This article assesses the use of proscription powers as a tool for countering terrorism, using the United Kingdom as a case study. The article begins with a brief overview of the United Kingdom’s current proscription regime. It then situates this in historical context, noting the significant recent increase in proscribed groups and the predominance of ‘Islamist’ organisations therein. The article then critiques proscription on four principal grounds. First, in terms of the challenges of identifying and designating proscribed groups. Second, we highlight the considerable domestic and transnational politicking that surrounds proscription decisions. Third, we assess the normative importance of protecting scope for political resistance and freedoms of expression and organisation. And, fourth, we question the efficacy of proscription as a counter-terrorism tool. The article concludes by arguing that proscription’s place in contemporary security politics should be heavily safeguarded given these challenges, before pointing to specific policy recommendations to this end.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Under this procedure, both Houses of Parliament must expressly approve proposed amendments to statutory instruments. They are not, however, able to change any element of proposed amendments.
Under the affirmative procedure, proscription orders require a majority of votes to pass. Under the negative procedure, the order is made unless either House proposes and passes a motion disapproving the order.
Boko Haram was formally banned in the United Kingdom in July 2013.
Allen, F.A. (1996) The Habits of Legality: Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law. New York: Oxford University Press.
Anderson, J. (1948) The politics of proscription. The Australian Quarterly 20 (2): 7–15.
Baber, M. (1999) The Terrorism Bill: Bill 10 of 1999–2000, Research Paper 99/101. London: House of Commons Library, Retrieved from http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/rp99-101.pdf, accessed 21 October 2013.
Barendt, E. (2005) Threats to Freedom of Speech in the United Kingdom. The University of New South Wales Law Journal 28 (3): 895–889.
BBC News. (2010) ‘Islam4UK Islamist group banned under terror laws’, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8453560.stm, accessed 12 January 2010.
Blackbourn, J. (2008) Counter-terrorism and civil liberties: The United Kingdom experience, 1968–2008. The Journal of the Institute of Justice & International Studies 8: 63.
Blair, T. (2010) A Journey: My Political Life. London: Hutchinson.
Bronitt, S. (2003) Australia’s legal response to terrorism: Neither novel nor extraordinary? Paper presented at the Castan Centre For Human Rights Law Conference, Melbourne.
Burke, J. (2003) Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror. London: IB Tauris & Company.
Burnett, J. and Whyte, D. (2005) Embedded Expertise and the New Terrorism. Journal for Crime, Conflict and the Media 1 (4): 1–18.
Casier, M. (2010) Designated terrorists: The Kurdistan workers’ party and its struggle to (re) gain political legitimacy. Mediterranean Politics 15 (3): 393–413.
Clarke, C. (2000) Evidence to Standing Committee D. House of Commons Hansard, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199900/cmstand/d/st000120/am/00120s06.htm, accessed 20 January 2000.
Counter-Terrorism Act. (2008) London: The Stationery Office.
Cram, I. (2006) Regulating the media: Some neglected freedom of expression issues in the United Kingdom’s counter-terrorism strategy. Terrorism and Political Violence 18 (2): 335–355.
Cronin, A.K. (2009) How Terrorism Ends: Understanding the Decline and Demise of Terrorist Campaigns. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Douglas, R.N. (2008) Proscribing terrorist organisations: Legislation and practice in five English-speaking democracies. 32 Criminal Law Journal 90 (2): 90–99.
Fenwick, H. (2002) Responding to 11 September: Detention without trial under the anti-terrorism, crime and security Act 2001. The Political Quarterly 73 (s1): 80–104.
Flyghed, J. (2005) Crime-control in the post-wall era: The menace of security. Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention 6 (2): 165–182.
Gerges, F.A. (2011) The Rise and Fall of Al-Qaeda. New York: Oxford University Press.
Goldsmith, A. (2007) Preparation for terrorism: Catastrophic risk and precautionary criminal law. In: A. Lynch, E. MacDonald and G. Williams (eds.) Law and Liberty and the War on Terror. Sydney: Federation Press, pp. 59–74.
Gross, J. (2010) Talking with terrorists: Terrorist groups and the challenge of legitimization. Journal of Public and International Affairs 21: 93–114.
