The following motion was agreed by the National Union of Students (NUS) at its 2015 annual conference, held in Liverpool on 21-23 April.
Motion 517: Counter-Terrorism and Security Act
- The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act received royal assent in February 2015
- The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act proposes a number of new measures, such as placing a statutory requirement on public bodies – including universities – to 'PREVENT people being drawn into terrorism', permitting for the seizure of travel documents of those 'suspected of intending [to travel] in connection with terrorism-related activity', and allowing the temporary exclusion of individuals from returning to Britain, including British nationals.
- PREVENT and the Government’s 'anti-extremism' agenda have been used to create an expansive surveillance architecture to spy on the public and to police dissent.
- The Act builds upon decades of previous ‘anti-extremism’ legislation that has served to legitimise mass surveillance and erode the civil liberties of people in the UK. Any expectation by the state for academic staff to be involved in monitoring their students is deeply worrying and could have a chilling effect on relations between staff and students. We fundamentally believe that universities and colleges are places for education, not surveillance
- The Government's anti-terrorism/security policy is fundamentally flawed in its approach, and its operant concepts of 'extremism' and 'radicalism' are ill-defined and open to abuse for political ends.
- The Government's anti-terrorism process remains opaque and its application arbitrary; with increased security measures come the risk of increased abuse of those measures.
- Muslims and Black people and communities are systematically targeted by this state surveillance and authorities to a greater degree – they are the object of a political climate of intense paranoia and scrutiny, and subject to an effectively two-tiered legal system with fewer safeguards for due process.
- Healthcare and mental health practitioners have been provided guidance on 'risk factors' for 'radicalisation' which include: a "need for identity, meaning and belonging", "a desire for political or moral change", and "relevant mental health issues" as well as describing people with mental health issues or learning disabilities as being vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism.
- The government is using the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and the threat of terrorism to attack civil liberties and attack Muslim and Muslim-background people, notably through the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act (CTSA).
- They are attempting to monitor and control Muslim students, and attacking freedom of speech, organisation and discussion on campus more generally.
Conference Further Believes
- The new proposals of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act further criminalise Muslims and Black people, and have come amidst a campaign of fear and demonisation from the government seeking to validate the intrusive new measures proposed by the Act.
- Islamophobia is massively on the rise across Europe, is state-sponsored and legitimised by the mainstream media.
- The Government is manipulating public perceptions and current global events to scale back civil liberties and freedoms as part of a political agenda.
- A Government with such an agenda is not one we can reasonably take funding from in order to facilitate 'goodcampus relations' and believe it to be unbiased.
- The statutory responsibility placed on Universities by the Act may conflict with their responsibility under the Education Act 1986 to secure and protect freedom of speech.
- The new proposals of the Act are a significant threat to civil liberties and freedom of speech on campuses, and will likely lead to an even greater climate of suspicion, and greater suppression of expression on campuses.
- These proposals will have a detrimental effect on academic freedom, rights of protest of campuses, wider political expression, campus and community cohesion.
- Channel has been implemented in the healthcare sector without peer review, the BMA criticised the expansion of PREVENT into the healthcare sector in 2011, and work is being undertaken to integrate PREVENT into undergraduate curriculum for healthcare qualifications.
- PREVENT actively politicises issues around mental health and adds to the stigma surrounding them.
- PREVENT turns issues of welfare and social deprivation into ones of national security.
- Applying PREVENT and Channel in healthcare damages the relationship between practitioner and patient;
making the latter a suspect and seriously undermining patient-doctor confidentiality.
- This adds further barriers to accessing mental healthcare for communities who have traditionally been failed by such services.
- Historically, psychiatry has pathologised behaviours of Black people in the West, and PREVENT carries this into the 21st century.
- That students are not suspects.
- That the CTSA isolates many students who already feel that the only avenue through which the Government will engage them is 'anti-radicalisation' initiatives, resulting in further alienation and disaffection.
- The Counter Terrorism and Security Act discourages free expression and analysis of ideas.
- The monitoring and exclusion of ideas from public debate opposes the basic function of universities; introducing students to a variety of opinions and encouraging them to analyse and debate them.
- The policy significantly undermines the freedom and activities of university staff and students.
- Educational institutions (and other public services, e.g. hospitals) should not act as police agents.
- The problem with e.g. ISIS/IS isn't that it's radical, but that it's radically reactionary and oppressive. Demonising "radicalisation" and "extremism" can and is being used to target anyone who dissents from the unjust, oppressive and exploitative state of society.
- To publicly oppose the Counter Terrorism and Security Act, for the NUS President to issue a public statement condemning the PREVENT Strategy and the Government's Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, and alongside civil liberties groups including CAGE, lobby the government to repeal it immediately.
- To publically (re-)affirm NUS' opposition to PREVENT, and to work with civil liberties organisations working to challenge it.
- To investigate, identity and block/cease accepting any PREVENT funding for any NUS activities or departments.
- NUS officers will not engage with the PREVENT strategy.
- To call for the Government’s anti-extremism agenda to be thoroughly reviewed and overhauled.
- To lobby the Government to make its criteria and process under anti-extremism law more transparent, accountable and open to scrutiny.
- To support an independent review into the legality of the proposals under the Equality and Human Rights Act
- Condemn the Home Office for its treatment of mental health issues.
- To work with UCU and Unite to develop a campaign against PREVENT and the Act on college campuses.
- To work with the aforementioned civil liberties groups and Muslim students organisations to develop and roll out workshops and guidance on anti-PREVENT/dealing with the bill.
- To encourage Unions and institutions to not comply with or legitimize PREVENT and to develop guidelines for Unions on effective non-cooperation with the Act and its proposals.
- To give support to any academics or other staff who face discipline for non-compliance.
- To lobby BMA to (re-)affirm its stance in opposition to PREVENT and the Act
- To work with the NUS Black Students Campaign and Disabled Students’ Campaign to lobby for the removal of PREVENT teaching from healthcare qualifications.
- To mandate student officers to lobby their universities to be more open and transparent about how they are engaging with PREVENT, CHANNEL and other similar initiatives. This involves demanding publications of how the policy is operating within their university and gaining access to materials used to train staff and students.
- That NUS will educate students on the dangers of the counter terrorism and security Act and the PREVENT Strategy.
- Continue campaigning against the CTSA, and the related PREVENT and CHANNEL strategies, and the idea that it is possible to defeat reactionary forces like ISIS/IS by demonising Muslims and destroying civil liberties.