Disengagement and deradicalisation are terms often used interchangeably, with little meaningful inquiry as to what either imply. Accusations abound of the failures and deficiencies of the measures employed to ‘cure the terrorist’, often with little appreciation of the complexities of human behaviour and the plethora of social, psychological and environmental factors which can influence behavioural and attitudinal change.
Neither disengagement nor deradicalisation is necessarily a permanent state, nor a reflux valve. Just as an individual can radicalise, so can they deradicalise and even reradicalise. Whilst no disengagement or deradicalisation programme can ever completely preclude the risk of recidivism, their effectiveness can be maximised by both continued efforts to increase their resonance at the individual level, and ongoing independent evaluation. Critical voices have called for the abolition of disengagement and deradicalisation programmes in favour of indefinite imprisonment for terrorist offenders. But even then the risk of terrorist offenders radicalising their fellow inmates or even carrying out terrorist attacks cannot seemingly be fully mitigated. Disengagement and deradicalisation is not a silver bullet, but done well can represent an important component part of our collective efforts to prevent and counter violent-extremism and terrorism.
This event will address the definitional ambiguity surrounding the terms disengagement and deradicalisation, before making a number of tangible recommendations for practitioners and policy-makers based on years of industry-leading research and analysis. We will then turn to the counter-narrative, discussing the role of persuasion employed by terrorist recruiters, and how this can be modified to help draw people away from terrorism.