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Rules of Disengagement: Individual and Collective Ways Out of Terrorism in Spain (WAYS OUT)

From January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2015

Little is known about why the users of terrorism abandon their violent strategy. Research has focused on the motivations for engaging in terrorism rather than on the motivations for renouncing terrorism. Yet a number of protracted campaigns have ended by the deliberate decision of participants. This research project aims at identifying the individual, material and societal incentives for giving up terrorism in the Spanish context.

For example, is the counter-terrorist effort the most significant variable behind a process of terrorist disengagement? Do groups that abandon violence come to the realisation that terrorism has failed or do they perceive new opportunities for achieving their political objectives through peaceful means? Do terrorits groups and individuals follow a simple logic of cost-benefit analysis? What leads individuals to accept offers of reduced prison sentences or amnesties? Is the decision to renounce terrorism the result of an individual or a group process? How do terrorists perceive the government’s counter-recruitment strategy?

This research project will examine terrorist disengagement in three ethno-nationalist groups – Euskadi Ta Askatasuna - Militar (ETA-m) Euskadi Ta Askatasuna Político-Militar (ETA-pm) and Terra Lliure – in order to identify the mechanisms that facilitate abandonment, defection, decline or defeat. The present multi-level research project seeks to examine processes of disengagement from violent groups: (1) from the reasons why individuals decide to leave an organisation (micro level); (2) to the internal dynamics of such groups (meso level); and (3) effect of counter-terrorist policy on precipitating such disbandment (macro level). Overall, the project will provide an analysis of how Spain dealt with groups employing political violence and terrorism, and what lessons can be learned from these experiences that can be applied to future counterterrorism campaigns.


External Contributors

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Diego Muro
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