There is a well known saying that one man’s “Terrorist” is another man’s “Freedom Fighter.” So, when considering “Terrorist Organisations”, it is perhaps useful to have some idea of what a “Terrorist” is; how “Terrorism” is defined.
Despite many discussions, at the UN and elsewhere, International Law has found it impossible to clearly define Terrorism, but in 1994, the United Nations General Assembly condemned terrorist acts using the following political statement: “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes, are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”
So, “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes,” is perhaps a reasonable starting point.
Using this or similar descriptions of terrorism, throughout the world there are a total of 154 Terrorist Organisations that have been “Designated” as such, by Governments, the United Nations or the EU. The vast majority of these organisations are, or claim to be Islamic; though often their aims, for example, “The Destruction of Israel,” seem to be purely political.
Reasonable and enforceable laws need clear definitions, and in the UK, the Terrorism Act, 2000, (as amended by Section 34 of the Terrorism Act, 2006) defines “Terrorism” as:
“The use or threat of an activity which: Involves serious violence against a person, or involves serious damage to property, or endangers a person’s life (other than that of the person committing the act), or creates a serious risk to the health & safety of the public or is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.”
“And that use or threat of such action must be designed to influence a Government or international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public or a section of the public and be taken for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause.”
Theresa May got up to speak at the 2014 Conservative Party Conference, and announced that there was going to be some new Anti-Terrorist legislation; (that caused a bit of an “Oh, S***!” moment,) but any changes aren’t likely to come into effect for some time.
Currently, the UK Government’s first tool for dealing with Terrorism is “Proscription.” Under that Terrorism Act, 2000, the Secretary of State for the Home Office (currently the aforementioned Theresa May,) may proscribe an organisation if, having been presented with evidence, she believes it, “…is concerned in Terrorism.”
For the purposes of the Act, being “…concerned in Terrorism” means, “…that the organisation:
- Commits or participates in acts of terrorism, or
- Prepares for terrorism, or
- Promotes or encourages terrorism (including the unlawful glorification of terrorism), or
- Is otherwise concerned in terrorism.”
If that statutory test is met, there are others factors which the Secretary of State will take into account when deciding whether or not to exercise the discretion to proscribe.
These discretionary factors are:
- The nature & scale of the organisations activities
- The specific threat that it poses to the UK
- The specific threat that it poses to British nationals overseas
- The extent of the organisations presence in the UK, and
- The need to support other members of the international community in the global fight against terrorism.
Proscription brings with it several Criminal Offences:
- Section 11 of the Act makes it an offence, (carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine,) to: “Belong, or profess to belong, to a Proscribed Organisation.”
- Section 12(1) makes it an offence, (also carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine,) to: “Invite support for a Proscribed Organisation.” This support need not involve money or other property.
- Section 12(2) makes it an offence, (also carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine,) to: “Arrange, Manage or Assist in Arranging or Managing a meeting, in the knowledge that the meeting is to support or further the activities of a Proscribed Organisation, or is to be addressed by a person who belongs, or professes to belong, to a Proscribed Organisation.”
- Section 12(3) ) makes it an offence, (also carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine,) to: “Address a meeting if the purpose of the address is to encourage support for, or further the activities of, a Proscribed Organisation.”
- Section 13 creates the offence, (carrying a maximum penalty of 6 months imprisonment and/or a fine, not exceeding £5,000,) to: “Wear clothing or carry articles in public, in such a way, or in such circumstances, as to arouse reasonable suspicion that an individual is a member of, or a supporter of, a Proscribed Organisation.”
The Government regularly publishes Schedule 2 of the Act, which lists all the currently Proscribed Organisations. At the moment there are 74, including 14 Irish organisations, which were proscribed under earlier legislation.
It is not my intention to make a list all those organisations here; such lists are readily available on line. Throughout the world, the great majority of Designated Terrorist Organisations are Islamist; and the even greater majority of those are Sunni. In the following instalments I’ll highlight those that I think the most relevant, hoping to show the threads of connection running through…