Human Rights and the Prevention of Violent Extremism
By Kenneth Yeo
The balance between human rights and counter terrorism is vital, said Mrs Barbara Lochbihler, Member of the European Parliament, during a briefing at RSIS on 2 November 2018. Presenting on “Human Rights and the Prevention of Violent Extremism”, Mrs Lochbiher spoke of the EU’s commitment to strengthening legal tools and institutions to prevent human rights abuse under the veil of counter-terrorism. However, she recognised that violent extremism is a global phenomenon and regional actors must focus on preventing it. While there are no silver bullets against violent extremism, in her view, the root cause appears to be socio-economic marginalisation. As such, it’s been observed that a disproportionately high number of migrants and those from poor socioeconomic backgrounds, are being radicalised. She asserted that “as a European, I’d like to reiterate that violent extremism is not confined to a certain religion.”
Despite severe attacks in Europe perpetrated by the Islamic State, she emphasised that right-wing terrorism is also on the rise. For example, Anders B. Breivik, a Norwegian with right-wing white supremacist motivations, killed 85 people at a youth camp in Norway in 2011. Mrs Lochbiher also said that the EU is committed to combating terrorism and violent extremism through the “Strategy for Combatting Radicalism”. Since 2011, the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) has brought people from diverse agencies to join the fight against radicalisation. However, while this tool is effective, she emphasised the danger of using it for political purposes and abusing human rights. Overall, counter-terrorism operations cannot neglect universal human rights, she said – governments must strike the delicate balance between upholding human rights while ensuring the security of their citizens.
“The way to stop human rights abuses in custodial settings is to introduce rehabilitation at prisons,” said Prof Rohan Gunaratna, Professor of Security Studies at RSIS. Prof Gunaratna, who recently chaired the Third Asia-Europe Counter Terrorism Dialogue in Berlin and Brussels, added that Europe and Asia should share information on terrorism to enhance security in their respective regions. He said, “The first terrorist attack in Europe by the Islamic State was on 24 May 2014 when Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old French national of Algerian origin, opened fire at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, killing four people. After his training in Syria, Mehdi Nemmouche had travelled to Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore before entering Europe.”
Mrs Lochbihler was accompanied by EU Ambassador Barbara Plinkert and First Counsellor, Mr Pierre-Louis Lempereur.
Last updated on 23/01/2019