December 20, 2019Prevent Marginalised and vulnerable groups
The Government has today confirmed it will not be defending the proceeding launched by Rights Watch (UK) challenging Lord Carlile’s independence in the role as Prevent Reviewer. Lord Carlile’s appointment has now been concluded and he will no longer be acting as the Prevent Reviewer.
This concession from the Government is a further testament to the strength of the case against Lord Carlile and the overwhelming evidence of his lack of independence, and the lack of faith from the community in a Review conducted under his leadership.
“This is an outstanding victory for those who are committed to seeing a genuine and robust review of the Prevent strategy” says Yasmine Ahmed, Executive Director of Rights Watch (UK). “Our concerns with Lord Carlile have always been clear, and well-evidenced. His long-standing objection to any kind of criticism or overhaul of Prevent is no secret and he has a track record of discrediting those who raised concerns about Prevent. This meant the Review lacked buy-in and cooperation from those it most needed to engage.
His appointment was a serious mis-judgment by the Secretary of State and we welcome this move to rectify that mistake and to create a pathway for restoring faith and credibility in the independent review of Prevent, which can now properly grapple with what the review was intended to achieve.”
Rights Watch (UK) has committed to working with the Home Office and the Secretary of State to ensure a Review is conducted that can fulfill its mandate. Rights Watch (UK) is hopeful that this move signals a change in approach for the Government, one which will deliver in good faith the Review that Parliament required be conducted. This now creates an opportunity to ensure the review is genuinely robust and delivers on what Parliament wanted – an independent and impartial review that will address the concerns of communities affected by Prevent. Rights Watch (UK) along with a chorus of others from impacted communities, civil society, Parliament and the UN have been consistently calling for this Review of Prevent given the harms that it gives rise to and its counter-productive effect.
Ahmed explains, “It is important that the Secretary of State for the Home Department now takes the time to ensure mistakes which lead to Lord Carlile’s appointment not be repeated. We reiterate our call for a Public Appointments Process to be undertaken, in line with the Cabinet Manual guidelines. That process must be open and transparent. It is critical that the next Reviewer is genuinely independent and has the faith of those impacted by the policy. There are established processes to help achieve that outcome, and they should be adhered to.
Rights Watch (UK) reiterates the principles it sets out in its proposed Terms of Reference earlier in 2019, requesting that the Home Office avail itself of Rights Watch (UK) and other relevant civil society organisations’ expertise and experience with Prevent, in order for it to get the kind of engagement that the Review needs to deliver.”
Prior to the appointment of Lord Carlile, Rights Watch (UK) sought to work with the Home Office to help ensure that the Terms of Reference were fit for purpose. Rights Watch (UK) drafted proposed Terms of Reference which it hoped could be used as a starting point for the Home Office. Those draft ToRs rested on six key principles, and Rights Watch (UK) reiterates the call now for those principles to be respected. They are:
Ahmed continues, “It was a feature of Rights Watch (UK)’s legal challenge that the ToRs on which Lord Carlile was proceeding were unduly narrow and heavily focused on efficacy to the exclusion of the societal and human rights impact of the strategy. Serious questions and issues were left ignored by the potential Review under Lord Carlile. This is an opportunity to right that wrong.”
Ahmed notes, “It is critical, now more than ever, that we have an effective and independent Review that can properly and thoroughly scrutinise the Government’s approach to countering terrorism. This is not the time for the Government to be marking their own homework by watering down the Terms of Reference or the stringency of the Review when the efficacy of its counter-terrorism needs to be carefully and robustly assessed. It is critical that this Review is equipped to achieve that outcome; our lives and liberty are at stake.”
Rights Watch (UK) has been consistently calling for a genuinely independent review of Prevent since the publication of its landmark report, Preventing Education: UK Counter Terrorism Policy in Schools, in 2016. The report highlighted the impact of the strategy – which is widely perceived to be, and evidence suggests is, a soft surveillance tool used against impacted communities including children – and its adverse impacts on freedom of speech, the right to education, and the right to privacy, to name just a few. Rights Watch (UK)’s report also highlights the counter-productivity of a strategy that alienates the very communities that the Government needs to work with, and related to this, lacks any evidential basis. Rights Watch (UK)’s report, further research, and growing concerns from impacted communities, prompted similar calls from a wide and growing number of domestic and international stakeholders.
In February 2019, Parliament forced the Government, by way of an amendment to the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, to establish an independent review of Prevent. Carolin Ott from the law firm Leigh Day, that represented Rights Watch (UK), added, “We are pleased that the Government has conceded that the independent reviewer of Prevent and terms of reference need to be rethought. It is regrettable that it has taken the threat of a court hearing and a delay of over 4 months for this concession to be made. However, we hope that reconsideration of the independent reviewer and approach to the terms of reference will lead to a much needed, rigorous and thorough review of the controversial Prevent strategy.”
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