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Coming soon - NZ anti-terrorism legislation
29 April 2002
"this Bill marks the single greatest legislative erosion of human rights and the due process of law in this country since those Acts passed in the late 1800s which took away the right to trial - in particular the Mäori Prisoners Trials Act of 1879 and the Mäori Prisoners Act of 1880." (PMA, 22 March 2002)
In the next few weeks, the Terrorism (Bombings and Financing) (Suppression) Bill will proceed through parliament. The government's purported reason for the Bill is to implement United Nation's Security Council Resolution 1373, but that has already been put into effect by a series of Orders in Council on 26 November 2001.
In their haste to pass the Bill, the government has not taken into account successive resolutions on terrorism adopted by the UN General Assembly over recent years which refer to the need for states to respect and enhance, not erode and destroy, international human rights conventions in any measure to assist the elimination of terrorism.
The areas of major concern with this Bill relate precisely to way it erodes human rights: politicians will determine who is a 'terrorist', that decision may be made on the basis of secret evidence by agencies of foreign governments, and that 'evidence' may be withheld from the accused person.
Politicians will determine who is a 'terrorist'
Are you familiar with the concept of separate judicial and political systems, of having matters of guilt and innocence established by the courts with a minimum of political interference?
Well, forget that - in this Bill, it is the Prime Minister (in consultation with the Attorney-General and Minister of Foreign Affairs) who gets the power to designate "an entity as a terrorist" and "one or more other entities as an associated entity". The consequences of such a designation are serious - bank accounts, property and other assets would be frozen without any warning.
The designation may be based on 'classified security information' provided by an agency or government of another country - yet the Bill does not specify any standard of proof, or any way of verifying whether the information is anything other than malicious rumour.
Being designated a terrorist 'entity' will have a serious impact on anyone - but may literally be a matter of life and death for people applying for asylum here. There is no provision in the Bill for the protection of asylum seekers falsely or vindictively designated 'terrorist' by oppressive governments or their agencies; nor for the protection of refugees or migrants already settled here against such allegations.
Somali immigrants have already been adversely affected by the closure of the Al-Barakaat money transfer offices (through which money was sent home to support relatives), Al-Barakaat was designated a terrorist entity by the UN Security Council. This has been described as "a rash action, tantamount to closing down some country's national banking system just because one criminal is suspected of using one of its 24 hour cash machines." ('War clouds over Somalia', Dan Connell, 26 March 2002).
Evidence to be withheld from accused person
Did you think that the basis of the justice system is that the accused has the right to know about and challenge evidence against them? Well, forget that too - in this Bill, the accused person has no right to hear evidence against them if it is 'classified security information'.
In a lecture recently in Wellington, a British human rights lawyer commenting on the Bill said "... aren't there issues about free speech, free association, fair hearings, and natural justice? Why hasn't there been more talk about whether these provisions are consistent with New Zealand's Bill of Rights Act?" (Lord Lester, 'Planned anti-terrorism law full of holes', Steven Price, Evening Post, 23 April 2002).
The Bill is not consistent with the Bill of Rights Act which states "everyone who is charged with an offence has, in relation to the determination of the charge, the following minimum rights: 25.a) the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial court ... 25.f) the right to examine witnesses for the prosecution" and 27.1) Every person has the right to the observance of the principles of natural justice ..."
The Bill also breaches the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ratified by NZ in December 1978) which states in Article 14: "in the determination of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to the following minimum guarantees .... To examine, or have examined, the witnesses against him."
There is no need for this Bill
'Terrorist' acts are already covered by criminal law - acts of violence, destruction of property, risks to health and safety etc, as well as conspiracy to commit these crimes; financing of terrorism could be dealt with by a simple amendment to the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The Terrorism (Bombings and Financing) (Suppression) Bill dramatically extends the anti-democratic ideology and practices of the successive SIS Amendment Acts, and more recently the GCSB Bill - and there is absolutely no need for it.
More information about the Bill is available on-line at
Peace Movement Aotearoa, Article for Salient, 29 April 2002