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Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2013

Volume 750: debated on Thursday 12 December 2013

Motion to Approve

Moved by

That the draft order laid before the House on 2 December be approved.

Relevant document: 15th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

My Lords, the Government are determined to do all that they can to minimise the threat from terrorism to the UK and our interests abroad. Proscription is an important part of the Government’s strategy to tackle terrorist activities. We propose to add Imarat Kavkaz, also known as the Caucasus Emirate, to the list of international terrorist organisations, amending Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000. This is the 13th proscription order under that Act.

Having carefully considered all the evidence, the Home Secretary believes that Imarat Kavkaz meets the statutory test for proscription and that it is appropriate to exercise her discretion to proscribe it. Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000 provides a power for the Home Secretary to proscribe an organisation if she believes it is currently concerned in terrorism. The Act specifies that an organisation is concerned in terrorism if it: commits or participates in acts of terrorism; prepares for terrorism; promotes or encourages terrorism, including the unlawful glorification of terrorism; or is otherwise concerned in terrorism. If the test is met, the Home Secretary may then exercise her discretion to proscribe the organisation. In considering whether to exercise this discretion, the Home Secretary takes into account a number of factors: the nature and scale of an organisation’s activities; the specific threat that it poses to the United Kingdom; the specific threat that it poses to British nationals overseas; the organisation’s presence in the United Kingdom; and the need to support other members of the international community in tackling terrorism.

Given the wide-ranging impact of proscription, the Home Secretary exercises her power to proscribe only after a thorough review of the available relevant information and evidence on the organisation. This includes open source material, intelligence material and advice that reflects consultation across government, including with the intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The Home Secretary is supported in her decision-making by the cross-Whitehall proscription review group. Decisions to proscribe are taken with great care by the Home Secretary and it is right that the case for proscribing new organisations must be approved by both Houses.

Having carefully considered all the evidence, we firmly believe that Imarat Kavkaz is currently concerned in terrorism. Noble Lords will appreciate that I am unable to comment on specific intelligence that leads to any decision to proscribe, but I can provide a brief summary of its activities. Imarat Kavkaz, or the Caucasus Emirate, is a terrorist organisation which seeks a Sharia-based caliphate across the north Caucasus. It regularly uses terrorist tactics and has carried out attacks against Russian state and civilian targets. The organisation claimed responsibility for the January 2011 suicide attack on Domodedovo Airport in Moscow that killed 35, including one British national, and a suicide attack on the Moscow metro in March 2010 that killed 39. Since then, there has been continued activity by Imarat Kavkaz, including renewed threats of activity in Russia made during the summer of 2013. The organisation is designated by the US and listed by the UN under the al-Qaeda sanctions regime. Subject to the agreement of this House, the order will come into force on Friday, 13 December.

In conclusion, I believe it is right that we add Imarat Kavkaz to the list of proscribed organisations under Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000.

The Minister explained the statutory power available to the Home Secretary to proscribe an organisation that she believes is currently concerned in terrorism and the factors that she has to take into account before exercising her discretion. The United States proscribed Imarat Kavkaz in 2011 after it was linked to the two deadly attacks in Moscow to which the Minister referred—namely at the international airport, when 35 people were killed, and in the Moscow metro, in which 39 people were killed. Imarat Kavkaz was formed in late 2007 and is an Islamic militant organisation based in Russia’s north Caucasus. Its stated goal is the liberation from the control of Moscow of what it considers to be Muslim lands. It regularly conducts attacks against Russian security forces and is linked to al-Qaeda.

We support the order, but I have three points to raise. When the order was discussed in the House of Commons on Tuesday, Diana Johnson MP asked the Minister in the other place about the effects of proscription on the social media, given that Imarat Kavkaz has a number of Facebook pages, and a range of fan pages are directed towards its leader. She asked the Minister to,

“clarify whether Facebook will be prohibited from hosting such fan pages and allowing people in the United Kingdom to access them once the group is proscribed”.

The Minister replied:

“The group’s Facebook page has been referred to the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit, which has responsibility for assessing such issues. If the site is assessed to be illegal, the CTIRU will flag that up with Facebook directly and have it taken down”.—[Official Report, Commons, 10/12/13; cols. 204-05.]

I appreciate that it is only two days since that question was asked but this order, as the noble Lord said, is due to come into effect tomorrow. What, then, is the position in relation to the group’s Facebook page? This is the 13th order of this kind to be laid. Does the Minister know whether previously proscribed organisations had Facebook or any other social media pages and, if so, whether those pages have been taken down?

The consequences for a proscribed organisation are considerable for both the organisation and its adherents. It is a criminal offence for a person to belong to or invite support for a proscribed organisation. It is also a criminal offence to arrange a meeting in support of such an organisation, wear clothing or carry articles in public that arouse reasonable suspicion that an individual is a member or supporter. A proscribed organisation or any person affected by the proscription may apply to the Secretary of State for deproscription. If the Secretary of State refuses, the applicant may appeal to the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission. First, how many separate applications for deproscription have been made to the Home Secretary since the Terrorism Act 2000 came into force? Secondly, how many appeals have been made to, and been determined by, the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission over the same timescale?

Time-limiting proscription was recommended by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, who felt that a proscription order should be subject to a review after a fixed period, following which it could be renewed or would lapse. My final question is: what is the Government’s position on David Anderson’s recommendation?

My Lords, I hope that I shall be able to answer most of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. I appreciate his support for the order. I strongly believe that Imarat Kavkaz should be added to the list of proscribed organisations.

The noble Lord asked a number of questions. The first was about the internet and the relationship of this proscription and others to organisations such as YouTube and Facebook. We have been removing illegal terrorist content from the overt space where it is hosted in the UK or overseas and we have good relationships with those in the industry—for example, YouTube and Facebook. To date, the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit, which the noble Lord referred to in commenting on the reply in the Commons, has removed more than 18,000 pieces of illegal material. This particular group’s Facebook page has been referred to the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit. If it is assessed as illegal, the CTIRU will flag this directly with Facebook for removal.

The noble Lord also asked about applications for deproscription. There has been none since 2009, and indeed there have been no appeals to the POAC. There was one successful appeal in 2007-08 by the PMOI as a result of a judicial review of the case, as the noble Lord will be aware.

The noble Lord’s last question was about the recommendation made by David Anderson. We obviously take note of that, and indeed matters have been set up. In response to David Anderson, the Home Secretary said that under the current regime any person affected by a proscription can submit a written application to her requesting that she considers the removal of a specified organisation from the list. The Home Secretary is required to determine the application within 90 days. If the Secretary of State agrees to deproscribe an organisation, she will lay an order before Parliament removing it from the list of proscribed organisations. That is subject to the affirmative procedure, as is this order. The Home Secretary’s consideration of these matters following applications from the groups themselves is an effective process. There is a right of appeal and challenge, should the Home Secretary’s decision be negative. Any valid application for deproscription will be considered by the Home Secretary in accordance with the Act. I hope that that helps the noble Lord.

Does that response mean that the Government are not looking at going down the road of what I understand to be his recommendation—time-limiting proscription, which would be subject to a review after a fixed period, following which it could renewed or it would lapse? Are the Government not looking to doing that?

I have described the position, and I have a note here which helped me to do so. It presents the Home Secretary’s role and the Home Office’s view on the best way of dealing with deproscription, subject to application and considered within 90 days. In the event of a negative response there is a right of appeal. That is the current procedure and it would apply to any of the current 14 bodies that have been proscribed through the order.

Motion agreed.