2. Counter-terrorism measures
40. Terrorism is not a new phenomenon in the United Kingdom, as evidenced by the number of terrorist attacks since 1968 as a result of the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. More recently, the Government identified the “principal current terrorist threat from radicalized individuals who are using a distorted and unrepresentative version of the Islamic faith to justify violence”4. The risk of suicide attacks was highlighted by the London bombings on 7 July 2005 which killed 52 commuters and the 4 suicide bombers. Two weeks after the Special Rapporteur concluded her visit, two further terror attacks were attempted in London and Glasgow. Currently, 46 international terrorist organizations are proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000 and another 14 organizations in Northern Ireland are proscribed under previous legislation.
41. While anti-terror laws do not refer directly to specific religions or beliefs, the implementation of counter-terrorism measures such as police stop-and-search powers and religious profiling are largely perceived as targeting Muslims. The Special Rapporteur has for example received allegations that officers of the special branch asked Muslim tourists at airports how often they and other family members attended mosque. The practical implementation of section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which authorizes the police in designated areas to stop and search people without having to show reasonable suspicion, seems to affect ethnic and religious minorities more than other groups, especially since the attacks of 7 July 2005. The latest figures for England and Wales (2004/2005 and 2005/2006) show that searches of people with Asian appearance under this provision increased by 84 per cent, compared to an increase of only 24 per cent for White people.5 The Special Rapporteur was informed that Muslim youths living in the United Kingdom are particularly disturbed at the idea of being stopped and searched simply because they appear to be of Islamic faith.
42. Furthermore, a lawyer informed the Special Rapporteur about the potential abuse of the provisions on the failure to disclose information about acts of terrorism with regard to professional legal advisers who represent terror suspects. Allegedly, police constables threatened to charge a young solicitor under section 38B of the Terrorism Act 2000 after the first meeting with his Muslim client unless the solicitor disclosed the contents of their conversation. Recognizing the possible tension between the duty of solicitors to advance the interests of their clients and the interests of the public as a whole, the Law Society recently published an antiterrorism practice note on the conflicting duties of maintaining client confidentiality and reporting terrorism.6
4 Countering international terrorism: the United Kingdom’s strategy, July 2006,
5 Ministry of Justice, Statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System - 2006, pp. 26 and 34.
6 The Law Society, practice note of 19 July 2007 available online at