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Legislation “a travesty of democratic process"

Legislation “a travesty of democratic process"

Peace Movement Aotearoa

27 November 2014

Peace Movement Aotearoa today called on the government to put the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill on hold - pending a comprehensive review of existing legislation - in a written submission to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, which briefly outlined concerns in two main sections.

The first focused on issues around the lack of good process in relation to the legislation, and the unseemly and unnecessary haste to enact it before the end of this parliamentary year. The short time frame between introduction and enactment, "for public submissions and for Select Committee consideration of legislation such as this which provides for major and unwarranted expansion of both state surveillance and Ministerial powers", was described as "a travesty of democratic process".

The submission included the comments: "The process around this legislation has been quite extraordinary - and we find it even more extraordinary that it was introduced on the same day as the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security released a report highlighting inadequacies around the release of "incomplete, inaccurate and misleading information" by the SIS. Surely Committee members can appreciate that in these circumstances we, and others, have little confidence in the proper exercise of the existing powers of the SIS, and that this is a particularly inappropriate time to be rushing through legislation which expands those powers.

Further, in relation to this point, we cannot see any necessity for such a hasty process because the scenarios outlined as potentially "requiring" this change appear to be already covered by existing counter-terrorism and criminal law, the Passports Act 1992 and arguably the Mercenary Activities (Prohibition) Act 2004, among others."

The second section outlined concerns around multiple breaches of New Zealand's domestic and international human rights obligations, identifying breaches of seven sections of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and breaches of at least six Articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the Covenant) - just one of the legally binding human rights instruments that New Zealand is a state party to.

The submission reminded the Select Committee of the comments of the UN Human Rights Committee (which monitors state party compliance with the Covenant) in relation to New Zealand's existing counter-terrorism measures, including provisions of the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Act 2007 which are incompatible with Article 14 of the Covenant, and of the Committee's recommendation that New Zealand "should ensure that its counter-terrorism legislation is in full conformity with the Covenant." [Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: New Zealand, 7 April 2010].

Furthermore, the List of Issues sent to the government by the Human Rights Committee earlier this year - which New Zealand is required to respond to by March 2015 - asks specifically for information to be provided on counter-terrorism measures and respect for rights guaranteed in the Covenant.

The submission also pointed out that UN Security Council Resolution 2178 "repeatedly stresses the requirement on UN member states to act “in accordance with domestic and international law”, that their actions must be “consistent with international human rights law, international refugee law, and international humanitarian law”, it reminds states not to resort “to profiling based on stereotypes founded on grounds of discrimination prohibited by international law”, and additionally calls upon UN member states to take any counter-terrorism measures in the context of “respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms and in compliance with other obligations under international law”. It is our view that this legislation meets none of these requirements."

Peace Movement Aotearoa recommends that:

• the amendments proposed in this legislation be put on hold until a comprehensive review of existing legislation has taken place to properly identify any gaps in the existing legislation;

• any proposed legislative changes arising from that review be subject to a proper process with a reasonable time frame that allows for full public and Select Committee scrutiny and consideration; and

• any such changes are fully compatible with New Zealand’s domestic and international human rights obligations.

Peace Movement Aotearoa's submission is available at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/ctfb-sub,nov14.pdf

Ends

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