Report on the 'Advanced Summer Programme on Countering Terrorism: Legal Challenges and Dilemmas'

Published 7 September 2015

On 24 August 2015, the fifth edition of the ‘Advanced Summer Programme on Countering Terrorism: Legal Challenges and Dilemmas’, a programme co-organised by the T.M.C. Asser Instituut and the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT), kicked off at the T.M.C Asser Instituut in The Hague.

This week-long programme focused on the international legal aspects of counter-terrorism and it involved 18 speakers, 14 lectures, four social activities, two study visits and one High Level Panel.

On the first day, and after the opening by ICCT Director Mark Singleton and Asser/ICCT Researcher Dr. Christophe Paulussen, the discussions centred on the challenges posed by the lack of a universally accepted definition of terrorism as well as on the various legal frameworks relating to counter-terrorism. Sir David Baragwanath, Judge at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, focused his lecture on the various definitions of terrorism under international and domestic laws and the role of international and national courts in achieving a universally accepted definition. After that, Prof. Richard English of the University of St. Andrews touched upon the two major counter-terrorism paradigms, namely the war paradigm vs. the law enforcement paradigm, while Dr. Yasmin Naqvi of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and Prof. Helen Duffy of Human Rights in Practice and Leiden University discussed the role of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) in the context of terrorism, respectively. The extraordinary rendition programme conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was also assessed. The second day’s lectures commenced with a presentation by Prof. Richard English, who provided insights into the historical developments leading up to the so-called ‘Global War on Terror’ (GWOT). Thereafter, Dr. Eric Pouw of the Netherlands Ministry of Defence looked at some contentious counter-terrorism tools used in the GWOT, namely, targeted killings and detention while Ms. Jessica Dorsey of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut and ICCT focused on the use of drones. Further, on the third day, Mr. Ronald Steen of the Netherlands Public Prosecution Office and Mr. Youssef Ait Daoud and Mr. Stephen Van den Bosch (The Hague Police/Municipality of The Hague) highlighted some of the challenges faced by intelligence services and the police when trying to build a terrorism case. They also stressed the role of intelligence sharing at all the levels (from the community police to the prosecutor and to the intelligence services). Later on, Mr. Iwan Waltenburg and Mr. Chris O’Brien of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon discussed the use and protection of witnesses in terrorism cases, with due consideration to the rights of the accused. On the fourth day, Dr. Bibi van Ginkel (Clingendael/ICCT) focused on the role of the UN and other International and Regional Organisations in countering terrorism. In addition, Dr. Alastair Reed (Leiden University/ICCT) discussed the Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) phenomenon and the various factors which play a role in the radicalisation process while Mr. Fulco van Deventer of the Human Security Collective paid attention to the prevention side and the need of engagement with the local communities in order to counter violent extremist. On the last day, Ms. Lucia Ling, working for the Netherlands Ministry of Security and Justice, focused even more on the FTFs, but this time from a repression perspective. The last speaker of the programme, Mr. Simon Minks of the Netherlands Public Prosecution Office, provided insights into the legal and practical challenges arising when prosecuting FTFs, from the perspective of a Dutch prosecutor.

Finally, against a continuous threat posed by terrorist organisations which are increasingly making use of Internet to advance their views, recruit and radicalise other people, the Summer School was concluded by a High Level Panel organised by the ICCT which focused on ‘the Dilemmas Involved in Countering Terrorism through the Internet’. The panellists were Rob Wainwright (Director of Europol), Verity Harding (Head of Security and Counter Extremism at Google Europe) and Dr. Quirine Eijkman (Researcher at Campus The Hague of Leiden University). The session was moderated by Marco de Swart (ICCT). Topics discussed included the high threat posed by violent extremism on Internet; the role of Europol to help the EU Member States fight terrorism; the challenges Social Media Platforms such as YouTube encounter when trying to reach the balance between users’ freedom of speech and expression and the prevention of radicalisation through the Internet; and the role of human rights when tailoring various policies to fight radicalisation on the Internet.

For more information on the ICCT High Level Panel, please access this report.