Why monitor the terrorist lists?

Support our work: become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.

Why monitor the terrorist lists? 

This website was launched in June 2005 by Statewatch in association with the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities and the Human Rights and Social Justice Institute, London Metropolitan University, to monitor the largely secret development of the policy of "proscribing" groups and individuals connected with "terrorism" (see press release). For updates since the launch, see latest news.

It provides detailed information and analysis of the "terrorist lists" operated by:

  • the United Kingdom, which introduced proscription in 1974 for organisations in Northern Ireland, extending it to foreign organisations in 2000;
  • the United States, which introduced the proscription of foreign terrorists groups in 1995;
  • the United Nations, which introduced proscription as part of the Taleban sanctions regime - freezing the assets of suspected associates - and then extended it in the aftermath of "September 11";
  • and the European Union, which, after incorporating the UN sanctions into EU law, introduced its own "terrorist" list.
  • see: current lists

Proscription, or "designation", takes various forms and its legal effect differs according to the jurisdiction, varying from complete bans for "terrorist" groups that criminalise their members and supporters, to the freezing of assets of individuals suspected of supporting terrorism. Groups and individuals are added to the "terrorist" lists on the basis of "intelligence" alone. The normal judicial process governing such serious accusations, and their prosecution, has been discarded. The UK and US governments are obliged to "consult" with parliament and congress respectively, though such consultation has been brief; the executive bodies of the UN (Security Council) and EU (Council) agree their lists on the basis of intelligence provided by their member states without any parliamentary scrutiny. These lists and the related sanctions are binding on all member states.

It is very difficult for those included on the "terrorist lists" to have their names removed or contest their inclusion. Those in the UK can appeal to a security tribunal (government appointed judges, secret hearing and secret evidence etc.) but the UN and EU lists contain no mechanism of appeal to the courts whatsoever - groups and individuals can only request individual member state governments to make diplomatic representations on their behalf.

Proscription raises serious human rights concerns and is clearly at odds with the European Convention. Moreover, the lack of effective judicial remedies at the national level and the minimal jurisdiction of the EU Courts mean that no proscribed group has yet had full "access to court" and the chance to challenge the underlying matters of law and fact in full, whether domestically or in an international court.

Were the lists restricted to "Al-Qaida", its known members and other groups most people can agree are "terrorists", there would be less cause for concern. But they are not - the lists are a recipe for arbitrary and politically motivated decision-making. Hundreds of groups and individuals have now been criminalised around the world and the various lists are expanding as states attempt to add all groups engaged in resistance to occupation or tyranny. Those exercising what many people around the world see as a legitimate right to self-defence and determination are increasingly being treated - on a global basis - the same way as Osama Bin Laden.

This criminalisation extends beyond the groups and individuals on the "terrorist lists" to their supporters. The banning of "passive support" goes as far as to criminalise all solidarity with any of the groups named, regardless of the basis or motivation for that solidarity. The effect can be devastating for entire communities.

See Statewatch analysis: "Terrorising the rule of law: the politics and practise of proscription".

Use the links on the left to view:

  • the current UK, EU, UN and US lists;
  • a comparative overview of the four lists;
  • legal analysis of the proscription regimes;
  • challenges to proscription by groups, individuals and their supporters;
  • latest news and links to relevant sources of information


This site does not cover the "no-fly" lists operated by a number of countries including the US.

Our work is only possible with your support.
Become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.


Spotted an error? If you've spotted a problem with this page, just click once to let us know.

Report error