LL448E      Half Unit
Terrorism and the Rule of Law

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Conor Gearty NAB 6:11


This course is available on the Executive LLM. This course is not available as an outside option.

Available to Executive LLM students only. This course will be offered on the Executive LLM during the four year degree period. The Department of Law will not offer all Executive LLM courses every year, although some of the more popular courses may be offered in each year, or more than once each year. Please note that whilst it is the Department of Law's intention to offer all Executive LLM courses, its ability to do so will depend on the availability of the staff member in question. For more information please refer to the Department of Law website.

Course content

This course will provide a theoretical and historical introduction to the concept of terrorism. It will critically consider definitions of terrorism, and analyse the relationship between terrorism and the right to rebel, and the right to engage in civil disobedience. The historical development of the idea of 'terrorism' from the late eighteenth century through to the present will then be traced, with the emphasis on locating the practice of political terror in its political and military/quasi-military context. The role of international law generally and international human rights law in particular in the context of terrorism and anti-terrorism action will be considered in detail. The course will teach the material in context, so the subject will be analysed by reference to particular situations where necessary, eg Northern Ireland, the Palestine/Israel conflict and the post 11 September 'war on terror'. The aim of the course is to give the student a good critical understanding of this most controversial of subjects, and also to impart an understanding of the role of law in shaping the fields of terrorism and of counter-terrorism (and, latterly, the emerging field of ‘extremism’).


24-26 hours of contact time.

Formative coursework

All students are encouraged to produce one 2,000 word formative essay during the course. 

Indicative reading

There are four pieces ideally to be read before we meet:

(i) Richard English Terrorism: How to Respond (Oxford 2009; pb 2010).

(ii) Conor Gearty, Liberty and Security (Polity, 2013).

(Note both of these books are in paperback, and short!)

(iii) Conor Gearty, ‘Terrorism and Human Rights’ in Gearty, Selected Essays on Human Rights and Terrorism (Cameron May 2008), ch 24 – I have a PDF available.

(iv) Conor Gearty, ‘Terrorist threats, Anti-terrorism and the Case against the Human Rights Act’ in F Cowell (ed), Critically Examining the Case against the Human Rights Act (Hart 2017) I have a word version.

Please try to ensure that you have completed this reading prior to the module.

Further reading:

(v)  A marvellous fund of information is at: http://www.parliament.uk/topics/Terrorism.htm

(vi) R English, Does Terrorism Work? (OUP 2016).

(vii) R v Gul [2013] UKSC 64 (https://www.supremecourt.uk/decided-cases/docs/UKSC_2012_0124_Judgment.pdf); Beghal v DPP [2015] UKSC 49 (https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2013-0243-judgment.pdf).

(viii) The Definition of Terrorism (A report by Lord Carlile) Cm 7052 (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/228856/7052.pdf).

(ix) Conor Gearty, ‘Human Rights in an Age of Counter-terrorism’ Oxford Amnesty Lecture 2006, in C Miller (ed) visiting Professor in the department of Government of the LSE The War on Terror (Manchester University Press, 2009) and also to be found in ch 23 of Gearty, Selected Essays on Human Rights and Terrorism (Cameron May 2008).

(x) David Omand, Securing the State (Hurst 2012).

(xi) Al-Waheed v Ministry of Defence [2017] UKSC 2 (https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2014-0219.html).

(xii) Gearty “Political violence and civil liberties” in McCrudden and Chambers, eds, Individual rights and the law in Britain ch 5.

(xiii) R (Lord Carlile) v Home Secretary [2014] UKSC 60. (https://www.supremecourt.uk/decided-cases/docs/UKSC_2013_0098_Judgment.pdf).

(xiv) D Anderson QC,  ‘Shifting the Compass: How to Fight Terrorism Without Defeating the Law’ [2013] (3) European Human Rights Law Review 233-246.

(xv) Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/6/contents/enacted/data.htm).

(xvi) CONTEST Annual Report for 2015 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/contest-uk-strategy-for-countering-terrorism-annual-report-for-2015).


Assessment path 1
Essay (100%, 8000 words).

Assessment path 2
Take-home assessment (100%).

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills