To ban or not to ban a terrorist organisation? That is not the only question

Lee Jarvis and Tim Legrand report on their research into how the UK Parliament debates whether or not to extend its list of proscribed terrorist organisations that is based on their article ‘I am somewhat puzzled’: Questions, audiences and securitization in the proscription of terrorist organizations’ published in Security Dialogue Vol 48, Issue 2, 2017

By UK government [OGL 3 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The United Kingdom – like many states around the world and several International Organisations – maintains a list of banned terrorist groups. Seventy-one organisations are presently listed in this way within the UK, making it a criminal offence to belong to or support any of these. This power – known as proscription – is set out in the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000, and empowers the Home Secretary to present to Parliament an order specifying that she believes a specific organization promotes, encourages, or glorifies terrorism, or, indeed, is ‘otherwise concerned in terrorism’. Both Houses of Parliament must debate and assent to any new additions to this list, though they may not amend any proscription orders.

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Dialogue for Freedom, Security and Peace

Security Dialogue is a scholarly journal devoted to thinking clearly, systematically, and critically about world politics and the conditions that facilitate security and peace. Freedom and truth are core values of both the academic project and of democracy: we believe that constant, reflexive dialogue is the only viable path towards peace, equality, and justice within and between societies. Academic freedoms of speech and mobility are essential to modern politics, and are reflected in the legal and institutional frameworks of international relations, such as the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or the 1945 Charter of the United Nations.

On January 27, 2017, US President Trump issued an Executive Order that suspended the refugee resettlement and the issuance of visas from seven identified Muslim-majority countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) for at least 90 days. We are always concerned when emergencies or crises are invoked to justify radical executive action, including the curtailing of freedoms of mobility, particularly in this case when the justification is clouded, muddled, misleading, or simply perpendicular to the facts. We, as the editorial team of Security Dialogue, have never been moved to comment on specific policies or world events before now, and so it is reasonable to ask what makes this Executive Order worthy of comment when we have remained silent about equally offensive and oppressive policies and events, for instance, the Russian invasion of Crimea, the genocide of the Yazidi’s in Iraq or genocide in Darfur, the Syrian civil war and consequent displacement of millions, and Erdogan’s sweeping restrictions on Turkish academics. We are connected to the community of international relations scholars, and take the production of facts and their verification very seriously. Part of what strikes us as important and different is the blatant indifference to facts upon which the travel ‘ban’ rests, and the vitriolic and divisive hyperbole that fuels it.

Further, the ban is not justified in terms of historical precedent or immediate political context, and cannot fulfil its stated purpose to increase the national security of the United States. More than that, the exclusion of individuals identified by national origin (and effectively, religion) or refugee status which is accorded by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and to whom the United States owes obligations under that empowering legislation and specifically contradicts US domestic law, indicates a significant departure from the hallmarks of the contemporary global order, that is the predisposition towards freedom of mobility and international human rights. We are therefore also deeply concerned about the continuing impact of this shift as well as the harms caused immediately by this Executive Order.

As scholars of international relations, we can already see the chilling effect that this policy has on our own academic community. We stand with our colleagues who are and will be affected by this ban both directly and indirectly, and will devote our energies to promoting the values and conditions of openness, exchange, and dialogue that we view as crucial for achieving security.

Editor, Mark B Salter, University of Ottawa

Associate Editors, Claudia Aradau, King’s College London; Marieke deGoede, University of Amsterdam; Emily Gilbert, University of Toronto; Anna Leander, Copenhagen Business School, Anna Stavrianakis, University of Sussex; Maria Stern, University of Gothenburg

Editorial office, Marit Moe-Pryce, Peace Research Institute Oslo; Can Mutlu, Acadia University;Adam Sandor, University of Ottawa


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Security Dialogue aims to combine cutting-edge advances in theory with new empirical findings across a range of fields relevant to the study of security. The journal is edited at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

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