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Terrorism and the Courts

Contact: Prof Fionnuala Ní Aoláin & Prof Colm Campbell

Legal analysis of the “war on terror” has been a growth industry in the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere since the events of September 11, 2001.

A substantial literature spanning multiple legal systems has emerged. Most legal theories addressing the regulation of political violence assume that exceptional legal powers will be adopted to regulate terrorism.

Many of the assertions underpinning the terrorism regulation are not based on empirical evidence but on conjecture and supposition. This lack of evidence highlights significant data gaps and raises important questions as to whether the assumptions underpinning assertions in the national security sphere are normatively justifiable. Recognition of such lacunae tends to highlight other gaps—specifically that claims for the effectiveness of particular exceptional powers also tend to rely upon normative assertions that they “ought to work”, unsupported by verifiable data.

Data gaps abound in national security debates, and consequently in legal contestation about whether anti-terrorism regulation is effective or necessary.

This project, based on substantive data collected in the non-jury Diplock Courts (Northern Ireland) and the Special Criminal Court (Republic of Ireland) provides unique data on the operation of detention, arrest and trial regimes created to counter and manage terrorism in the United Kingdom (UK) and the Republic of Ireland (RoI).

While the data is specific to the regulation of terrorism Ireland and the United Kingdom, the analysis provided by the project is directly applicable to the regulation of terrorism by other democratic states.