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Call for ban on evidence obtained by torture

Human Rights Commission

16 June 2005

Commission calls for ban on evidence obtained by torture

The Human Rights Commission wants to see the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee use the Review of the Terrorism Suppression Act as an opportunity to include a specific ban on evidence known or believed to be obtained by torture.

The Commission told the Committee today that the Review provides an opportunity to signal that human rights considerations sit squarely alongside security and that consideration of both is essential.

The Commission was presenting its submission for the Review of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 - an Act developed during the post-September 11 period.

"Several developments since 2002 mean the state faces the challenge of protecting its citizens from terrorism and violence whilst also ensuring that human rights are not eroded through counter-terrorism measures. The Committee has the ultimate oversight in this area on behalf of the people of New Zealand," Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said.

"There is no single solution or simple answer to this challenge. The Committee must aim to reflect current best practice, to include explicit consideration of human rights, and to keep the situation under regular review."

A new way forward is needed to address the issue of protection for classified security information and the right to a fair trial, the Commission told the Committee. The fact that an accused person is unable to access the allegations against them means their right to a fair trial may be compromised.

"As yet no system has been developed that adequately balances the need to keep classified information secure and the right to a fair trial and the need for fair processes in court."

The Chief Commissioner also stressed that further Committee inquiry was necessary to ensure that, at New Zealand's borders, ethnicity, nationality, and race were not adopted as a shorthand to identify those who might pose a terrorist threat.

Other issues of concern to the Commission and discussed with the Committee were:

* Ensuring New Zealand's definitions of terrorist acts keep pace with UN developments.
* The challenge to New Zealand and to the United Nations to work on improving the process for designating groups as terrorist entities, which is currently flawed.
* The current use of 'suspicion' as a basis for making interim designations of groups as terrorist entities, rather than using a standard such as 'a reasonable cause to believe'.
* How someone designated a terrorist mounts a judicial review when their funds have been frozen.


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