Opinions

Treating violence

Is rehab a good option for terrorists?

Publication YearIssue Date 

President Barack Obama has brought new plans, some praised and others not so much. One of his most anticipated plans is the shutting down of Guantanamo Bay, which raises the question of how and where will the detainees be kept. A solution gaining popularity with speed in the Middle East is rehab centres to de-radicalize terrorists. Terrorists or jihadists complete a rehab course lasting eight to 12 weeks that includes religious classes, academic courses, therapy, constant access to libraries and recreational activities (like video games and sports), instead of Guantanamo's inhumane conditions. One of the most well-known, and successful, rehab programs today is run by Saudi Arabia at the Hayar Care Center, where some detainees can look forward to cash awards upon graduation.

There have been many cases of failed attempts at rehab and there have been some success stories as well. Ahmed Al-Shayea, for instance, completed the program and became its poster boy, advocating it to the press.

"There is no jihad," he said. "We are just instruments of death."

Rehab for militants and terrorists is advantageous only if other measures are taken with it. It can never be confirmed whether a convert truly is one or if it was all an act for the cash reward at the end. This would call for a longer rehab program, with psychiatrists examining detainees regularly and keeping tabs on students even after they graduate. What seems disturbing is that these individuals are let loose after a matter of weeks, when they were once detained for several years at a time. The mental stability of such a person is certainly not assured. If the world is to accept this as the next solution, then a stricter curriculum and a global standard needs to be implemented. As former CSIS chief and terrorism expert David Harris said, "It gives me no confidence that the Saudis are equipped, let alone seriously disposed, to bring about a shift in the behaviour of supremacist thinking. It sounds progressive, but then I wake up."

Truly, changing the supremacist thinking of most terrorists and leveling it down to one common mentality is quite a remarkable feat and can only be accomplished through trial and time. There is, however, another variable that could affect whether Canada comes to accept this and joins the several other countries, like Singapore, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, Great Britain and the Netherlands, that already have funding. From the recession, issues like wasteful spending can affect how much funding can be put into such a program. The British Defence Department lost £300 million due to poor bookkeeping and unexplained errors and Alberta's VIP jets reserved for cabinet ministers that flew 230 times without a single passenger, coming to a total of 65,000 kilometres basically wasted. If we cannot come up with the money, we can't do it.

In a situation where funding is possible and a program can be run, organizers would also have to look into the reaction of other non-terrorist detainees. It is extremely likely that other delinquents would find this approach completely unjust and like a vacation for terrorists.

Rehab can help detainees who have already committed their crimes and been caught. It can certainly change some perspectives and maybe reform a few. What it cannot do is prevent youngsters from becoming prey to militant instructors and distorted ideology in the future. A youngster might think twice before becoming a full-fledged terrorist when presented with the notion that they might be imprisoned or sentenced to death, but will not do so when a luxurious house with room service and cash rewards lies at the end of the tunnel. One major function of incarceration is to deter future criminals, something that rehab cannot and does not do. A terrorist might not ever think about the consequences of committing a crime. It may pacify a terrorist, but cannot prevent someone from becoming one.

Before committing to rehab, countries must fully weigh all the options, benefits and disadvantages. Canada should consider adopting rehab, without letting loose its graduates, or abandoning the idea of incarceration. But for now, waiting for proper results of actual success rates might be the best option.

Section: 

Issue: