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The European Union and Beyond

The Diffusion of Anti-Terrorism Legislation in the Arab World

Political Regime
Maria Josua
German Institute of Global And Area Studies
Maria Josua
German Institute of Global And Area Studies

Repression through legal regulations in authoritarian regimes is a trend that has been witnessed globally over the past few decades. Riding on the wave of stricter regulations in OECD states, especially after 9/11, authoritarian incumbents have made use of vague anti-terror laws to clamp down not only on terrorists, but on Islamist activists, and sometimes protesters in general. The appearance of legality for institutionalizing existing arbitrary practices can be seen as one way of lowering the costs of repression and preventing outrage from domestic and international observers. This paper studies two waves of legislative changes in anti-terrorism laws in the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa. One wave occurred in the mid-2000s, after 9/11 offered an opportunity for more restrictions. Another wave can be found after the Arab uprisings, when sometimes even peaceful protesters were included in broadened definitions of terrorism. The paper focuses on whether domestic developments or international diffusion influenced the adaptation of anti-terror legislation. It investigates the mechanisms of diffusion and looks at whether there are early adopters and regional trendsetters that inspired other legislators. It also uses content analysis to scrutinize the regulations contained in ever-expanding legislation. This contributes to the study of diffusion in authoritarian regimes and gives insight into a highly relevant policy field.
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