Epistemology of the Terrorism Threat

Epistemology of the Terrorism Threat

A Critical Appraisal of Risk Assessment Structures of the European Court of Human Rights

This doctoral project attempts to analyze and offer a critical appraisal of the contributions of the European Court of Human Rights in furthering our understanding of the terrorism threat. Groundwork of such endeavor, guided by the concerns and commitments of Critical Terrorism Studies (CTS), starts with the (re)consideration of the extent of our knowledge and how it is shaped and formulated. Scholarship of CTS posits much of what we know or under­stand about the nature and gravity of the terrorism threat and the need for countermeasures is deeply flawed. As a con­sequence, findings of this well-established subfield suggest that the terrorism threat has been overexagger­ated and responses have been one of unnecessary and counterproductive overreaction. To give credence to such findings, it is essential to examine whether the Strasbourg Court has thus far developed and consistently applied doctrinal structures aimed at adequately assessing  the different qualities or dimensions of the terrorist threat such as the levels of risk it poses.
The development and consistent application of robust and detailed doctrinal structures not only aids in the estab­lish­ment of legitimate aims and need for intervention but also mandates close tailoring of  counterterrorism measures. Adopting such an approach, the Strasbourg Court is better able to fully withstand and decisively rebuff criticism that it is either doing too much or too little in regulating counterterrorism operations or ensuring the full protection and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The project, in favoring a dispassionate and objective assessment of the terrorist threat, moves away from the highly emotive or hyper moral paradigm, which does not encourage scientific or earnest inquiry where current mainstream terrorism scholarship exists. This shift in perspective materially advances and contributes towards the liberty versus security debate in a pragmatic fash­ion. As such the project is situated at the intersection of the first and third axis of the three-dimensional topical matrix of the Department’s research agenda: Theoretical Foundations and Doctrinal Structures and Fundamental Rights, Rule of Law, Democracy.


Research outcome: doctoral dissertation at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law (2020–22)
Project language: English
Photo: © simoningate/iStock

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