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Legal Reports on Counterterrorism Laws and other Security Measures

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The Law Library of Congress has recently published a number of legal research reports on the counterterrorism laws of various foreign countries. The full text of these and other relevant reports may be accessed on our website under Current Legal Topics by clicking on War Crimes, Terrorism, and National Security. The reports describe legal and non-legal measures taken by eight countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, and Europe, in an effort to combat terrorism. In addition, the reports provide information on how these measures and their possible impact on personal freedoms have been viewed by scholars and commentators in the countries surveyed .

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 9.51.24 AMA report titled Turkey: Counterterrorism and Justice (Sept. 2015), written by Wendy Zeldin, discusses the Turkish government’s response to the terrorist threat through the justice system and through military, law enforcement, and intelligence activities.  In addition to describing the increased governmental powers in legislation, Wendy writes about “non legal” measures implemented to address terrorism. These include an outreach program to communities to prevent terrorist recruitment, and a reliance on religious authorities to counter violent extremist messaging.

In a later report, Turkey: Recent Developments in National and Public Security Law (Nov. 2015), Wendy writes about two major “package” laws passed by Turkey’s Parliament in March 2015, which tighten government control over national and public security in the country and provide for enhanced police powers to conduct searches, use weapons, wiretap, detain individuals without a warrant, and remove demonstrators from scenes of protest. The report further reviews a proposed reform of Turkey’s gendarmerie, including the transferring of its control from the Turkish Armed Forces to the Ministry of the Interior. The second major “package law” allows government authorities to request the removal of Internet content and/or blocking of a website in certain circumstances, such as where there is a risk to public or national security, before a court order is issued. Wendy notes that critics of this legislation have expressed concerns regarding the impact of these measures on freedom of the press in Turkey as well as on the rule of law in the country in general.

In a report titled Algeria, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia: Response to Terrorism (Sept. 2015), Issam Saliba describes some of the counterterrorism measures adopted in these countries. He highlights opinions expressed by some local commentators concerning the broad application of definitions of “terrorism” in the relevant legislation. Like in Turkey, the countries covered by this report have adopted legislation that enhances law enforcement powers by easing some procedural requirements for terrorism-related crimes. Issam further reviews special programs aimed at reducing the spread of extremist views.

A collection of legal reports on the Legal Provisions on Fighting Extremism in China, Pakistan, Russia and Tajikistan (2014-2015) shows how the fight against extremism is often conducted in connection with combatting terrorist activities in these countries, which are associated with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. In China, there was no clear legal definition of “terrorism” until recently, and the concept of “extremism” was linked with terrorism and separatism in government instruments as more of a politicized notion. In this report, Laney Zhang analyzes how provisions of the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism, which require that acts of extremism be criminally prosecuted in conformity with the national laws of the parties, are implemented in China.

Like China, Pakistan does not have a specific crime of “extremism.” Instead, Pakistani law recognizes a series of “criminal offenses, primarily crimes against the state or incitement crimes.” Discussing Pakistan’s regulation of extremism, Tariq Ahmad analyzes the antiterrorism legal framework adopted in order to address extremist activity in the country. Similar to the non-legal measures discussed in other reports, Pakistan has also attempted to influence public dissemination of extremist views. It has done so by regulating and reforming the madrasa education system and by introducing programs that promote “anti-radicalization” and sectarian harmony in the country.

Somewhat different approaches are described in the reports on anti-extremism legislation and law enforcement in Russia and Tajikistan. Peter Roudik writes that the determining factor in qualifying an activity as extremist under Russia’s Criminal Code is the suspect’s motivation, described as “ideological, political, racial, national or religious enmity, as well as hatred or enmity towards a social group.” Activities deemed “extremist” are stipulated by a special federal law.  Involvement in extremist activities is a ground for imposing restrictions by the state “on one’s political or professional activities, or to liquidate an organization whose leaders have been accused of extremism.”

Similar to Russia, in Tajikistan, organizations and individuals can be held administratively and criminally liable for violating anti-extremism legislation or perpetrating hate-motivated offenses. The government, Peter notes, often explains existing restrictions on religious freedom and its control over religious education and circulation of religious literature by the necessity to fight extremism.

This report includes a chart, which allows researchers to conveniently compare how each country included in the report defines extremist activities. The chart also provides a concise comparison of applicable laws, their enforcement in practice, and major international obligations in the field of fighting extremism that have been accepted by China, Pakistan, Russia, and Tajikistan.

We encourage you to read our reports and hope that you find them interesting and informative.

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