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Lord Carlile publishes review of the definition of terrorism

A report on The Definition of Terrorism by Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, was published on 15 March 2007. He says that the controversial current definition is "useful and broadly fit for purpose".

The current definition applies to acts carried out anywhere in the world and is so broad that it outlaws almost any practicable form of opposition to a repressive regime.

Lord Carlile says that any attempt to exempt activity directed against a repressive regime form the definition of terrorism "contradicts international commitments to zerotolerance of terrorism as a political tool." In support of this he quotes a number of international agreememnts. But he makes no mention of the United Nations General Assembly resolution on terrorism, passed in 1987, which says:

nothing in the present resolution could in any way prejudice the right to selfdetermination, freedom and independence, as derived from the Charter of the United Nations, of peoples forcibly deprived of that right ...nor, in accordance with the principles of the Charter and in conformity with the above-mentioned Declaration, the right of these peoples to struggle to this end and to seek and receive support.

In preparing his report, Lord Carlile obtained written submissions from a variety of individuals and organisations and took a roadshow around the country to gather oral evidence. Much of the written and oral evidence expressed grave concerns or outright opposition to the current definition of terrorism. Most of it has been airbrushed out of Lord Carlile's report.

SACC was amongst the organisations that made written submissions to Lord Carlile. We had expected that our submission, along with the others, would be appended to the report. This is a common practice when Parliamentary committees receive submissions, and submissions by SACC, CAMPACC and other have, for example, been included in reports of Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights. But there is no trace of our submission in Lord Carlile's new report.

Lord Carlile's roadshow visited Glasgow last July. The meeting was held on a weekday morning but thirty people, representing a range of organisations and communities, managed to attend. All of them - including police officers - were critical of the current legislation. None of this is mentioned in Lord Carlile's report.

SACC has always had serious concerns over the independence of the review of the definition of terrorism. Lord Carlile acts as independent reviewer of the operation of the Terrorism Act 2000, and we don't believe that he can also review key principles of the legislation. He has access to secret intelligence briefings in his capacity as reviewer of the day to day working of the Act. This makes him far too close to the intelligence and security communities to undertake a fundamental review.

In each of his annual reviews of the Terrorism Act 2000, Lord Carlile has declared the Act "fit for purpose". So it's no suprise that he hasaid the same thing in his new review of the definition of terrorism. The only surprise is that he describes the review as independent.