Earlier this month Brent Council organised a public discussion on Extremism at which the majority of the audience appeared to be opposed to the Prevent Strategy - not because they were in favour of 'Extremism' but because they saw the strategy as sterotyping the Muslim community and being implemented in a top-down way which excluded community organisations. Additionally it threatened free speech in schools and colleges and had a corrosive effect on good community relations. Overall it was likely to be counter-productive.
|Image for earlier report by Rights Watch LINK|
Now Open Society has taken up many of these issues in a report entitled Eroding Trust: The UK's PREVENT Counter Extremism Strategy in Health and Education LINK
Concerned organisations in Brent has set up a Monitoring Group on Prevent on Facebook which can be found HERE.
As a contribution to the Brent debate I publish below the Executive Summary of the Open Society Report:
Summary and Recommendations
“I’ve never felt not British. And this [Prevent
experience] made me feel very, very, like they tried to make me feel like an
outsider. We live here. I am born and bred here, not from anywhere else”.
“It could have gone the opposite way if I
wasn’t thinking straight, if I were the type who was being brainwashed. The way
they went about it, [Prevent] could have made me do exactly what they told me
not to do. I associate with Prevent negatively, it is not helpful at all”
Prevent strategy, which purports to prevent terrorism, creates a serious risk
of human rights violations. The programme is flawed in both its design and
application, rendering it not only unjust but also counterproductive.
in 2003, the Prevent strategy has evolved against the background of increased
public fears over the threat of “home grown” terrorism. The strategy in its
cur- rent form aims “to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting
2015, legislation created a statutory Prevent duty on schools, universities,
and NHS trusts, among other public sector entities, to have “due regard to the
need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”. This requires doctors,
psychologists, and teachers, among other health and education professionals, to
identify individuals at risk of being drawn into terrorism (including violent
and non-violent “extremism”) for referral to the police-led multi-agency
“Channel” programme (for England and Wales) or “Prevent Professional Concerns”
(for Scotland), both of which purport to “support” such individuals.
report analyses the human rights impact of Prevent in its current form in the
education and health sectors. It focuses on these sectors because they are
critically dependent on trust and have particular care-giving functions that
have not traditionally been directed towards preventing terrorism. Under
Prevent, doctors and teachers who have a professional duty to care for their
charges are now required to assess and report them for being at risk of
“extremism”, which is defined as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental
British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty
and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”. Because the
conscription of these sectors into preventing terrorism is part of a growing
report’s principal findings, listed below, not only apply to the United
Kingdom, but are relevant and instructive for other governments grappling with
the current Prevent strategy suffers from multiple, mutually reinforcing
structural flaws, the foreseeable consequence of which is a serious risk of
human rights violations. These violations include, most obviously, violations
of the right against discrimination, as well the right to freedom of
expression, among other rights. Prevent’s structural flaws include the
targeting of “pre-criminality”, “non- violent extremism”, and opposition to
“British values”. This “intensifies” the government’s reach into “everyday
lawful discourse”. Furthermore, Prevent’s targeting of non-violent extremism and
“indicators” of risk of being drawn into terrorism lack a scientific basis.
Indeed, the claim that non-violent extremism – including “radical” or religious
ideology – is the precursor to terrorism has been widely discredited by the
British government itself, as well as numerous reputable scholars. Prevent
training, much of it based on unreliable indicators, appears to be largely
unregulated. Moreover, the statutory duty creates an incentive to over- refer.
This incentive is reinforced by the adverse consequences associated with
non-compliance with the Prevent duty and the lack of adverse consequences for making
erroneous referrals. The case studies and interviews in this report confirm the
tendency to over-refer individuals under Prevent. The fundamental nature of
these defects makes them unlikely to be cured by a mere renaming of Prevent to
Prevent’s overly broad and vague definition of “non-violent extremism” creates
the potential for systemic human rights abuses. On the basis of this
definition, schools, universities, and NHS trusts, among other “specified
authorities” subject to the Prevent duty, are required to assess the risk of
children, students, and patients being drawn into terrorism and report them to
the police-led Channel programme where necessary. By the government’s own admission,
thou- sands of people have been erroneously referred to the Channel programme.
Individuals (including children) erroneously referred under Prevent experience
the referral as inherently stigmatising and intensely intimidating. They also
fear continued surveillance and the creation and retention of Prevent records,
which may taint them and lead others to view them as “extremists” in the
the targeting of non-violent extremism raises serious concerns about possible
violations of the right to freedom of expression. Children in schools have been
targeted under Prevent for expressing political views. University conferences
relating to Islamophobia and Islam in Europe have been cancelled, raising
questions of possible breaches under the Education Act (1986) and article 10 of
the European Convention on Human Rights. More generally, the case studies and
interviews in this report suggest that Prevent has created a significant
chilling effect on freedom of expression in schools and universities, and
undermined trust between teachers and students. This risks driving underground,
removed from debate and challenge, conversations about controversial issues
such as terrorism. In addition, as indicated by the large number of
interviewees for this report who requested anonymity, there is a genuine and
intensely held fear among some that public criticism of Prevent will trigger
fear is particularly acute for parents who fear that their children will bear
the brunt of the retaliation.
the Prevent duty creates a risk of discrimination, particularly against
Muslims. Frontline professionals have broad discretion to act on their
conscious or unconscious biases in deciding whom to report under Prevent.
