The appointment of Lord Carlile to review the UK’s flagship counter-terrorism strategy has breached the government’s code on public appointments, a coalition of civil liberties groups have claimed, because Carlile has in the past declared his “considered and strong support” for the Prevent programme
The alliance of 10 organisations said last week’s surprise announcement to hire Carlile as the independent reviewer of the controversial programme had “undermined its integrity and credibility from the outset”.
In a joint statement the groups said the key position had never been publicly advertised, no information about its select criteria had been published and Carlile had admitted to parliament that he “may be somewhat biased towards” Prevent.
The Home Office announced the appointment last week, saying Carlile had a “strong track record of asserting and sustaining [his] independence of government”.
However, groups including Index on Censorship, Liberty, the Runnymede Trust, Defend Digital Me, Open Society Justice Initiative, Cage and Mend said his selection meant the government had failed to follow its own code on public appointments.
In June, the government assured parliament that its choice of Prevent reviewer would adhere to the Cabinet Office code on appointments.
The coalition’s statement said Carlile could not be considered unbiased because of his declared support for the Prevent strategy and because he had been a member of the Home Office oversight board charged with “driving delivery”.
Prevent has become a toxic brand for many with Muslim communities, with some viewing it as a state tool for spying on them.
The joint statement said: “Carlile’s appointment to this vitally important position shatters the credibility of the review from the outset. The review should be comprehensive and wide-ranging in scope and not one that starts with the premise that Prevent should be continued and/or expanded, said the joint statement, also signed by the charities Maslaha, Medact and human rights group Just Yorkshire.
Rosalind Comyn, policy and campaigns officer for Liberty, said: “Appointing a Prevent reviewer who is on public record admitting he is ‘biased’ towards the strategy is little short of the government marking its own homework. The Prevent strategy chills free speech, encourages discrimination and presses public sector workers into becoming unwilling agents of the police and security services. It has caused untold damage to the communities it targets.
“The review should have been the chance for the objective and thorough scrutiny of the very premise of Prevent – but this appointment has made that impossible. We urge the government to rethink this appointment to ensure the review is fully independent.”
Previously, Carlile was independent reviewer of terrorism legislation for the government between 2001 to 2011.
Amrit Singh, Open Society Justice Initiative lawyer, said: “It makes no sense for a supposedly independent review to be conducted by a figure who is so closely associated with and has repeatedly endorsed the strategy that’s under review. It’s just not credible.”