Islamic Relief welcomes call for government action on anti-terrorism legislation
A cross-party committee set up to review the draft Protection of Charities Bill says in its 124-page report, published on February 25, that the challenges charities face because of anti-terrorism measures “appear to present a real risk of a ‘chilling effect’ on UK NGOs’ activities overseas at a time when these efforts are possibly more critical than ever before”. The report urges the Government to consider adopting the approach of Australia and New Zealand, which have exemptions to aspects of terrorism laws for charities so that aid is not prevented from reaching people in conflict zones where terrorist groups are active.
“The vagueness of anti-terrorism legislation has created a fog of uncertainty that makes it difficult for charities and their banks to distinguish what is required of them,” says Jehangir Malik, Islamic Relief’s UK Director. “There is a real danger that people in conflict zones may be denied life-saving aid if charities are forced into a more cautious approach to delivering aid for fear of prosecution.
“Islamic Relief welcomes the parliamentary committee’s call for the Government to cut through the confusion by asking the Director of Public Prosecutions to publish guidance on the approach she would take to prosecutions under counter-terrorism legislation.”
Abdurahman Sharif, Executive Director of the Muslim Charities Forum, says: “We are especially encouraged that the evidence given by the MCF has been listened to by the committee and addressed in its report. This will give immeasurable confidence to the sector that organisations can achieve their aims without over-regulation. We look forward to working with the Charity Commission to ensure that these recommendations and its powers are used in a fair and balanced way.”
The committee’s recommendation on anti-terrorism legislation has also been welcomed by Ben Jackson, Chief Executive of British Overseas NGOs in Development (BOND) – a broad-based coalition of charities that includes Islamic Relief. “As the body representing hundreds of organisations working in humanitarian contexts, we welcome the committee’s recommendation of an exception in the Bill for charities providing humanitarian relief.
“This exception should be widened to include those organisations working to build peace between warring parties. Our members have to negotiate with gatekeepers in places such as Syria and Somalia to alleviate suffering but we cannot do this with our hands tied behind our backs.”