Precaution in countering terrorism : an analysis of how politicians attempt to legitimise indefinite preventive detention

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Witt, Pina Marisa
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Governments around the world have adopted various and diverse counter-terror measures with the primary aim being prevention. As a consequence, such measures have a strong anticipatory character. The purpose of counter-terror efforts has become to discover potential sources of terrorism, observe milieus which are conducive to radicalisation, and to detect persons whose profiles make them likely to commit an offence. However, this development is striking, as it is questionable whether all precautionary action is compatible with principles of the rule of law and human rights, which are essential building blocks of every democracy. Consequently, this thesis seeks to discover how politicians in liberal democracies attempt to rhetorically legitimise precautionary counter-terror measures. To do so, the measure of indefinite preventive detention of terrorist suspects is taken as a drastic example of precautionary action. By looking at the parliamentary debates on the adoption of this measure, it is analysed how politicians in the UK and Bavaria attempt to legitimise it. Drawing on the governance through risk approach, it is argued that the same four rationalities underlie the politicians’ justification discourses in both cases. The main concrete argumentative patterns and frames nevertheless differ in the two debates. It is therefore concluded that in order to effectively and sustainably challenge the legitimacy of precautionary measures, the underlying logic of the discourses should be tackled rather than their single elements. Keywords: Counter-terror, precaution, legitimisation, politicians, rhetoric
Second semester University: University of Hamburg
terrorism, preventive detention