Imran AwanBy Imran Awan – Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Birmingham City University

The recent YouGov poll that a majority of Britons supported the ‘targeted killing’ of terrorists both at home and overseas is deeply worrying.   The survey which was carried out by Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) found that almost 54% of people supported the assassination of individual terrorists.   The results are worrying because a proposal of this nature allows terrorists to win more support every time governments use drones to kill terrorists.  The ancient writ of habeas corpus, due process, and the rule of law are all being lost in killing terrorists because offenders are targeted without a fair trial, thus potentially breaching human rights legislation.  The Human Rights Act 1998 should be the fundamental core to any society.  Indeed, its foundations are the liberties presented but which at present are facing extreme challenges.

While I certainly do not wish to downplay the seriousness of what terrorists have done, as a democratic and liberal country, we should be promoting the same democratic principles that terrorists dislike the most.    Killing them does not achieve this.   Apart from problems being lost such as gathering crucial evidence from terrorists at a trial the other problem with killing terrorist is the principle that innocent people will be killed with incidents such as drone attacks.    For example, we know that in Pakistan drone attacks may have killed hundreds of innocent civilians.  This has led to protests across Pakistan because of the nature of drones and their indiscriminate targeting of civilians.  We should strongly condemn acts of terrorism however we should not follow the principle that the only way to eradicate terrorism is by killing terrorists.    This only fuels further resentment and in the long term creates more terrorists and makes terrorists achieve their ultimate aim as glorified martyrs.

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