Target: England


Le 18 novembre aura lieu le procès des deux britanniques coupables d’avoir sauvagement assassiné un soldat dans les rues de Londres le 18 mai 2013. Cet événement nous a poussés à revenir sur l’évolution des attaques terroristes au Royaume-Uni et les politiques sécuritaires mises en place.


Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, 28 and 22, killed a British soldier in the streets of London six months ago. Their motives were religious and they committed this crime because of Britain’s involvement in the Islamic countries. They have now decided to plead not guilty even though they have been filmed. This savage attack shocked the whole country and is regarded as a terrorist attack. Even if Prime Minister David Cameron declared that the country has already known this kind of attack in the past; terrorist attacks in Britain have taken on new forms.

ImageIRA attack against Margaret Thatcher, 1984

Terrorism in the United-Kingdom is not a recent phenomenon. Indeed at the beginning terrorism was mainly internal for social and political reasons. It started with the conquest of Ireland by Henry II of England, which created a nationalistic feeling among some Irish descendants. Between 1969 and 1998, 3480 people were killed by nationalistic Irish movements, for example by the IRA (Irish Republican Movement). If this problem was eventually solved thanks to Tony Blair’s Good Friday Agreement in April 1998, terrorism hasn’t stopped at all in the United Kingdom.

Image        Underground attack                                                                       Bus attack, July 2005                                 

Indeed as the the US ally and a powerful western symbol, the United Kingdom still falls prey to terrorism. For instance, July 7th 2005  is for Britain what September 11th 2001 is for the United States. On this day four bombings took place: three in the underground and one in a bus. Some people criticized the government for doing nothing to prevent those attacks even though they say the government had a lot of information. 56 people were killed and 700 injured. The attack was by far not as deadly as September 11, but all Europe was shocked and many countries took new security measures.

Anti-terrorism measures in the United Kingdom began in 2000, with the Terrorism Act; an act providing the first permanent counter- terrorist legislation. It expands the definition of terrorism, defined as “the use or threat of action designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public (…); made for the purposes of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause“. It allows the police to detain people arrested for terrorism offense. The turning point took place of course after September 11 during Tony Blair’s term. Several anti-terrorism laws passed, which gave the police more leeway. The UK has one of the biggest DNA databases in the world, and a very sophisticate internet control system.

Sans titre-1

Due to G.W Bush’s legacy, this kind of legislation has become increasingly controversial. Individual liberty defenders claim that human rights have been damaged. Likewise, according to the last event with Glenn Greenwald’s friend, (who was examined for 9 hours at the London Airport even if he is not suspected of being a terrorist), confirms these claims. (Glenn Greenwold was the journalist chosen by Edward Snowden to make his revelations. Gleenwald revealed the existence of these programs in the Guardian.) For some people, the country of the Magna Carta is not what is used to be, “the national security overrides on everything else” recalls Philippe Sands, a professor from the Internal Laws University in London. In 2005, the Human Right Commission of the United Nations decided to create a special post, on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in the fight against terrorism. Respecting human rights and fighting terrorism ought not to be incompatible.

Terrorism is not a new subject, but it takes on an important place in UK history. The murder of an innocent soldier has reminded Britons they aren’t safe from future terrorist attacks. But a radical approach to fight terrorism can have a cost: Tony Blair resigned largely because of his commitment in Iraq (in 2005, 64% of Britons thought that the terrorist attacks were due to the Iraq war). As Kofi Annan, the General Secretary of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, said:  “each one of us, should be really conscious that Human right protections cannot move back in front of anti-terrorism actions”.

Emmanuelle SIMONET & Léonor WEJMAN


One thought on “Target: England

  1. Pingback: British newspapers get bad press | Frogs Save The Queen

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