Advocacy update

Concern Over Appointment of William Shawcross to Review UK’s Counter Terror Strategy

Public Statement on the Appointment of William Shawcross as Independent Reviewer of Prevent Download the two-page document. 2 Pages, 417.05 Kb, PDF Download
January 28, 2021
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The UK government has named William Shawcross to be the new Independent Reviewer of Prevent, part of the country’s counter terror strategy. The Open Society Justice Initiative is joining Muslim rights organizations in expressing deep concern about Shawcross’ suitability for the role, given his record and previous statements on Islam.

As a director of the Henry Jackson Society, he claimed, “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future.” While Chair of the Charity Commission, he was accused of disproportionately targeting Muslim charities by putting them under special investigation and labelling them with the code “extremism and radicalisation” without their knowledge.

In response to the appointment, Jana Sadler-Forster of the Open Society Justice Initiative said, “Shawcross’ appointment has destroyed the credibility of the review of Prevent before it has even got started. It has already alienated the communities most affected by Prevent, and confirms that this government has no intention of learning the lessons needed to reform its counter terror strategy.”

The Justice Initiative 2016 report, Eroding Trust: The UK’s Prevent Counter-Extremism Strategy in Health and Education, concluded that Prevent’s strategy creates a serious risk of human rights violations and is also counterproductive. It argues that its application in schools, colleges, and healthcare institutions is damaging trust: between teachers and students; between doctors and patients; and between the police and members of the UK’s Muslim community, whose support is an essential element of counterterrorism efforts.

Shawcross’ appointment comes after the Justice Initiative joined human rights groups in expressing concern over the appointment of Lord Carlile of Berriew as Independent Reviewer of Prevent in August 2019. Lord Carlile had expressed support for the controversial Prevent strategy and was forced to resign in December 2019 after a legal challenge.

Update: In a joint statement on February 16, 2021, the Justice Initiative joined civil society groups in announcing a collective boycott of the government’s review of the Prevent. Instead of participating in the review led by Shawcross, the groups will conduct a parallel review that will document discrimination and rights violations caused by the strategy.

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