01 November 2016
The UK government's 'Prevent' programme, which is supposed to "stop people becoming terrorists or becoming drawn into terrorism" has been heavily criticised again, this time in an in-depth report published by the Open Society Justice Initiative examining the healthcare and education systems.
The report, published on 19 October, argues that "the current Prevent strategy suffers from mutiple, mutually reinforcing structural flaws, the foreseeable consequence of which is a serious risk of human rights violations," and calls for the "repeal of the Prevent duty with respect to the health and education sectors."
The report follows a number of others - for example from Rights Watch UK (pdf), CAGE (link) and UK parliamentary committees - that have criticised Prevent for being intrusive, unworkable, corrosive of trust, based on flawed assumptions and "science", and damaging to counter-terrorism efforts in the UK.
Press release from the Open Society Justice Intiative (19 October 2016)
New Report Calls for Repeal of UK Counter-Extremism Reporting Obligation
LONDON—The UK government should repeal 2015 legislation that imposes a legal obligation on education and healthcare professionals to report individuals believed to be at risk of being drawn into terrorism, according to a new report from the Open Society Justice Initiative.
Eroding Trust: The UK’s Prevent Counter-Extremism Strategy in Health and Education is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the workings of the Prevent strategy, which aims to “stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism” and imposes a statutory duty on health and education bodies to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.
The report concludes that the Prevent strategy in health and education creates a serious risk of human rights violations and is also counterproductive. Further it argues that its application in schools, colleges and in healthcare institutions is damaging trust: between teachers and students; between doctors and patients; and between the police and members of the UK’s Muslim community, whose support is an essential element of counter-terrorism efforts.
Based on 87 interviews and including 17 case studies from across England and Scotland, the report finds that:
Amrit Singh, author of the report and head of the Justice Initiative’s work on counter-terrorism-related rights issues, said:
“To effectively counter the real threat of terrorism, the government must let health and education professionals get on with their jobs and use their common sense and professional judgement to intervene where genuinely warranted. Conscripting these professionals to counter a vaguely defined concept of “extremism” under a statutory duty is only making things worse by violating human rights, generating fear and distrust, and alienating Muslim communities while undermining their access to health and education. The government and health and education bodies should heed the voices in this report and abandon the flawed aspects of the Prevent strategy.”
The report includes several accounts of how Prevent is being applied in health and education:
The report’s recommendations to the government include:
The report also recommends that the relevant professional bodies in education and health conduct appropriate assessments of the impact of Prevent strategy in their field, including on children’s interests, academic freedom, and medical confidentiality.
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