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School of Law

SOLM071 Terrorism and Human Rights: Constitutional Perspectives

This module is not running for 2024-25 entry. Check our LLM and Diploma module list to see other related modules you could take.

Module Description

This course examines the legal responses to terrorism since 9/11 in the context of international and European human rights obligations. At the start of the course we will consider some overarching questions: how has terrorism been defined in different legal contexts and what is the significance of the language used in describing terrorism and counter-terrorism? From a legal perspective is terrorism different to other criminal activities? Why does our response to terrorism seem to defy legal categorisation (civil/criminal, domestic/international, immigration/national security) and why does terrorism create so many conceptual difficulties for the law?

Week 1: Thinking about terrorism, counter-terrorism and human rights
This class will introduce some of the themes we will be looking at throughout the first half of the course. Terrorism has put significant stress on the rule of law and human rights since 9/11. It has led to a proliferation of new legal regimes and new legal categories (control orders, UN asset freezing, “unlawful combatants” etc).

Week 2: Defining Terrorism
In this class we consider the difficulty of defining terrorism both in everyday discourse and in the law. We will examine what is at stake when we call an act one of terrorism. Are there forms of political violence that do not constitute terrorism? If so, is terrorism simply the label we use for political violence with which we disagree? If not, can we come up with a neutral definition of terrorism?

Week 3: Torture and Terrorism
Why has torture re-appeared as a contentious legal issue since 9/11? Is torture ever acceptable? Are there dangers in attempting to learn from “ticking bombs” and other catastrophe scenarios? We will examine the national and international legal regime governing torture, in particular the provisions of the ECHR and UNCAT.

Week 4: Extraordinary Rendition and CIA Black Sites at the European Court of Human Rights
Although extraordinary rendition, secret detention and torture are all nominally illegal in Europe, the space for legal redress when they have occurred has become highly complex, with governments, non-governmental organisations, media and investigators all playing a role. The session will examine how it was possible to construct the case, and will encourage reflection on the effectiveness and limitations of such legal action in creating accountability.

Week 5: Targeted killings and drone strikes
In recent years we have seen growing prominence given to targeted killings, and in particular drone strikes, as a key, and increasingly public, part in the “war on terror”. We will examine the ethical and legal issues they raise. What is the applicable international and domestic legal regime that applies to targeted killings?

Applicable Groupings


15 Credits

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