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My Lords, noble Lords will want to be aware that earlier this week we also laid an order under Section 3(6) of the Terrorism Act 2000, recognising that System Resistance Network or SRN is an alias of the right-wing terrorist organisation National Action, which was proscribed in the UK in December 2016. That order came into effect on Tuesday. We are clear that these groups should not be able to continue their activities by simply operating under alternative names.
The threat level in the UK, which is set by the Independent Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, remains at substantial. This means that a terrorist attack in our country is likely and could occur without warning. While we can never entirely eliminate the threat from terrorism, we are determined to do all we can to minimise the threat to the UK and our interests abroad and to disrupt those who would engage in it. Recognising that terrorism is a global threat that is best tackled in partnership, it is also important that we demonstrate our support for other members of the international community in their efforts to tackle terrorism wherever it occurs.
The order before the House today adds Sonnenkrieg Division, otherwise known as SKD, to the list of proscribed terrorist organisations; merges the proscriptions of Kurdistan Workers’ Party, otherwise known as Partiya Karkeren Kurdistani or PKK, and Teyrebazene Azadiye Kurdistan, otherwise known as TAK; and recognises Hezen Parastina Gel, otherwise known as HPG, as an alias of PKK by amending Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000.
This is the 24th order under that Act. Proscription is an important part of the Government’s strategy to disrupt terrorist activities, and it sends a strong message that terrorist activity is not tolerated wherever it happens. Under Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary has the power to proscribe an organisation if she believes it is concerned in terrorism. If the statutory test is met, the Home Secretary may then exercise her discretion to proscribe the organisation. She takes into account a number of factors in considering whether to exercise this discretion. They include the nature and scale of an organisation’s activities, the extent of the organisation’s presence in the UK and the need to support other members of the international community in tackling terrorism.
The effect of proscription is that a listed organisation is outlawed and is unable to operate in the UK. It is a criminal offence for a person to belong to, invite or provide support for, or arrange a meeting in support of a proscribed organisation and recklessly to express support for a proscribed organisation. It is also an offence to wear clothing or display articles in public, such as flags, which arouse reasonable suspicion that an individual is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation, or to publish an image of an article of a proscribed organisation, such as a flag or logo, in the same circumstances.
Proscription sends a strong message to deter fundraising and recruitment for proscribed organisations. The assets of a proscribed organisation can also become subject to seizure as terrorist assets. Proscription can also support other disruptions of terrorist activity, including, for example, immigration powers that allow individuals linked to a proscribed organisation to be excluded from the UK on account of their presence in the UK not being in the public interest.
Given its wide-ranging impact, the Home Secretary exercises the power to proscribe only after thoroughly reviewing the available evidence on an organisation. This includes information taken from both open sources and sensitive intelligence, as well as from careful consultation across government, including with the intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
The cross–government Proscription Review Group supports the Home Secretary in this decision-making process. The Home Secretary’s decision to proscribe is taken only after great care and consideration of each case. Given the impact the power can have, it is appropriate that proscriptions must be approved by both Houses.
Having carefully considered all the evidence, the Home Secretary believes that SKD is currently concerned in terrorism and that TAK and HPG are aliases of PKK. As noble Lords will appreciate, I am unable to comment on specific intelligence, but I can provide a summary of each group’s activities in turn.
This order proscribes SKD, a white supremacist group that was established in March 2018 following a splinter of System Resistance Network, which is an alias of the proscribed group National Action. Members of the group were convicted of encouraging terrorism and possession of documents useful to a terrorist in June 2019. The group has encouraged and glorified acts of terrorism via its social media posts and distributed imagery. This includes an image depicting the Duke of Sussex being shot—as part of its campaign against “race traitors”—following his marriage to the Duchess of Sussex, and home-made propaganda using Nazi imagery calling for attacks on minorities. The images can reasonably be taken as implying that these acts should be emulated and therefore amount to the unlawful glorification of terrorism.
This order also amends the proscription of PKK and TAK to recognise TAK and HPG as aliases of PKK. As I am sure noble Lords will be aware, PKK is primarily a separatist movement that seeks an independent Kurdish state in south-east Turkey. The group was formed in 1978 by Abdullah Öcalan. In 1984 the group launched an armed struggle calling for an independent Kurdish state.
PKK has been proscribed as a terrorist organisation in the UK since March 2001 and is also listed as a terrorist organisation in more than a dozen other countries, as well by the EU. TAK has also been proscribed in the UK since 2006. However, we now assess that it is an alias of PKK. HPG is also assessed to be an alias of PKK.
The Government keep their response to terrorism under review and it is entirely appropriate that we take all available opportunities to strengthen the UK’s response to both domestic and international threats. Amending the PKK proscription to recognise TAK and HPG as aliases of this organisation is part of that response.
In conclusion, I think it is right that we proscribe SKD—and amend the PKK proscription to recognise TAK and HPG as aliases—on the list of proscribed organisations in Schedule 2 to the Terrorism Act 2000. Subject to the agreement of this House and the other place, the order will come into force on Friday
I beg to move.
House adjourned at 6.54 pm.