Prevent Watch

The Justice Gap: Children’s Rights and Counter-Extremism

extremists prevent duty human rights

A recent report by the UN into children’s rights in the UK urges the government to ensure children have access to legal support and to ensure their due process rights – but is this even possible under the government’s controversial counter-extremism policy Prevent?

The government’s counter-extremism policy Prevent is one of the four component parts of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy – CONTEST – directed at preventing people from being drawn into terrorism. It has been justified under the notion that it prevents people from being drawn into terrorism, however this has been widely disputed.

Instead, human rights organisations have raised repeated concerns – most recently in a joint request to MPs to withdraw the recent review of Prevent by William Shawcross – that the policy is “ideologically shaped”, that it threatens civil liberties and the right to free speech, increases the threat of discrimination, and that it raises concerns for children in particular.

Prevent relies upon the assumption that certain ideas lead to violence, and as such it necessarily criminalises them. Prevent training identifies several behaviours as ‘signs of extremism’, displaying unwarranted anxiety around normative religious belief (specifically Islam), anti-capitalist ideologies, anti-corporatism, climate, and pro-Palestinian activism.

This means its most troubling aspect is its lack of legal resonance and regulation. Because of its pre-emptive nature, Prevent exists in and in a sense upholds and expands what has become known as the ‘pre-crime space’.

Read more: The Justice Gap

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