The terrorist attacks in Paris, Nice, Brussels, London, Berlin and Barcelona are still fresh in our memories. In the countries surrounding the Netherlands, far-reaching security and emergency measures have been employed giving the authorities increased powers, of investigation for example, and involving major deployment of the police, armed forces and security services. In a few cases, a state of emergency was declared. However, it appears that government authorities have only limited control over the effect of such action. Emergency measures are not always the best response to terrorist threat, concludes the Utrecht University research team led by Mirko Noordegraaf. This is certainly the case if we wish to maintain a democratic and open society.
Emergency measures frequently have unexpected or undesirable side-effects for society and the democratic rule of law. Cities have been partially sealed off, the number of house searches dramatically increased and far-reaching proposals for monitoring data traffic put forward. Faced with the threat of terrorism, the emergency response sometimes seems to be flouting the law. There is a risk that government authorities are contributing to a culture of fear.
Internationally comparative study
An interdisciplinary team from Utrecht University has conducted research into the specific differences in emergency measures responding to the threat of terrorism in France, Germany and Belgium. It was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security's WODC (Research and Documentation Centre). The researchers show that the effectiveness of emergency measures is strongly dependent on the legal, administrative and social context in which they are introduced.