The ‘war against terrorism’ is lauded by dictators, authoritarians and neo-facists around the world. The Pakistani and Burmese military dictatorships have signed up. The Malaysian regime, which has jailed most of its opposition leaders under preventive detention laws, claims its laws to be a ‘best practice’ model for the rest of the world. And Israeli ‘settlers’ in the Palestinian West Bank now claim they are fighting ‘for the free world against terrorism’ (O’Louglin 2002). However, states that claim adherence to democracy must be more careful.

The regular construction of laws that create arbitrary and discriminatory powers of arrest and detention is helping build a crisis of legitimacy in law-making. At some point those laws will begin to be publicly resisted and discredited. The ‘rule of law’ will not be respected – and should not be respected – when laws begin to routinely and flagrantly breach the international consensus on human rights.

This paper discusses that looming crisis of legitimacy by reference to the principles of proportionality and equality before the law, and by examining the latest rights-violating law in NSW, the Terrorism (Police Powers) Act 2002.

2003 Terrorist laws in NSW: Disproportional and discriminatory PFD

Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 14(3)