Counter Terrorism And Its Efficacy
terrorism raises genuine security concerns. And the state attempts to address these concerns through various measures. The use of counter-terrorism legislation is one such measure, employed especially by democracies. The basic rationale is that a legal framework deals with terrorism, which is considered undemocratic, in a democratic way. In other words, legislation ought to adequately deter terrorist groups, but at the same time, prevail on other counter-terrorism methods of the state from encroaching on human rights of the innocent. How far this is true, especially in the Indian context? Have the counter-terror laws of India been successful in enhancing security? If so, in what manner? If not, why and what are the problems involved?
Terrorism as a Security Threat
If terrorism is defined as “an act of violence which targeted civilians for the purpose of political subversion of the state to intimidate a population or to compel a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act,” then the threats arising from such acts are phenomenal.
A principal characteristic of terrorism, distinguishing it from many other forms of violence, is its ability to strike directly at perceptions of personal security. Terrorism is a complex phenomenon imbued with political, social, economic and psychological factors. The emergence of terrorism as a weapon of proxy war between hostile nations has further added to this complexity. Terrorism, thus, is not only a threat to state security, but has become a primary source of ‘human insecurity’.
Terrorism is taken seriously not just because of what it represents, but also because of what it brings about. Directly, terrorism is a threat to core human rights like the right to life, the right to personal liberty and security, the right to humane treatment, the right to due process and to a fair trial, the right to freedom of expression, and the judicial protection and its correspondent obligation to respect and ensure all human rights without discrimination. Terrorism threatens norms, rules and institutions largely because it dents the rule of law, human rights, democratic procedures for settling political disputes and the laws of war. In this sense, “terrorism is a threat to the global normative structure without which security would be impossible to realize. “In the post-Cold War era, terrorism figured at the top in the list of new threats to security.
After 9/11, the threat from terrorism has been identified as the most dangerous threat by states. This is so not only because of the increased ruthlessness of the attacks, but also due to their lethality and unpredictability. A growing percentage of terrorist attacks are designed to kill as many people as possible. The trend toward higher casualties reflects the changing motivation of today’s terrorists. Terrorist groups lack a concrete political goal other than to punish their enemies. The terrorist threat is also changing in ways that makes it more dangerous and difficult to counter. New terrorist threats can suddenly emerge from isolated conspiracies or obscure cults with no previous history of violence. Guns and conventional explosives have so far remained the weapons of choice for most terrorists. Such weapons can cause many casualties and are relatively easy to acquire and use. Increased possibilities of weapons of mass destruction reaching terrorist groups like al Qaeda have further heightened the threat level. The adoption of suicide tactics by several terrorist groups has raised the threat perception to alarming proportions. ‘Globalized terrorism’, thus, effectively assimilates diverse forms of political violence with the consequence of unifying and amplifying the threat. Ignatieff summarizes the scope of the threat that is more indirect in nature, A succession of large-scale attacks would pull at the already-fragile tissue of trust that binds us to our leadership and destroy the trust we have in one another. Once the zones of devastation were cordoned off and the bodies buried, we might find ourselves, in short order, living in a national-security state on continuous alert, with sealed borders, constant identity checks and permanent detention camps for dissidents and aliens.