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Another Bloody Terror Submission

Anti-Bases Campaign
Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand

Another Bloody Terror Submission
- Bob Leonard

As the Anti-Bases Campaign’s terrorism legislation submission person, I was tasked with reading the latest Government Bill. At 76 pages, it promised to be no easy task. We’ve had to do this several times in the recent past as bill after bill has been added to the growing pile of complicated legislation designed to fight terror(ism) in little New Zealand. The latest one is called the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill (2007), not to be confused with the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill (No 2) in 2004, or the 2005 Review of the Terrorism Suppression Act (2002) which was mandated three years after the passage of the principal Act (ABC’s submissions on these previous Acts can be read online at http://www.converge.org.nz/abc/submissions.html. Ed.)

Our submission on the 2007 Bill was formally accepted in late May. Since it is now before the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee we are not allowed to publish it here. But we can give you the gist of our concerns about the Bill, with due credit to Green MP Keith Locke who provided valuable insights into its worst features and saved me a great deal of mind-numbing reading.

All These Anti-Terrorist Laws And Not One Terrorist Yet Unearthed

As usual we expressed our appreciation to the Committee for the opportunity to make a submission (activists had to fight for that opportunity on at least one previous terrorism bill which was about to be rushed to a vote under urgency). We have of course expressed our serious concerns about all this anti-terrorism legislation in past submissions, and for emphasis and to simplify matters we chose to quote from our submission on the Review of The Terrorism Suppression Act (2002) by way of introduction:

“In our submission on the [original] bill (November 2001) we expressed serious concerns about how the Act would operate, how it would impact on the civil liberties of New Zealanders, how it might subvert due process and the rule of law in the pursuit and apprehension of suspected terrorists, and how it would increase the licence of our so-called intelligence agencies to spy on New Zealanders. In the three years the Act has been in effect, not one report on the functioning of the Act has come to our attention.

“To our knowledge not one suspected terrorist has been apprehended in New Zealand under the provisions of the Terrorism Suppression Act. We believe this supports our position that its onerous provisions were effectively dictated by foreign powers and that passage was done in haste, without careful consideration as to what kind of anti-terrorist legislation, if any, might be more effective than existing provisions of our Crimes Act”.

Regarding United Nations requirements we commented that: “We can find no requirement in United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSC) 1373, regarding actions to be taken by member nations to combat international terrorism, that basic human rights should be suspended, that the rule of law should be suspended, that intrusions into personal privacy should be increased, or that nations should forego other important provisions in law designed for the protection of their citizens”.

Since all of this anti-terrorism law arises from our so-called obligations to fight terrorism as a paid-up member of the United Nations we also referred to our earlier submission on the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill (No 2) 2004 with regard to complying with international standards for counter terrorist financing. We stated that we had seen no evidence in the Explanatory Note or in the text of the current Bill that bears in any way on our concerns (as summarised above) about New Zealand compliance with UNSC Resolution 1373 and/or standards set out by the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering. In other words, Parliament has failed to make any clear statements to date that justify its obeisance to UN obligations. Those “obligations” appear to us be imaginary, but Parliament still dutifully passes nasty laws foisted upon us by Big Brother.

Here is an overview of specific issues we raised with regard to the 2007 Bill. We objected to the removal of judicial review of terrorist designations and the vesting of this power in the Prime Minister. Effective judicial review and avenues of appeal under the existing Law would be effectively ended, leaving persons or groups designated as terrorists at the sole mercy of a politician. If this provision passes we will have lost the protection of judicial review, protection that was hard won by many who made submissions on the principal legislation several years. As so often happens in amendments, a few words buried in masses of legal blather erase concessions to past submitters.

Reducing NZ’s Parliament To A Rubber Stamp

If this Bill passes into law New Zealand will simply adopt without question any United Nations list of terrorists. We argued that our Parliament and judiciary should retain the power to make their own judgments as to the quality of the evidence against anyone on such a list. This is another example of the erosion of protections afforded by earlier legislation, but wiped by an amendment. We emphasised that being on such a list makes a person a suspected terrorist with little chance of removal regardless of the quality of objective evidence in his or her favour. A politically motivated designation of a “terrorist” by some foreign government should not be blindly added to New Zealand’s list. The involvement of the UN is effectively a rubber stamp.

We objected to this retrograde step: “Clause 7 repeals section 8(2)….This provision is being removed as it leaves scope for a donor [to an organisation] to argue that funds provided to a designated terrorist entity were provided for legitimate reasons associated with democracy or human rights”. This would make it much easier for a government to label as a terrorist an honest, law-abiding citizen who has made a donation to a liberation movement. We also objected to Clause 9 which repeals section 10(2) for reasons similar to those stated in the previous paragraph. New Zealanders who wish to support groups advocating democratic government or for the protection of human rights in other countries should have the right to do so without fear of terrorist designation.

It is almost laughable, but there is even a section in Clause 13 that adds the term “recklessness” in the context of supporting (financially or otherwise) a group labelled as terrorist. We suggested that “recklessness” is a term open to gross abuse by the entity or politician responsible for terrorist designation. For a person to avoid any chance of being charged with recklessness in supporting a liberation movement or similar group, he or she would have to have a comprehensive level of knowledge of that group’s every activity and motivation – a completely unreasonable expectation.

We found this gem in Clause 13 and we asked the Committee to read it carefully. This clause would amend section 13C(1) of the 2002 Act. Paragraph (g) says: “without lawful authority, commits an act, or threatens to commit an act against a nuclear facility…” What does “without lawful authority” mean in this context? A literal interpretation of the phrase would lead you to conclude that there is some government entity in New Zealand (or in some other country) with the power to grant “lawful authority” to act against a nuclear facility (perhaps against Australia’s lone reactor at Lucas Heights). We further noted that “without lawful authority” also appears in the Counter-Terrorism Act in the context of actually using a nuclear weapon in war. Although we are well aware that some nuclear-armed nations consider it to be perfectly lawful to use nuclear weapons in a first-strike or to pre-emptively attack the nuclear facilities of other countries (consider Iran or North Korea), it is absurd that New Zealand would mindlessly incorporate such wording into its own statutes.

We asked the Select Committee to recommend to the House that amendments to the Terrorism Suppression Act (2002) proposed in the current Bill not be passed into law and that the principal Act be repealed in its entirety. As the late writer Kurt Vonnegut used to say: “and so it goes…”.


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