UK
17/09/2015 14:57 BST | Updated 17/09/2015 15:59 BST

Terror Expert: New Legislation Could Drive People 'Further Towards Extremism And Terrorism'

An independent report into terrorism law has warned that if the wrong decisions are made about new measures it "risks provoking a backlash" and driving people "further towards extremism and terrorism".

As the government is preparing legislation to further their electronic surveillance powers, David Anderson QC has published an Independent Review of Terrorism Legislation which contains strong warnings to law makers.

In the report published Thursday, he warns about the risks of state limitations on our "most basic freedoms", saying: "The proper limits of surveillance, and the acceptability of imposing suppressive measures without the protections of the criminal law".

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David Anderson QC warned that new terror legislation could drive people 'further towards extremism and terrorism'

Anderson writes: "If the wrong decisions are taken, the new law risks provoking a backlash in affected communities, hardening perceptions of an illiberal or Islamophobic approach, alienating those whose integration into British society is already fragile and playing into the hands of those who, by peddling a grievance agenda, seek to drive people further towards extremism and terrorism."

Of particular concern, Anderson said, was the potential for the new law to affect "those who are not its targets".

He writes: "No doubt it will be said, with perfect sincerity, that it is intended to make only a handful of individuals and organisations subject to the new orders, and that those who peddle hatred and prejudice in order to sow division deserve nobody’s sympathy.

"But to speak only of the intended targets does not address the dangers that are inherent in all over-broad laws and discretions: dangers which are present even in the relatively confined area of anti-terrorism law, and which become still more marked as the range of suspect behaviour is extended."

Anderson contends, if it becomes a function of the state to identify which individuals are engaged in, or exposed to, extremist activity, "it will become legitimate for the state to scrutinise (and the citizen to inform upon) the exercise of core democratic freedoms by large numbers of law-abiding people".

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The Islamic State and Boko Haram were each responsible for more than 6,000 deaths in 2014

He concluded that the "benefits claimed for the new law – assuming that they can be clearly identified – will have to be weighed with the utmost care against the potential consequences, in terms of both inhibiting those freedoms and alienating those people".

According to the report there were 13,500 terrorist attacks, 32,700 deaths, 34,700 injuries and 9,400 people taken hostage or kidnapped across the world in 2014.

It found global attacks increased by 35%, fatalities were up 81%, and kidnap and hostage-taking jumped 200% from 2013 figures. Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Syria were responsible for much of these increases, Anderson's report found.

More than 60% of all attacks took place in five countries - Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria - and 78% of fatalities took place in five countries - Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.

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There were 20 attacks killing more than 100 people each in 2014. In 2013 there were just two, the report found.

In 2014 there were 574 suicide attacks, 70% of them in Iraq and Afghanistan, the report said. They resulted in more than 4,700 deaths and 7,800 injuries. Suicide attacks were on average found to be between three and four times as lethal as non-suicide attacks.

Anderson wrote: "These figures serve as a reminder that most terrorism victims (like most terrorists) are from Muslim-majority countries, and that the losses sustained in western countries represent only a minute proportion of the whole."

Iraq was the worst affected country, the report said, and in 2014 it experienced 39 days on which 50 or more people lost their lives from terrorist attacks.

The terrorist groups responsible for the attacks, the report found, remained the same as in 2013. They included the Islamic State (IS), the Taliban in Afghanistan, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and Maoists in India. Each of the five launched more attacks in 2014 and ISIS branched out into Lebanon and Egypt for the first time.

IS and Boko Haram were each responsible for more than 6,000 deaths in 2014 and IS took more than 3,000 hostages during the period.

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The number of UK-linked individuals involved or exposed to terrorist training and fighting is higher than it has been at any point since the 9/11

The report found that 600 or so people with extremist connections travelled to Syria and Iraq in 2014, "some of whom have combat experience and terrorist-related training and many of whom have already returned to the UK".

Quoting evidence he had given to his Investigatory Powers Review Anderson said MI5 had pointed out that "the threat posed on their return comprises not just attack planning but radicalisation of associates, facilitation and fundraising, all of which further exacerbate the threat".

The report found that the number of UK-linked individuals who are involved in or been exposed to terrorist training and fighting is higher than it has been at any point since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Quoting an independent study into IS-related attack plots in Western Europe, North America and Australia between 2011 and June 2015, Anderson said there had been more terrorist plots involving IS "sympathisers than returned foreign fighters”.

The report said there had been no Islamist terrorist attacks "of any kind" recorded in the UK during 2014, but despite this Anderson said Britain needed to be vigilant: "In the circumstances, there is no case for panic about the threat – which is precisely what the terrorists want. But complacency would be equally out of order."

Anderson cited several major attacks in 2015, including the Charlie Hebdo shooting in January and the Copenhagen attacks the following month as a warning, saying they were attacks that showed terrorists were not focused so much on individuals "but at whole communities and the values for which they stand".