Advocacy group CAGE has said the appointment of Lord Carlile as the “Independent Reviewer for Prevent” confirms that the entire review process is simply about legitimising the controversial counter terror policy.
CAGE said the government has re-appointed the same reviewer who approved the current Prevent strategy and has close ties with the intelligence and security establishment.
Many Muslim organisations, as well as human rights groups, unions and academics, have said Prevent is a thinly-veiled spying and monitoring exercise which targets the Muslim community.
Asim Qureshi, CAGE’s Research Director said: “The core problem with Prevent is that it fundamentally skews the relationship between government and citizens. Muslims are the test community for a government whose long term aim is to bring about a closed society.
“Any review of Prevent would only ever have worked if it was going to address the root and branch of the entire system that produced it. The sad reality is that the decisions to ‘review’ the policy have been made by those who will never suffer the negative impacts of a false Prevent referral, and so its violence is far removed from their lived experience. Without being able to effectively challenge the roots of Prevent, this ‘review’ will only serve as a whitewash of the racist ideas embedded in the system.
CAGE has released an 8-point plan, which it believes provides a healthier way forward beyond Prevent, and breaks the impasse of the current discussions.
Former cabinet minister Syeeda Warsi also condemned the appointment of Lord Carlile.
“Another misjudged appointment by the government. Lord Carlisle is neither independent of government thinking on this issue nor does he have the trust of the communities that have been on the receiving end of the excesses and mistakes of the Prevent policy,” she tweeted.
The reaction came after the government announced yesterday that Lord Carlile had been appointed as the Independent Reviewer of the Prevent programme, which it says “safeguards vulnerable people from being drawn into terrorism.”
Security Minister Brandon Lewis said: “Lord Carlile brings a wealth of experience and skills to this role. As the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, he showed independence and rigour and I am pleased he has agreed to lead this review.
“Prevent is vitally important in stopping vulnerable individuals being drawn into terrorism and has been instrumental in turning people’s lives around for the better and keeping our communities safe.
“Our Prevent Network across the country – from mentors giving individual support, to raising awareness of the dangers of radicalisation – works tirelessly to tackle all forms of terrorism. We are continually improving and evolving the programme, and I look forward to seeing Lord Carlile’s recommendations on how we can learn more about what works and where we need to improve.”
Lord Carlile himself commented: “The nature of the terrorist threat is ever-changing and government policy must evolve in order to tackle it. I look forward in my new role to seeing Prevent work in action and hearing views from supporters, critics and everyone in between to see the evidence of what is and isn’t working. The review will be strongly evidence based.
“As the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, I have a strong track record of asserting and sustaining my independence of government in assessing the effectiveness of legislation, and this role will be no different.”
The review will focus on the current delivery of the Prevent programme and make recommendations for the future and is expected to report to Parliament by August 2020.
Of the 394 individuals who received Channel support in 2017/18, 179 (45%) were referred for concerns related to Islamist extremism and 174 (44%) were referred for concerns related to right wing extremism.
Just a few days ago The Sunday Times reported that Home Office mentors were gathering information on their clients in “confidential” deradicalisation meetings and sharing it with police for terrorism investigations into the very people they are counselling.
Leaked documents seen by The Sunday Times revealed that the paid mentors, who include Islamic scholars and counter-extremism experts vetted and approved by the Home Office, routinely file an “intervention session report” after each mentoring session.
The mentors’ reports provide a “vulnerability assessment” of a client, their “capability” of carrying out a violent act and “new relevant background information” which details the personal material that was obtained, including their “susceptibility to indoctrination” and state of “mental health.”
The disclosure will reignite the controversy that Prevent, which costs taxpayers about £40m a year, is being used to spy on the Muslim community.