23:45 GMT28 January 2020
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    The UK needs to revise and toughen its ancient treason laws to prosecute terrorists who have fought in Syria, according to a recent report by Policy Exchange, a leading UK think tank. The paper slammed the current treason legislation as outdated. Sputnik spoke with David Otto, counter-terrorism and organized crime expert.

    Sputnik: What do you make of the calls to revise the antiquated treason laws now in the 21st century? How needed are updates to the treason acts?

    David Otto: I think this is going to be a very devastating move by the UK government, which could be an illustration of the reaction. The Anti-Treason Act, which was created in 1351, was last  used in 1946 when Lord Haw-Haw was indicted. I think in terms of what the government intends to achieve, that may not necessarily have that responsibility, which is that it would have nothing to do with motivation and capacity of terrorist organizations like the Islamic State [Daesh]*, especially if you think of the actions of the individuals that we are talking about. 

    The 'Beatles', these are the guys that from the point of view of the Islamic State ideology they want to be martyrs. They want to show that there is a real demarcation between us and them. So by actually trying to revise the law to be able to kill these guys, we are actually playing into the ISIS narrative. To capture and execute like (Daesh) does is just helping to fulfill their desire to die and become martyrs.

    I think that is going to be unacceptable because there is of course the, call it instinct, the prohibition of any death penalty and what the UK is trying to do is to then contract out this death penalty to the US, which is contrary to the Convention Against Torture. So I believe that what the UK has to do is to look at its counter-terrorism laws and go through Parliament to do that rather than looking at an old age pact that existed way back and which may not actually have the kind of effect that we think it would have in bringing (Daesh) down.

    Sputnik: What updates we may be talking about here considering the existing acts that are dealing mostly with crimes against monarch, for example and why his treason in particularly becomes the focus of this report?

    David Otto: The argument is that by the 'Beatles' and I am talking about the terrorists Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, by them going to Syria and fighting for (Daesh) against British interests, they are then committing a treasonable offense by attacking British soldiers, for example. This is where they are talking about the involvement of treason, but it is not fair play because again what one has to take into context is that these individuals have been stripped of their nationality.

    There are legal implications to that as they may not be considered as British citizens, but others would argue that by making them stateless it is also an act of illegality. So the issue of bringing in the Treason Act; it is a sort of (ad hoc method), where the UK would want to make the laws to suit the circumstances and I think this would be some kind of undermining of parliamentary sovereignty regarding current terrorism laws. 

    Sputnik: At the end of the day we still need current terrorism legislation and the question is, is it sufficient enough to overcome these terrible crimes that these people are perpetrating. What is your point of view with regard to that?

    David Otto: My point of view is that even countries like the US that have the death penalty, have not been able to defeat terrorism through that means. Even if we have the death penalty in the UK, it will still not achieve the same purpose. So it is not by repeating what hasn’t worked, it is by looking at what may work, which is – look at the ideology of (Daesh), look at the ideology of some of these groups and provide an alternative ideology. Provide an alternative means for getting these these guys to desist and exit away from terrorism.

    If you want to play the role of the divided line where they kill and we kill through legislation or any other means or in battle then what we are actually doing is we play into the very narrative of giving these guys the satisfaction of dying as martyrs. So it is not by enacting a treason act that would eventually lead to perhaps to life imprisonment or the death penalty that would resolve the problem. If the ultimate purpose of every legislation is to achieve a particular outcome and if that outcome, of actually getting people to not join a terrorist organization is not achieved, then we fail in what we are trying to do.

    The views and opinions expressed by David Otto are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    martyr, treason, terrorist, law, Daesh, United Kingdom
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