The process by which the United Kingdom lists and de-lists entities as a terrorist needs reforming, says the Parliament’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation David Anderson. In his June 2012 report he recommends that all listings should be reviewed every two years and that more be done to “reduce the intrusions of the law without endangering public safety.”
“Groups should only remain proscribed when they are currently involved in terrorism, or taking steps to become involved, and when banning them can be of real utility in protecting the public from terrorism,” Anderson says.
In the 142 page report, Anderson says some organizations are on the terror list despite little evidence that they are supporting terrorist activities. But rather than be de-listed, they are kept on because there is little political will or incentive to remove these group. “Such organizations are in practice not recommended for deproscription. Instead, they are classed as ―difficult cases.” “The current practice regarding ―difficult cases is unsatisfactory. Some of them might better be described as ―easy cases, for if it is concluded during the review process that the statutory threshold is no longer met, it is difficult to see how proscription can properly be maintained,” Anderson said.
Lacking clear guidance why some groups are listed and others not, Anderson says the entire process is susceptible to abuse. “The current law allows members of any nationalist or separatist group to be turned into terrorists by virtue of their participation in a lawful armed conflict,” he said. For example, the UK is the only country that lists the Baluchistan Liberation Army as a terrorist group. Baluchistan is a province located in western Pakistan and has been struggling for its autonomy for almost 50 years. But according to Anderson, “UK proscription has been referred to by the Pakistan Government to justify military action” against Baluchis.
He recommends that “all proscriptions should expire after a set period, perhaps of two years. The onus would then be on the Secretary of State, after taking the advice of independent counsel, to seek the assent of Parliament if she wishes to reproscribe and to demonstrate that the statutory test is satisfied and that conditions for renewed proscription are made out.”
(CSN Note: In some ways, what happens to groups who are included on the UK list but face no charges is similar to what happened to KindHearts for Charitable Humanitarian Development, an Ohio-based charity shut down “pending investigation” by the Treasury Department in February 2006. Though the charity was never added to a terrorist list, the government raided it, seized property and effectively shut it down all without providing an explanation of the specific charges it was considering against KindHearts. No formal charges were ever filed, and in May 2012 a settlement favorable to the charity was reached. Click here to read more about the Kindhearts case.)