The Constitutional Law Discussion Group met on Tuesday, 18 March, 3PM, in the Ken Mason Suite (Old College). We welcomed Prof Fiona de Londras, Durham Law School, speaking on the topic:
‘Constitutionalist Ruptures in the Contemporary Counter-Terrorist State’
Abstract: Much has been written about contemporary counter-terrorism; about torture, and indefinite detention, and extraordinary rendition, and expulsion and the resilience or vulnerability of the international community and its norms. Forests have been felled to consider—rightly—the differentiated impact of counter-terrorist measures on suspect communities and, within those communities, on the particularly vulnerable such as women and young men. In many ways, these are the dominant visions we have of contemporary counter-terrorism: orange jumpsuits, barbed wire, hooded detainees and acts of brutal corporeal violence. What these outrageous and condemnable actions are, however, is the tip of the counter-terrorist ice-berg. Underneath this highly visible, sensational and (literally) spectacular vista lies the bureaucracy of counter-terrorism; the grinding banality of its everyday incursion into all of our lives that often avoids more concentrated analysis because of its apparently less worrying character. However, the ‘everyday’ picture of counter-terrorism is one that reveals much about the contemporary counter-terrorist state; its shape, design and amenability to effective constitutionalist limits as currently constructed. If we care about maintaining constitutionalism—which I claim that we do, and indeed that we must—then we need to get to grips with the shape of the contemporary counter-terrorist state which, I argue, is not quite the state that the vast majority of our institutional approaches to constitutionalism anticipate. In the past decade or so a number of important trends have emerged in the contemporary counter-terrorist state that any attempt to limit that state by principles of constitutionalism and human rights must grapple with and which form the major narrative for this book and its proposals for reasserting constitutionalism in the face of overwhelming securitisation and counter-terrorism. I characterise these trends as the delegation of powers, policy-making and execution from the national to the transnational and from the public to the private, together with the rhetorical and operational normalisation of counter-terrorism. All of these trends taken alone pose constitutionalist difficulties, but together and occurring within the security-oriented meta-narratives of secrecy and necessity they constitute a severe challenge to our capacity to engage in meaningful constitutionalism.
The meeting was followed by an informal wine and chocolate reception.
Chair: Silvia Suteu