Seminar: Homeland Insecurity - The Rise and Rise of Anti-Terrorism Law

Date: Time: 16:00 Location: Black Box

November, 15, 2023
Tilburg University, the Netherlands

Are you into anti-terrorism law and its colonial roots? Or are you, more generally, interested in the historical dimension of human rights? Then, you cannot miss this event with Prof. Conor Gearty (lse.ac.uk) from the London School of Economics. 

Professor Gearty will present his forthcoming book Homeland Insecurity - The Rise and Rise of Anti-Terrorism Law (Polity Press) as part of the Public Law and Governance Department's series of meetings on Human Rights and Globalization, at Tilburg University. A thought-provoking discussion on the interconnections between law and history in respect of anti-terrorism law will follow with dr. Zülâl Muslu | Tilburg University, Assistant Professor of Legal History at Tilburg University. There will be ample time for Q&A. The moderator will be dr. Dalia Palombo | Tilburg University

The Book

The book investigates how anti-terrorism laws are embedded within liberal polities. It tracks the way in which the tension between liberty and security, the need to proclaim the protection of freedom with one hand while destroying it with another, is not at all new. In fact, it has long been part and parcel of how liberal (and later democratic) colonial powers have reconciled the coercion of foreign peoples within their imperial territories with the continued celebration of liberal values at home. Freedom has been for the homeland; brutal subjugation for everyone else. So far as the latter is concerned, when this brutality began to take a legal (rather than purely military) shape (the late nineteen century onwards), then its mode of expression was as laws against rebellion/subversion that in their language, shape, justification and modus operandi anticipate what have become the familiar anti-terrorism tropes of the culture of anti-terrorism that is so embedded today within contemporary legal systems (now in authoritarian as well as democratic frameworks of law). This is mainly therefore a 20th century story and so involves primarily the resistance shown to the exercise of British imperial power, albeit others such as the French and the Dutch follow the same path. The book shows how the routine use of these anti-insurgency laws normalised the contradictions that we now see in the liberty/security tension that pervades contemporary deployment of the laws against terrorism. A chapter also focuses on how the Cold War played a part in facilitating US support for the use of anti-insurgency laws by newly liberated states on the American side so as to destroy internal, communist-based opposition to the new regime. This happened even where the victims of such coercive measures had been allies in the colonial struggle that had secured liberation from colonial power. Even after the end of the Cold War the exigencies of particular national interests (primarily those of Israel and the United States) kept the flame of counter-terrorism alive, with liberal democratic Europe (often preoccupied with their own subversive challenges, eg the IRA in UK and ETA in Spain) adopting the same set of assumptions and perspectives.  The enemy was no longer in the colony; it was at home, backing a foreign power – enemies within. 

Prof Gearty says of his book “ I have written many books during the course of my long academic career; this is proving to be one of the most rewarding as well as one of the most challenging.”

The Author

Professor Gearty was Director of LSE’s Centre for the Study of Human Rights (2002-2009) and has been Professor of human rights law at the Law School since 2002. In 2012 he became Director of LSE’s Institute of Public Affairs and in this capacity was responsible for a crowd-sourced UK Constitution, drafted in 2015. He has published widely on terrorism, civil liberties and human rights. Professor Gearty is also a barrister and was a founder member of Matrix chambers from where he continues to practise. He has been a frequent adviser to judges, practitioners and public authorities on the implications of the UK Human Rights Act, and has lectured at home and abroad on the topic of human rights. He has appeared in human rights cases in the House of Lords, the Court of Appeal and the High Court. Professor Gearty is a Fellow of the British Academy (where he is currently Vice-President for Social Sciences), a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, a Bencher of Middle Temple and has honorary doctorates from Sacred Heart University in the United States, University College Dublin in Ireland and Brunel and Roehampton universities in the UK. In 2021 he was appointed an honorary Queen’s Counsel (now King’s Counsel) in recognition of his services to law in England and Wales.