Terrorism Bill takes out due process

The Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill, introduced into Parliament today, is a further attack on our civil liberties, Green Party Human Rights Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

“It increases Prime Ministerial power, at the expense of the judiciary, in reviewing terrorist designations.” Mr Locke says.

“The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, when it considered the original Terrorism Suppression Act in 2002 made strenuous efforts to ensure a significant judicial role in the review process. Now that has been largely eliminated.

“The 3-yearly review of the terrorist designations will now be done by the Prime Minister, rather than by the High Court. Given the serious consequences for anyone designated a terrorist, it is unfair for the person who made the original designation, the Prime Minister, to be the person later checking whether it was accurate. The only legal avenue open to a designated person is a difficult and expensive judicial review.

“Previously, people on the UN list only went on the New Zealand list, ‘in the absence of evidence to the contrary’. This qualification is being removed, and UN designations will now automatically apply under New Zealand law. This is happening even while other countries under greater threat have been testing the legal scope, fairness and accuracy of the UN designations.

“The Bill also complicates our legal system by putting in a general offence, a ‘terrorist act’, with a potential sentence of up to life in prison. This is unnecessary, given that every terrorist act — including murder and kidnapping — is already an offence here, with due process protections under criminal law, and set penalties.

“Even people with no intention to harm anyone or destroy property can qualify as terrorists under the proposed law. A terrorist can now be someone who, for political reasons, causes ‘serious disruption to an infrastructure facility, if likely to endanger human life’. Some protest activity during the 1981 Springbok tour could now fall foul of this definition.

“In 1981 the fact that there was a good political motivation for the disruptive action — to support the black liberation movement in South Africa — was treated by the judicial system as a mitigating factor.

“Previously, New Zealanders were allowed to support a liberation movement in South Africa ( or in Palestine today ) that engaged in some terrorist acts, provided such support was used ‘for the purpose of advocating democratic government or the protection of human rights.’ That protection is now stripped out of the Act.

“These changes may make our Government’s dealing with the Bush administration a little easier, but they undermine the basic civil rights of New Zealanders,” Mr Locke says. .