Terrorism laws and legal accountability

Authored by: Brice Dickson

Routledge Handbook of Law and Terrorism

Print publication date:  July  2015
Online publication date:  July  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415870375
eBook ISBN: 9780203795835
Adobe ISBN: 9781134455096


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This chapter explores the extent to which courts can contribute to the countering of terrorism. It begins by considering the criteria against which to assess whether courts are making an appropriate contribution in this sphere, arguing that the best measures of success are judicial legitimacy and effectiveness. It then suggests that the extent to which courts act legitimately and effectively in the context of counter-terrorism will depend, in part, on which category of actor the courts are attempting to hold to account. Drawing a distinction between four types of actors – terrorist suspects, counter-terrorism operatives, law enforcers and law-makers – the chapter posits that courts can act most legitimately and effectively in relation to terrorist suspects and law enforcers, but are less successful in applying legal accountability to counter-terrorism operatives and law-makers. The subsequent section explains how the accountability function of judges also depends on the powers that are expressly or impliedly conferred on them by national and international legal regimes. The chapter concludes by asking whether there are questions in the field of counter-terrorism that courts should never be expected to answer.

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