Gross, J. (2011) Proscription problems: The practical implications of terrorist lists on diplomacy and peacebuilding in Nepal. Praxis 26: 38–59.
Hansard HL. (2000) Debates, 6 April, Column 1431. [Electronic version].
Hansard HL. (2001a) Debates, 27 March, Column 148. [Electronic version].
Hansard HL. (2001b) Debates 27 March, Column 152−153. [Electronic version].
Hansard HL. (2001c) Debates 27 March, Column 172. [Electronic version].
Hansard HL. (2001d) Debates 27 March,Vol. 624, Column 173. [Electronic version].
Haspeslagh, S. (2013) ‘Listing terrorists’: The impact of proscription on third-party efforts to engage armed groups in peace processes – A practitioner’s perspective. Critical Studies on Terrorism 6 (1): 189–208.
Hewitt, S. (2008) The British War on Terror: Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism on the Home Front since 9/11. New York: Continuum.
Hocking, J. (2003) Counter-terrorism and the criminalisation of politics: Australia’s new security powers of detention, proscription and control. Australian Journal of Politics and History 49 (3): 355–371.
Hoffman, B. (1997) The confluence of international and domestic trends in terrorism. Terrorism and Political Violence 9 (2): 1–15.
Hogg, R. (2008) Executive proscription of terrorist organisations in Australia: Exploring the shifting border between crime and politics. In: M. Gani and P. Mathew (eds.) Fresh Perspectives on the ‘War on Terror’. Canberra, Australia: ANU E Press, pp. 297–323.
Home Office. (1998) Legislation Against Terrorism: A Consultation Paper. London: The Stationary Office.
Home Office. (2011) Explanatory Memorandum to the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment Order) 2011 No. 1771. London: The Stationery Office.
Home Office. (2012) Explanatory Memorandum to the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No.2) Order 2012. London: The Stationery Office.
Home Office. (2013a) Explanatory Memorandum to the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2013 No. 1746. London: The Stationery Office.
Home Office. (2013b) Proscribed Terrorist Organisations. London: HM Government, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/224213/2012-07-19-List_of_Proscribed_organisations.pdf, accessed 12 January 2014.
Home Office and Northern Ireland Office. (2000) Supplementary Memorandum by the Home Office and Northern Ireland Office, in Delegated Powers and Deregulation – Twelfth Report. Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation. House of Lords: Hansard, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199900/ldselect/lddereg/57/5701.htm, accessed 3 June 2013.
Horgan, J. and Morrison, J.F. (2011) Here to stay? The rising threat of violent dissident republicanism in Northern Ireland. Terrorism and Political Violence 23 (4): 642–669.
Hughes, S. (2000) Standing Committee D. 2nd Sitting. House of Commons: Hansard, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm199900/cmstand/d/st000120/am/00120s06.htm, accessed 20 January.
Husak, D.N. (1991) The orthodox model of the criminal offense. Criminal Justice Ethics 10 (1): 20–23.
Jarvis, L. (2012) Al Qaeda: A diminishing threat. In: R. Jackson and S.J. Sinclair (eds.) Contemporary Debates on Terrorism. London: Routledge, pp. 97–103.
Jarvis, L. and Lister, M. (2013) Disconnected citizenship? The impacts of anti-terrorism policy on citizenship in the UK. Political Studies 61 (3): 656–675.
Lia, B. (2008) Al-Qaida’s appeal: Understanding its unique selling points. Perspectives on Terrorism 2 (8): 3–10.
Lord Carlile of Berriew QC. (2010) Report on the Operation in 2009 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and of Part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006. London: The Stationery Office.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick, the Rt Hon. (1996) The Inquiry into Legislation against Terrorism. London: The Stationery Office.
Lynch, A., McGarrity, N. and Williams, G. (2009) Proscription of terrorist organisations in Australia. The Federal Law Review 37 (1): 25–45.
Macdonald, S. (2012) Understanding anti-terrorism policy: Values, rationales and principles. Sydney Law Review 34 (2): 317–395.
