Locke calls for current Terrorism Bill to be halted, reviewed

Green Party Human Rights Spokesperson Keith Locke is calling for the Government to withdraw the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill, currently before Parliament, in the light of the forthcoming Law Commission review of the 2002 Terrorism Suppression Act.

“It would be quite wrong to go ahead with the amending bill when the whole Act, which the Solicitor General has called ‘incoherent’ is to be reviewed by the Law Commission,” Mr Locke says.

“This is not a Bill which just makes a few technical changes. Previously, the Act criminalised the financing, recruiting for, or participating in, a terrorist group.

“The amending bill introduces a whole new crime, actually carrying out a terrorist act, at the very time when the definition of terrorism in the original Act is extremely controversial, and will be studied closely by the Law Commission.

“It would be dangerous to pass the Bill and give Police the opportunity to apply this new ‘terrorist act’ provision before the review of the original Act is completed.

“It is also risky, right now, to pass a Bill that removes the current Act’s ‘comfort clause’ for legitimate protesters, under which a previous generation of New Zealanders supported the likes of the African National Congress, now South Africa’s ruling party. The amended Bill aims to take away the defence that funds are being sent to an alleged terrorist group ‘for the purpose of advocating democratic government, or the protection of human rights.’

“The Government’s reason for rushing through the Bill is entirely without foundation. Both Dr Cullen and Mr Peters have said it is needed in order to renew the designations of terrorist entities from the UN list — which are due to expire in December.

“In fact, the original Act provides an identical process for renewal, except that the amending Bill shifts the responsibility from the High Court to the Prime Minister. The renewals could be processed very quickly as almost all the entities to be processed are Al Qaeda and Taliban groups listed by the United Nations, and under our Act the evidence from the UN is deemed to be ‘sufficient’ if there is no evidence to the contrary. It is unlikely the Government possesses significant evidence that contradicts the UN.

“It would be wise for the Government to listen closely this time. It was the Government’s refusal to take heed of my warnings back in 2002 that has led to this debacle around the Terrorism Suppression Act,” Mr Locke says.