Ground breaking new report on terrorist listing

How do global counterterrorism laws impact on peacebuilders and the potential for ending armed conflicts? The first comprehensive report on this issue was published on February 24 2015 - Building Peace in Permanent War: Terrorist Listing & Conflict Transformation by the AHRCentre's Dr Vicki Sentas (UNSW), Dr Louise Boon-Kuo (Sydney University), Dr Ben Hayes (the Transnational Institute) and Gavin Sullivan (University of Amsterdam).

The study documents the use of laws banning ‘terrorist organisations’ in the management of conflict with Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Hamas in the Occupied Palestinian territories, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey. The report combines legal analysis with in-depth case studies drawing on the testimony of diverse actors engaged in conflict transformation - from professional mediators, European Union officials, International and local NGOs and civil societies connected to non-state armed groups.

Report co-author, Dr Vicki Sentas of UNSW Law and a member of the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI), said: “The report argues that terrorist listing places peacebuilding at the frontline of contemporary security practice and is profoundly affecting the types of peacebuilding that are possible. It documents the diverse risk management strategies that peacebuilders are developing in response to growing legal uncertainties, as well as how terrorist listing is excluding civil society from peace processes.” 

On February 23 Dr Sentas gave a briefing on the report in Berlin to a cross-party parliamentary group to inform the debate held in the German Parliament that week, on whether the PKK should be delisted as a terrorist organisation.

“The PKK has held its ceasefire since March 2013 and Turkey put peace negotiations with the PKK on a legal footing in July 2014. Yet the ban of the PKK throughout Europe, Australia and the USA criminalises any contact or engagement with the PKK, regardless of its purpose. Perversely, Kurdish negotiators in the failed Oslo peace talks of 2011 were subsequently put on terrorist lists, their assets frozen and movements curtailed. Proscription is inconsistent with the dialogue required to address the root causes of armed conflicts.”

The International State Crime Initiative and the Transnational Institute hosted the launch of the report on 24th February 2015 at Queen Mary University of London. Professor Valsamis Mitsilegas, Head of the Department of Law welcomed participants and the report was launched by Professor Penny Green of ISCI.  ISCI is an international community of scholars working towards understanding state crime, and Professor Green was the UNSW Law School’s Distinguished Visitor in 2014.

Michael Semple, visiting research Professor at Queen’s University Belfast is a scholar and practitioner expert in conflict resolution in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  At the launch Semple described the report as “thorough, provocative and ground breaking research”.

In the preface to the report Dr Veronique Dudouet of the Berghof Foundation wrote: “The conclusions from the report are of direct concern and relevance to both theorists and practitioners. On the one hand, they address a problem that has been understudied in the peacebuilding, sanctions and security fields to date, bringing innovative empirical data to illustrate the ‘security-peacebuilding nexus’ at play in many contemporary conflicts.

“On the other hand they provide provoking food for thought for peacebuilders themselves, answering many questions practitioners have asked themselves with regard to the legal and practical implications of engaging with terrorist listed groups….I am proud to have our name associated to this ground breaking report.”

The report was also launched in Norway on February 26 at a seminar hosted by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

The report was funded by the Berghof Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and may be downloaded here.

The report was discussed by Robert Fisk (Middle East Correspondent, The Independent) on Sunday 15th February 2015 in an article published on The Independent’s website. View the full article here.