May, T. (2011) Quoted in ‘Britain moves to ban Pakistani Taliban under terror law statement’. Reuters, 18 January, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/01/18/us-britain-taliban-idUKTRE70H2CV20110118, accessed 28 May 2013.
May, T. (2013) Interview. The Andrew Marr Show, presented by Nick Robinson. London: BBC, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/226052013.pdf, accessed 28 May 2013.
McCulloch, J. and Pickering, S. (2009) Pre-crime and counter-terrorism imagining future crime in the ‘war on terror’. British Journal of Criminology 49 (5): 628–645.
McGreal, C. (2012) MEK decision: Multimillion dollar campaign led to removal from terrorist list, The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/21/iran-mek-group-removed-us-terrorism-list, accessed 21 September 2012.
McSherry, B. (2004) Terrorism offences in the criminal code: Broadening the boundaries of Australian criminal laws. University of New South Wales Law Journal 27 (2): 354.
Muller, M. (2008) Terrorism, proscription and the right to resist in the age of conflict. Denning Law Journal 20 (1): 111–131.
Nadarajah, S. and Sriskandarajah, D. (2005) Liberation struggle or terrorism? The politics of naming the LTTE. Third World Quarterly 26 (1): 87–100.
Neal, A.W. (2010) Exceptionalism and the Politics of Counter-Terrorism: Liberty, Security and the War on Terror. New York: Routledge.
Neocleous, M. (2007) Security, liberty and the myth of balance: Towards a critique of security politics. Contemporary Political Theory 6 (2): 131–149.
NSW Supreme Court. (2007) R v Ul-Haque NSWSC 1251. New South Wales: NSWSC.
Pedahzur, A., Eubank, W. and Weinberg, L. (2002) The war on terrorism and the decline of terrorist group formation: A research note. Terrorism and Political Violence 14 (3): 141–147.
Richmond, O. and Franks, J. (2005) Human security and the war on terror. In: F. Dodds and T. Pippard (eds.) Human and Environmental Security: An Agenda for Change. Sterling, VA: Earthscan.
Robertson, C.G. (ed.) (1904) Select Statutes, Cases, and Documents to Illustrate English Constitutional History, 1660−1832: With a Supplement from 1832−1894. London: Methuen & Company.
Saul, B. (2005) Attempts to define ‘terrorism’ in international law. Netherlands International Law Review 52 (1): 57–83.
Sentas, V. (2010) Terrorist organisation offences and the LTTE: R v Vinayagamoorthy. Current Issues in Criminal Justice 22 (1): 159–169.
Smith, B.L. and Damphousse, K.R. (2009) Patterns of precursor behaviors in the life span of a us environmental terrorist group. Criminology & Public Policy 8 (3): 475–496.
Spencer, A. (2006) Questioning the concept of ‘new terrorism’. Peace, Conflict and Development 8: 1–33.
Terrorism Act. (2000) London: The Stationery Office.
Terrorism Act. (2006) London: The Stationery Office.
Tham, J.-C. (2004) Possible constitutional objections to the powers to ban terrorist organisations. University of New South Wales Law Journal 27 (2): 482.
US Department of State. (2012) Country reports on terrorism, http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2012/209989.htm, accessed 3 June 2013.
Van de Kerckhove, G. (2009) Speech given to the conference ‘Terrorism lists, executive powers and human rights’. Université Libre de Bruxelles, 20th October.
Vittori, J. (2009) All struggles must end: The longevity of terrorist groups. Contemporary Security Policy 30 (3): 444–466.
Waldron, J. (2003) Security and liberty: The image of balance. Journal of Political Philosophy 11 (2): 191–210.
Walker, C. (2000) Briefing on the terrorism act 2000. Terrorism and Political Violence 12 (2): 1–36.
Walker, C. (2006) Clamping down on terrorism in the United Kingdom. Journal of International Criminal Justice 4 (5): 1137–1151.
The authors would like to thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for their constructive and valuable comments.
About this article
Cite this article
Legrand, T., Jarvis, L. Enemies of the state: Proscription powers and their use in the United Kingdom. Br Polit 9, 450–471 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1057/bp.2014.8
- the United Kingdom