New policy brief: ‘Counter-terrorism measures need to be evaluated’

Counter-terrorism laws and policies need to be much better motivated and justified through assessments, evaluations and reviews, according to a new policy brief by Asser Institute researcher Dr Berenice Boutin.

Governments around the world are increasingly introducing new counter-terrorism policies to provide for security in times of terrorist attacks and foreign fighters. In a new policy brief ‘Do Counter-Terrorism Measures Work? Appraising the Long-Term and Global Effectiveness of Security Policies’ Dr Boutin describes security measures ranging from repressive tactics such as criminalising suspect activities, to preventative measures such as putting suspects under administrative controls. But “in order to justify these security measures – both as a matter of policy and in terms of their impact on human rights – governments should evaluate the effectiveness of their counter-terrorism policies”, writes Dr Boutin.

‘Untested assumptions’

A recent report by RAND Europe finds that counter-terrorism policies “are rarely evaluated and are often designed on the basis of untested assumptions”. This lack of evidence directly impacts their effectiveness, writes Dr Boutin, who believes that policy-makers need to be clear on how legislative measures reach their intended objectives and foresee unintended consequences. Citizenship stripping, for instance, can lead to adverse effects, as alleged terrorists are simply shifted to another country.

According to Dr Boutin, the fact that there is little evidence proving the effectiveness of counter-terrorism policies calls their legitimacy into question. Counter-terrorism policies often restrict civil liberties and thus human rights. Governments often justify these measures by stating that they are necessary to keep society safe. While human rights law allows for such restrictions, Dr Boutin states that “restrictions on human rights that are not necessary cannot be legally justified”.

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