Kent Law School Senior Lecturer Dr Gavin Sullivan was one of four selected experts invited to present his research on terrorism listing to the Global Counterrorism Forum (GCTF), a leading informal counterterrorism body.
The closed high-level event, held earlier this week, was jointly organised by the US State Department and the UN as part of the GCTF’s Watchlisting Guidance Manual Initiative. It was aimed at implementing UN Security Council Resolution 2396 (2017) which requires all states to develop watchlists and databases of known and suspected terrorists, as well as the capabilities for collecting and analysing travel and biometric data, in full compliance with international human rights law. It also aimed to further develop the GCTF’s New York Memorandum of Good Practices on Terrorist Travel (2019).
Dr Sullivan spoke to the serious human rights challenges of watchlisting and automated travel data analysis, drawing insights from his new book The Law of the List (Cambridge University Press, 2020), his previous research for the UN on human-rights compliant responses to the threat of foreign fighters and from his experiences legally representing listed individuals struggling to get delisted.
Dr Sullivan said: ‘Watchlists and databases for identifying known and suspected terrorists are extremely powerful tools of counterterrorism governance. As states and international organisations rapidly build infrastructure for sharing and analysing watchlist data, Passenger Name Records and biometric information across borders, it is crucial that proper human rights safeguards and redress procedures are embedded into these systems. And with the increasing use of algorithmic decision-making tools to flag ‘risky’ persons, addressing these challenges is becoming even more urgent’.
Dr Sullivan teaches modules in Public Law, and Global Security Law at Kent Law School. His research focuses on the politics of global security law and global data infrastructures. It has been published in journals such as Transnational Legal Theory, the Leiden Journal of International Law, the American Journal of International Law and Environment and Planning D: Society and Space and supported by the British Academy. He coordinates the Transnational Listing Project – a global law clinic that provides pro bono representation to people targeted by security lists and databases worldwide.