UK Terrorism Act: 21 new proscribed organisations (1)
01 October 2001
The EU's new counter-terrorism plans include drawing up a list of people and groups considered to be terrorist organisations or people supporting them. The list is to be drawn up by the group comprised of the Heads of Security and Intelligence in the EU. At present only the UK and Spain want the list to be turned into an EU list of proscribed organisations. This article looks at the process in the UK.
The Terrorism Act 2000 (see Statewatch report on UK Terrorism Act) came into force on 28 February 2001 and widens the definition of "terrorism". It also as makes antiterrorist legislation permanent and gives the Home Secretary powers to proscribe organisations "concerned with terrorism" in the UK or abroad. Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, used the powers to prepare a list of 21 organisations for proscription, none of them British, to ensure that "the United Kingdom does not become a base for international terrorists and their supporters". Only republican and loyalist organisations involved in the conflict in Northern Ireland were previously proscribed. The Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2001 came into force on 29 March, after debate and approval in the parliament, where the order could only be approved or rejected wholesale. There was criticism over the inclusion of groups from countries where repressive regimes prevent the exercise of democratic rights and criminalise dissent. The order will effectively internationalise such measures, and is likely to result in the criminalisation of people granted political asylum in the UK because of the persecution which their membership of one of the newly-proscribed organisations entailed.
A terrorist organisation is defined as "any association or combination of persons" which "commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for terrorism or encourages terrorism or is otherwise concerned in terrorism". Offences related to proscription include a) membership of a proscribed organisation, b) inviting support, including fund-raising, for a proscribed organisation, c) managing or assisting in the arranging of meetings to support or further the activities, or to be addressed by a member of a proscribed organisation and d) addressing a meeting where the address encourages support for a proscribed organisation. Those found guilty are liable, on conviction, "to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, to a fine or both" or "on summary conviction", to imprisonment for no more than six months, a fine, or both. Persons wearing an item of clothing or wearing, carrying or displaying "an article, in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable suspicion that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation" in a public place, will be liable to imprisonment for no longer than six months, to a fine or both.
An open list
Twenty-one groups hand-picked by Jack Straw were proscribed based on information including classified material from UK and foreign intelligence services, along with police, security and legal advice. They are: Al-Qa'ida, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Al-Gama'at al-Islamiya, the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), Babbar Khalsa, the International Sikh Youth Federation, Harakat Mujahideen, Jaish e Mohammed, Lashkar e Tayyaba, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Hitzballah External Security Organisation, Hamas-Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad -Shaqaqi, the Abu Nidal Organisation, the Islamic Army of Aden, Mujaheddin e Khalq, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the Revolutionary Peoples' Liberation Party (DHKC-P), ETA and the November 17 Revolutionary Organisation. This is an open list to which names may be added in the future or removed using a procedure which allows applicants to appeal against their inclusion, first to the Home Secretary, and i