A rights organisation has written to the Home Office to seek answers to renewed claims that the long-awaited and overdue public release of the review of the UK government’s toxic counterterrorism scheme, Prevent, is rife with government interference. 
Rights and Security International (RSI) issued a written request to the Home Office on Monday, 23 January, seeking an explanation and to address concerns that the department may have “interfered significantly” in a draft copy of the review. 
In a statement released by law firm Leigh Day, which is representing the RSI in this matter, it warns that the legality and independence of the review is seriously doubted. 
The statement reads,
“Our client has raised serious concerns about the lawfulness of the ongoing independent review of Prevent and considers that the nature of the interactions between the Home Secretary and the independent reviewer may compromise the review’s ‘independence’.” 
Will the review ever be released?
An “independent” review of Prevent has been in the works since at least August of 2019.
Lord Carlile was the first to be put in the driving seat, before being unceremoniously removed due to a legal challenge following the revelation that he previously expressed support for Prevent. 
Notably, the group behind the successful challenge was the RSI (previously known as Rights Watch UK). 
Following the appointment of William Shawcross – an Islamophobe  and former director of the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society – persistent calls have been made for the government to admit that its “independent” review is nothing more than a farce.
Chief Editor at Islam21c, Dr. Salman Butt, who took the government to court in 2016 arguing that the Prevent duty was unlawful  – a case which is currently pending at the European Court of Human Rights – said of the developments:
“This is another in a long line of gaffes that has caused much embarrassment and damage to both the government and any legitimate efforts to tackle violence on our streets.
“The problem with Prevent right from the get-go, as highlighted by many Muslims and non-Muslims, and cemented in the peer-reviewed literature on the subject, is that from its basis, it was: (i) based on pseudoscience; (ii) structurally racist and Islamophobic; and (iii) actively counter-productive to its stated aims.
“In other words, it actually makes us LESS safe from the threat of terrorism and political violence.”
Dr. Butt further added,
“The sooner the government ditches the pseudoscientific and politically motivated obsession with Islam and so-called ‘non-violent extremism’ – which we have proven in court that Parliament did not give it the mandate to do – and the sooner it embraces empirical reality concerning the many complex causes of political violence (which it itself is contributing to), the sooner we can put this toxic chapter behind us and focus on the real problems of the day, instead of posturing to xenophobes.”
Many have long argued that Prevent is a failing counterterrorism scheme that was always destined to be a damaging and biased tool used by the government to unfairly target innocent Muslims.
Indeed, the People’s Review of Prevent – launched in response to the government’s own review – found that there are various “potential breaches of Children’s Rights and Human Rights”. 
In addition, the thorough investigation revealed that Prevent purports to “safeguard” children from harm, while actually focusing on “protecting the wider public from children believed to be ‘risky’, rather than protecting children from harms”. 
Sarah St Vincent, who is the executive director at the RSI, called on the government to change course and to be honest about precisely who is steering the ship when it comes to this review.
“Parliament, by law, required an independent review of Prevent. If the government has shaped the content, then the review is not independent, and the public and Parliament should not be told that it is.
“This is a fundamental issue of good governance, and the idea that the UK government might be willing to put the label of ‘independence’ on a report in which it has interfered behind closed doors is Orwellian and deeply alarming.” 
A freedom of information request also revealed that the Home Office has held meetings with Shawcross or other officials a total of thirteen times since February 2021 and August 2022, further raising questions over potentially unlawful government influence and bias.  
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