to further deterioration of UK press freedom”. 

Daniel Holder, Deputy Director of the Belfast-based human rights NGO, CAJ, said “The existing port and border controls powers contained within the Terrorism Act 2000 have been used in Northern Ireland almost 16,000 times in the last four years without one single resultant detention for a Terrorism Act offence. Instead of this bill introducing yet another power that can be used post-Brexit for de facto passport control on the land border, we need extra safeguards over the existing powers. We are particularly concerned that further checks risk increasing racial profiling on the land border and at ports.”

Gracie Bradley, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Liberty, said “By criminalising activities like overseas travel and browsing the web, this Bill risks chilling free speech and curbing journalistic and academic inquiry. The Lords should reject it and the ill-judged expansion of power that it represents. It will not make us more safe, but it will make us less free.”

Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, said “The proposed Bill would introduce extremely broad offences that have the potential to chill free speech and impede the right to seek information for people in the UK. Moreover, the Government has not convincingly shown any need for introducing these new offences or harsher penalties to the existing, expansive legal framework governing terrorist offences and counter-terrorism measures, which itself has already proven prone to abuse.”

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group, said ““One click” criminalisation of viewing streamed content is not the answer to online radicalisation. It may be unclear to journalists or academics that they have a “reasonable excuse” to view such content, and keep them from investigating serious issues.

Index on Censorship

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ)



National Union of Students (NUS)

Big Brother Watch

Rights Watch (UK)

Open Rights Group

Proposed changes to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill are welcome


Index on Censorship welcomes the amendments to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill proposed by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Index believes that the bill would introduce unacceptable restrictions on freedom of expression in the UK and would damage journalism and academic research. The attached briefing note highlights some of Index’s concerns.

The House of Lords will consider the bill again on 29 October.

Joy Hyvarinen, head of advocacy, said: “Index urges all members of the House of Lords to pay close attention to the amendments proposed by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and to ensure that they fully understand the implications of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill. The bill would limit UK citizens’ rights, damage journalism and undermine academic research – it should be scrutinised closely.”

Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill Briefing Note 15 October 2018[/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”10″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1539676579541-ec89dad3-0bf0-6″ taxonomies=”27743″][/vc_column][/vc_row]