January 27, 2021Featured Article Counter-Terrorism Prevent Marginalised and vulnerable groups
The UK Home Office should explain the non-transparent process it used to appoint the new Independent Reviewer of Prevent, Sir William Shawcross, and explain how Shawcross will address prior comments about Islam and build bridges with UK Muslim communities, Rights and Security International said today.
Prevent is the UK government’s dedicated strategy for stopping people from supporting terrorism. The government originally appointed Lord Alex Carlile as the reviewer, but was forced to dismiss him following RSI’s successful legal challenge in 2019. The government later also agreed to conduct a full and competitive appointments process.
“Prevent has been flawed since its inception, and the independent review urgently needs to address the rights violations that have resulted from the program, particularly among Muslim communities and families,” said Sarah St Vincent, Executive Director of RSI. “The government has yet to prove that it takes this need seriously. We urgently require more information about the appointment process and the criteria the Home Office used in selecting the new reviewer.”
The Home Office has not yet disclosed how it sought to recruit candidates for the position, how many applied, the demographics of the applicant pool (for example, the number of women), or what the selection criteria were at any stage of the process. The Home Office also has not disclosed how it defines or seeks to ensure the reviewer’s independence. A former Chief Crown Prosecutor, Lord Nazir Afzal, has stated that he was a finalist for the position and raised concerns about whether the government had predetermined the outcome of the interview process. The Home Office has described the recruitment process as “full and open,” but RSI is calling for more details.
Shawcross, a former journalist, has had affiliations to pressure groups – notably the Henry Jackson Society – that have caused concern among Muslim communities. He is also a former chair of the Charity Commission, which – during his tenure – faced accusations of disproportionately targeting Muslim organizations for statutory investigations. Critics also point to a 2012 statement in which Shawcross reportedly said, “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future. I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations.”
“The government should explain immediately how it will respond to concerns about this appointment and how the new reviewer will approach the rights of British Muslims,” St Vincent concluded. “We fought for an independent review process, and we are a long way from being confident yet that this is what the people of Britain will receive.”
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