Report calls for repeal of Prevent in healthcare and education

A major report published today recommends the government revoke the Prevent counter-extremism policy in the healthcare and education sectors as it risks violating human rights and is counterproductive.

Eroding Trust: The UK’s Prevent Counter-Extremism Strategy in Health and Education is published by the Open Society Justice Initiative.

The report says the strategy is leading to a breakdown of trust in some of the most important societal relationships: between students and teachers, doctors and patients, police officers and citizens, particularly Muslims.

The report views Muslims as vital in efforts to defeat terrorism but recognizes they are being marginalized (and risk being discriminated against) by existing counter-terrorism policy. Prevent, it discovers, gives the green light to professionals in healthcare, education and the police to act upon their conscious or unconscious biases against Muslims, fuelled by the existing Islamophobic climate.

Having conducted 87 interviews and producing 17 case studies across England and Wales the report finds people are being over-referred to Prevent. This may be caused by another of its findings: the definition of “extremism” within Prevent’s criteria for referrals is too vague (“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”).

Further, it states the basis for assessing whether people are “at risk” of extremism is not scientific.

Eroding Trust is published today by the Open Society Justice Initiative
The report is published today by the Open Society Justice Initiative

Amrit Singh, author of the report and head of the Justice Initiative’s work on counter-terrorism-related rights issues, said: “To effectively counter the real threat of terrorism, the government must let health and education professionals get on with their jobs and use their common sense and professional judgement to intervene where genuinely warranted.

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“Conscripting these professionals to counter a vaguely defined concept of ‘extremism’ under a statutory duty is only making things worse by violating human rights, generating fear and distrust, and alienating Muslim communities while undermining their access to health and education. The government and health and education bodies should heed the voices in this report and abandon the flawed aspects of the Prevent strategy.”

Several cases of how the counter-extremism programme is applied are illustrated. These include the Home Office using a funding organization to extract the political opinions of nine and ten year old mostly Muslim pupils in an art class; police officers requiring a psychologist ask certain questions to a patient and report the answers back; and the University of Huddersfield imposing difficult conditions on the organizer of a conference on racism and Islamophobia.

In addition to repealing Prevent within healthcare and education provision, the Open Society Justice Initiative wants the government to create “a formal and independent complaints mechanism through which individuals whose rights have been violated by Prevent can seek and obtain prompt and meaningful remedies.”

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