Research Law

Antiterrorism Policies that Put Everyone's Values at Risk

, by Claudio Todesco
Stressed by the need to respond to terrorism, democracies tend to react with illiberal measures that end up betraying their own principles, explains Arianna Vedaschi in her study

When faced with terror, Western democracies are not likely to succumb. They are more likely to commit suicide. Arianna Vedaschi, Professor of Public Comparative Law at Bocconi University, has devoted much of her research career to monitor this kind of danger. "I have studied the response of advanced liberal democracies to the threat of jihadist terrorism. I have focused on counter-terrorism measures taken by US, UK and other EU countries in order to verify their compatibility with core democratic rights and values".

Professor Vedaschi's research is divided into at least three main strands, the first being targeted killings, in particular the case of Osama Bin Laden, and extraordinary renditions to torture. Despite efforts by the US to build a theory that legitimates them, Vedaschi says, they are illegal from both a perspective of international law and constitutional law.

The second strand of research is about privacy and data protection in Europe. "In the face of strong government interventions, the European Court of Justice has so far managed to find a balance between fundamental rights and national security".

The third strand is about state secrecy. Before US and sometimes EU courts, cases of extraordinary renditions have been dismissed due to the invocation of the state secrets privilege by the government. The European Court of Human Rights, however, has ruled illegitimate the use of state secrecy, making an unprecedented reference to the importance of the right to the truth, that is not merely a legal, but a collective truth to the benefit of public opinion. "The worst risk that mature liberal democracies face is not the defeat at the hand of international terrorism. On the contrary, they have proved they can beat this enemy on the field. They risk killing themselves by betraying the principles upon which they were founded".

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