Student’s prizewinning essay on rights and terrorism…

TIMOTHY McAtackney, a student at the University of Ulster has won second prize in the Times Law Awards 2006. Timothy’s essay on the subject of “Terrorism v human rights: where do you draw the line?” can be read here, and draws heavily on his knowledge of the successes and failures of UK security measures in Northern Ireland. He argues that new terrorist organizations should be dealt with by removing those who cannot be reasoned with from society in a transparent manner and by tempting away those on the fringes. One of the key paragraphs in Tim’s essay reads:

Transparency is the key to maintaining public faith in the justice system during a time of crisis. Imprisoning a man for glorifying terrorism, but not allowing the media to repeat his remarks because to do so would be self-defeating, and holding secretive judicial reviews of prolonged detentions would not inspire public confidence in the justice system.

What the government fails to appreciate when it says ‘Trust us with these powers’ is that many do not trust it, particularly within the Muslim community, and that the past thirty years are rife with examples of government abuse of terrorism laws.

It is a perverse type of justice that cannot be seen to be done, and as the threat facing the UK is long-term according to the government, it would eventually become a hallmark of the British system of justice. A war against terrorism is a war without end: rights that are signed away without a restraining context are effectively lost.