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Terrorism law amendments deny NZers due process

1 December 2005

Terrorism law amendments deny NZers due process

Proposed amendments to terrorism legislation would undermine New Zealanders' rights to challenge terrorist designations, Green Party Human Rights Spokesperson Keith Locke says

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee has today reported back on its review of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

"Under the suggested amendments, New Zealanders could be defined as terrorists and have their assets seized, even if the government knew at the time they were not terrorists," Mr Locke says.

"Officials are pushing the quite undemocratic line that our Prime Minister has no right to challenge or not accept any UN terrorist designation, and the High Court has no right to conduct any reviews.

"They interpret the UN Charter's Chapter VII, requiring compliance with Security Council resolutions, in an absolutist way - arguing that the New Zealand Government has no choice but to put all UN-designated terrorist entities on its own list, even where it knows those designations to be wrong.

"In the Select Committee's report, I say that 'common sense and international law' mean that such UN designations should not be automatically transferred to a New Zealand list. The application of Chapter VII by governments is constrained by other laws and Security Council resolutions, such as 1456 in 2003 and 1624 in 2005 which both proscribe that counter-terrorism measures must 'comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, refugee law and humanitarian law.' The UN itself admits it has made mistakes in its designations.

"The present Act combines the efficient transfer of UN terrorist designations to the New Zealand list with room for challenge. It provides, under Section 31, that UN evidence on a designation is 'in the absence of evidence to the contrary, sufficient evidence'.

"Officials are also pushing for the removal of 'avoidance of doubt' clauses in the original Act. These prevent the prosecution of New Zealanders providing funds 'for the purpose of advocating democratic government or the protection of human rights'. The then Select Committee chair Graham Kelly strongly promoted these clauses to stop New Zealanders being penalised for aiding a liberation movement, like those we have seen in South Africa and East Timor. For example, New Zealanders giving money to the African National Congress's welfare or union work could have been caught by the Act, because the ANC would clearly have been a terrorist organisation under the Act's wording, given that Nelson Mandela was promoting sabotage of police stations and the like.

"The officials' proposals need much more scrutiny. The new select committee had only two hours to discuss the complex legal issues involved before reporting back to meet the 1 December deadline. It didn't have time to seek alternative legal opinions. We should not just follow what the Blair and Howard governments have done, as the officials proposed," Mr Locke says.


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