The introduction of the Terrorism Act 2000 created a “racist, fear-based environment” argues a new report from human rights group Cage.
In the “20 Years of TACT: Justice under Threat” report, released on Monday, the group claims there is a “two-tier justice system that undermines democratic governance”.
Tony Blair’s Labour government brought in the Terrorism Act. Various governments bolstered it with further pieces of similar legislation in 2005, 2016 and 2020.
Successive legislation was designed to whip up Islamophobia and increase state power, not protect ordinary people. As of March 2020, some 77 percent of people in prison custody for terror offences are Muslim.
The act is not a useful tool for identifying people guilty of committing terror offences. Only a tiny minority—11.6 percent—of so-called terror arrests result in terror convictions.
Some 49 percent of people are released without action, and just over a quarter of arrestees are charged with a terror offence.
It’s not true that these convictions show the police dramatically thwarting acts of mass violence.
The majority of convictions have been for “pre-crime” offences such as viewing banned material or preparatory activity.
And the way that counter-terrorism legislation is interpreted in the courts means that prosecutors don’t have to prove a defendant’s criminal intent to win a conviction.
This process is “based upon politicised interpretations of statements and discriminatory conceptions of Islamic ‘ideology’,” argues Cage.
It said counter-terrorism cases are “chipping away at a core pillar of due process, and resulting in unsafe convictions”.
The way that the Terrorism Act is designed targets Muslim people, whips up Islamophobia and plays into the myth that the police are “tough on crime”.
“The stigma and fearmongering attached to Muslim-majority terror offenders has served to validate the hard arm of policing,” said Cage.
It also criticised recent laws which “undermine the very notion of rehabilitation”.
These include the Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Act 2020 and the Counter-terrorism and Sentencing Bill, which is currently under consideration.
Cage argued that these laws, “herald a punitive turn that favours keeping individuals trapped in a cycle of prison and surveillance indefinitely”.
The Terrorism Act has been a critical cornerstone of two decades of a deeply racist justice system managed by the British state.
The laws “helped give state racism a new lease of life, with the widespread criminalisation of Muslims and/or foreign nationals by counter terrorism policing”.
And Cage points to how counter-terrorism laws have been used to justify arming the police—who are increasingly using shoot-to-kill methods against terror suspects.
The report calls on the government to repeal all counter-terror laws since 2000. And it wants a series of public inquiries into the long-term impact of the laws and reparative justice.
Cage is right to say counter-terrorism laws target Muslim people. They are a racist weapon in the armoury of the state. All such legislation should be scrapped and the architects brought to justice.