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Nuances with Terrorism and Iran

Jan 21, 2023

Stuart Repon-Ness

In recent weeks the UK has allegedly set itself to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation with the UK's Home Secretary, Suella Braverman supporting the move.

The head of MI5, Ken McCallum, stated in a public speech in November of last year that "Iran projects threat to the UK directly, through its aggressive intelligence services. At its worst, this includes intentions to abduct or even murder British or UK-based people who are seen as the regime's adversaries".

Since January 2022 alone, "we have seen at least 10 such possible threats," he continued. The action would effectively prohibit the IRGC in the UK, making it illegal to attend the group's events or display its flag and logo in public.

What is interesting about this move is how it could affect the laws and definition of terrorism within the UK.

The legal definition of terrorism in Britain does not distinguish between justified and unjustified violence, or between other ways of killing, such as in combat, assassinations, or politically motivated targeting.

Additionally, Jonathan Hall, KC who is opposed to Iran's military organisation, contends that "prohibiting a state body under the Terrorism Act 2000 would diverge from consistent and long-standing UK policy, and puts into question the definition of terrorism which, to date, has been practical and effective."

Furthermore, Hall addresses the issue of how the definition of terrorism will apply to other state forces and such issues will need to be addressed, at the risk of upsetting the established meaning of terrorism in domestic UK law.

An extra nuance of the move by the UK could dramatically reduce the chances of returning to the negotiating table in the future.

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