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Mapp Report - 12 November 2007

Mapp Report - 12 November 2007

Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill
This coming week Parliament is likely to pass into law the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill. It is an extraordinary coincidence that this has occurred at the same time as the Solicitor General’s decision not to authorise prosecutions under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

I am the Deputy Chair of the Select Committee (the Government has the Chair), that has been considering the Bill over the last few months. I was also a member of the Select Committee that dealt with the original Bill in 2002. So I have taken a particular interest in the Solicitor General’s statement.

New Zealand’s international responsibilities
The current Bill is largely concerned with New Zealand’s obligations to designate the United Nations list of terrorist organisations - essentially Al Qaeda and its offshoots. That was also the reason for the 2002 legislation, a direct result of September 11 and the Bali bombings, when both Australians and New Zealanders were direct targets.

A colleague of mine at university, and a school friend of Denese’s, Alan Beaven, was killed in the September 11 terrorist acts. I spoke at Alan’s memorial service at Auckland University. The eulogy I gave at Alan’s memorial service is posted on my website, These events directly affected us.

Virtually all of us would believe that New Zealand should honour its United Nations obligations to deal with Al Qaeda.

The designations have to be reconfirmed this year, and the Bill will do this. If it is not passed, New Zealand will be in breach of its United Nations obligations.

The Solicitor General’s statement
The Solicitor General has said that the 2002 Act is “incoherent” and “unnecessarily complex”. He also noted that the standard to lay terrorism charges is very high. The standard should be very high. Terrorism strikes at the stability of society. When the authorities raise it, they raise fear in society. I know from my experience on the Select Committee that Parliament intended the standard to be very high. I spoke on these issues in Parliament two weeks ago – my speech is available on

The definition of terrorist act in the 2002 legislation is undoubtedly complex. It mixes factual tests and tests of intention. It is a threefold test:

  • First, the motivation of the person undertaking or planning such acts must be ideological, political or religious.

  • Second, the person must intend to create terror among the population, or compel a government to act in a particular way.

  • Third, there must be an intended outcome of death or injury, or destruction of major infrastructure or release of disease (e.g. foot and mouth).

The Green Party was concerned that these tests could catch legitimate dissent. Therefore a specific exclusion was put in to protect protest action.

The provision was drafted to combat international terrorism; people like the Bali bombers. I am quite sure it would be effective for such cases.

Law Commission review
The Law Commission will now review the Act. They will have a difficult task. New Zealand has clear international obligations, and our law must reflect these. One point is clear. Parliament’s intention that it be a very high standard, including the Solicitor General’s authorisation of prosecutions, has been met. However, there is still a problem. The Solicitor General noted that there had been very disturbing activities. But now the only charges are under the Arms Act. What are we to make of this?

Public accountability
The public will want answers. The defendants will have the opportunity to put their case. Yet, will we ever get to know why the police undertook the actions they did? The Solicitor General having accepted there had been very disturbing activities.

In Parliament two weeks ago, I said there will need to be proper accounting. This will have to be done in an appropriate way. It cannot cut across any trials that may be held. But silence is not an option. When the spectre of terrorism is raised, it rightly creates alarm in society. At the proper time and in a considered manner, explanations will be needed. The supervision of government is one of the fundamental duties of Parliament. The confidence we have in our institutions rests on their accountability.

Dr Wayne Mapp
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