Chapter 22 Discussion Question Pointers

End of Chapter Question Pointers

Chapter 22 – Counterterrorism and Human Rights

Frank Foley

  1. How does legislative and operational counterterrorism impact on human rights?
  2. In considering this question, it may be useful to think about a state’s legal response to terrorism in terms of three component parts: the pre-trial process, terrorism trials, and terrorist offences. Operational counterterrorism ranges from intelligence and surveillance to efforts to arrest, disrupt, or kill suspected terrorists both at home and abroad. Using Table 22.1 as a guide, think about how these various aspects of counterterrorism impact on specific human rights; it may help to analyse this through a case study, to consider the extent to which certain human rights were upheld in a particular country prior to and following a terrorist crisis.

  3. What strategies have governments used to justify and sustain draconian counterterrorism policies?
  4. These may range from rhetorical strategies of denial or exception to legal strategies to avoid anti-terrorist legislation being struck down by domestic courts. Your view on whether or not these strategies have been effective will have implications for how you answer the next question. 

  5. Have human rights standards significantly constrained state responses to terrorism?
  6. This question asks the reader to consider whether they are more sceptical or optimistic about the influence of human rights on state responses to political violence. Do you give more weight to the state’s ability to shape counterterrorism to suit its own perceived interests, or to the potential of domestic or international laws and institutions to constrain what a government does in this area? In addition, do ideas and norms which support the upholding of human rights have a significant effect on how political leaders and government officials respond to terrorism?

  7. Is there a ‘balance’ between upholding human rights and maintaining security?
  8. In its reference to a ‘balance’, this question asks you to consider whether there is a trade-off between human rights and security: does more of one means less of the other? For example, how could upholding the right to fair trial or the prohibition arbitrary arrest – at least in theory – lead to a reduction in the security of citizens from terrorism? Does the empirical record support the existence of this kind of causal link? (See next question.)

  9. Does respect for human rights help or hinder the effectiveness of counterterrorism?
  10. Here, it may be useful to set some criteria against which one could measure the effectiveness of counterterrorism. When reviewing the published empirical research on this question (see chapter) consider whether you find their definitions of effectiveness to be reasonable. Some of this literature gives reasons why human rights violations can put obstacles in the way of counterterrorism efforts and lead to a growth in the terrorist threat. Are you persuaded by these reasons?