Current and former police leads for Prevent recognise that currently, Prevent
operates in a cli- mate marked by Islamophobia. Significantly, between July 2015 and
July 2016, Islamophobic crime in London rose by 94 percent. This climate
creates the risk that Muslims in particular may be erroneously targeted under
Prevent. All of the case studies relating to the targeting of individuals under
Prevent raise serious questions about whether they would have been targeted in
this manner had they not been Muslim. Relatedly, in some case studies, Muslims appear
to have been targeted under Prevent for displaying signs of increased
religiosity, raising questions about the violation of their right to manifest
by requiring the identification and reporting of individuals at risk of violent
and non-violent extremism, Prevent creates a risk of violations of the right to
privacy. Many of the case studies describe individuals being intrusively
questioned under intimidating conditions about their religious and/or political
beliefs. One case study raises troubling questions about the collection
(apparently without informed consent) of names and political opinions from
Muslim children for the Home Office.
there are serious concerns about the treatment of children under Prevent. Although the
government describes Prevent as a form of “safeguarding” (a statutory term
which denotes promotion of welfare and protection from harm), the two sets of
obligations have materially different aims, particularly with respect to
children. In contrast to the Prevent strategy, for which the primary objective
is preventing terrorism, the primary objective of the duty to safeguard children under
domestic legislation is the welfare of the child. This reflects the obligation under
article 3(1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child to make the best
interests of the child a primary consideration in all actions relating to
while compliance with safeguarding obligations would only permit referral to
Channel while prioritising the best interests of the child, the Channel duty
guidance does not specify that as a mandatory or even a relevant consideration.
All of the case studies in this report relating to children – including one in
which a four year-old child was targeted– appear to be instances in which the
best interests of the child were not a primary consideration.
the Prevent duty risks breaching health bodies’ duty of confidentiality towards
their patients and undermining the relationship between health professionals
and their patients. The standard for disclosure of confidential information
under Prevent appears to be much lower than that warranted by the common law
duty of confidentiality enshrined in the NHS confidentiality code of practice
and the General Medical Council’s confidentiality guidance. Specifically,
requiring a medical professional to report to the police-led Channel programme
an individual who is at “risk of being drawn into terrorism”, including
“non-violent extremism”, appears to be a much lower standard than requiring the
medical professional to report (under the GMC guidance) the individual only
when failure to disclose confidential information would expose others to a risk
of death or serious harm. This could generate breaches of the confidentiality
duty along with violations of the right to private life under article 8 of the
European Convention on Human Rights.
there are serious indications that Prevent is counterproductive. The case
studies show that being wrongly targeted under Prevent has led some Muslims to
question their place in British society. Other adults wrongfully targeted under
Prevent have said that, had they been different, their experience of Prevent
could have drawn them towards terrorism, and not away from it. Government
data reveal that 80% of all Channel referrals were set aside, implying that
there were thousands of individuals wrongly referred to Channel. This in turn
risks under- mining the willingness of targeted communities to supply
intelligence to law enforcement officials which could be used to prevent
David Omand, the architect of the original version of Prevent, has observed:
“The key issue is, do most people in the community accept [Prevent] as
protective of their rights? If the community sees it as a problem, then you
have a problem”.
This report demonstrates that the UK’s Prevent strategy is indeed a
To the UK
the Prevent duty with respect to the health and education sectors.
the targeting and reporting of “non-violent extremism” under the Prevent
the use of empirically unsupported indicators of vulnerability to being drawn
an independent public inquiry – with civil society participation – into the
Prevent strategy and associated rights violations.
a formal and independent complaints mechanism through which individu- als whose
rights have been violated by the Prevent strategy can seek and obtain prompt
and meaningful remedies.
commit to a policy of zero tolerance regarding retaliation against indi-
viduals who allege rights violations under Prevent.
disclose data on total number of individuals referred to and processed through
Prevent, Channel, and Prevent Professional Concerns (PPC), as well a the
breakdown of these figures by age, type of extremism, and referring authority.
disclose, to the extent it exists, evidence underpinning and data relating to
the UK’s Extremism Risk Guidance (ERG) 22+.
Children’s Commissioners for England, Wales, and Scotland:
an assessment of the impact of Prevent on children, including but not limited
to whether the best interests of the child are a primary consideration in
To the National Association of Head Teachers,
the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, the Association
of Teachers and Lecturers, the National Union of Teachers, and other teachers
an assessment of the impact of Prevent on teachers and children, including but
not limited to the extent to which the best interests of the child are a
primary consideration in Prevent-related actions.
an assessment of the impact of Prevent in universities, including but not limited
to its impact on academic freedom and freedom of speech.
To the General Medical Council:
and clarify professional standards relating to the duty of confidentiality as
interpreted and applied in Prevent settings.
To the British Medical Association, the British
the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Royal College
of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and other
professional bodies in the health sector:
an assessment of the impact of Prevent on the practice of doctors,
psychologists and other healthcare professionals, and on patients and patient
care, including but not limited to an assessment of how the duty of
confidentiality is being interpreted and applied in Prevent settings.