Research Handbook on International Law and Terrorism
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Research Handbook on International Law and Terrorism

Edited by Ben Saul

This Handbook brings together leading scholars and practitioners to examine the prolific body of international laws governing terrorism. It exhaustively covers the global response to terrorism in transnational criminal law, the international law on the use of force, international humanitarian law, international human rights law, the law of State responsibility, the United Nations Security Council, General Assembly, UN specialised bodies, and regional organisations. It also addresses special legal issues in dealing with terrorism such as gender, religion, victims of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and customary law.
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Chapter 23: Counter-terrorist detention and international human rights law

Fiona de Londras


Ordinarily states only detain individuals involuntarily for reasons associated with pre-trial custody, post-conviction punishment, or the protection of individuals (as in relation to health). In these cases detention is primarily punitive or protective and only rarely or incidentally preventive. Counter-terrorist detention of the kind that this chapter is concerned with – namely, the detention of suspected terrorists as opposed to those convicted of terrorism offences – has a radically different character inasmuch as its purpose is primarily preventive. On a purely utilitarian level, suspected terrorists are detained to both prevent their own further engagement in terrorist activity and to acquire information or intelligence that might disrupt the involvement of others in terrorism. On a semantic level, however, suspected terrorists may be detained to manifest the coercive capacity of the threatened state. Particularly where the detention in question takes place in a manner that seems to challenge established elements of the rule of law, it may also aim to communicate clearly a state’s willingness to do what it considers necessary to protect its polity and not ‘merely’ to do what is legally permissible. Thus counter-terrorist detention is of a qualitatively different character to other kinds of detention, although that is not to suggest that it is entirely sui generis. Certainly there are ways in which the character of counter-terrorist detention can be said to align with the detention of anti-establishment protesters, particularly in authoritarian or dictatorial states.

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