Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill (no. 2)

The Green Party would like to say at the outset that, of course, all the parties in the House are united to fight terrorism in the most effective way and we should have appropriate laws for that. We are against all forms of terrorism, be it non-State terrorism or State terrorism.

Those listening to this debate might think “oh, the Greens are on their own – they are some sort of minority off to one side.” But if one had been at the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee and heard the submissions, overwhelmingly the organisations that submitted, and they were respected organisations – various civil liberties groups, the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties, the Canterbury council, the Human Rights Foundation, the Peace Foundation, the Association of University Teachers, etc. – raised the same criticisms that the Green Party has been raising in this debate.

We want to fight terrorism most effectively. I did indicate before that if we do not fight terrorism in the most effective way and protect human rights at the same time we are in deep trouble.

I will just quote Judge Hoffman, because I think it is relevant, and I have quoted him before. He said in the House of Lords:

“The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these [which breach human rights]. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory.”

Another quote was from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, when she made the key point:

“A commitment to uphold respect for human rights and rule of law will be one of the keys to success in countering terrorism, not an impediment blocking our way.” Unfortunately members in this House have seen that our objection to new legislation that undermines human rights as somehow being an impediment to fighting terrorists.

In fact, it is just the opposite.

Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, has a similar concern. He puts it around the other way, and I will quote from him:

“Every time we advance the protection of human rights we deal a blow to the evil designs of terrorists and we remove a sense of injustice, which can cause the oppressed to channel their frustration into illegitimate violence. If we compromise on human rights in seeking to fight terrorism we hand terrorists a victory that they cannot achieve on their own. If we build on these fundamentals I believe we can develop a new vision of global security – a vision that respects human rights while confronting the threats of our age, including the threat of terrorism.”

I think that is very important, and Mr Prebble mentioned the IRA, I think, in his speech.

When one looks at how the Governments around the world confronted such problems before September 11, the IRA was part of a combination with Sinn Fein, its political wing. But the British Government never brought in a law such as this to throw people in jail if they gave money to Sinn Fein.

The reason it did not do that is because they knew that Sinn Fein, despite the fact it was associated, through its support of the IRA, with despicable terrorism that everyone opposes totally – putting bombs in pubs, and all that, that people like myself were, historically, the strongest in criticising – the reality was that Sinn Fein also had the support of the bulk of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland. It was electing people to Parliament, etc.

So the best way to end that terrorism – and the British Government had this approach – was ultimately to get into a dialogue with Sinn Fein and convince it that progress could be made in some of its legitimate objectives, rather than its illegitimate objectives in the use of the violence, to better the lot of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland, or give it a chance to advance its republican agenda that it had support for, which is a political goal, not a military goal, and to allow it to have room in the political structures of the country to do that.

That was successful. It has not been totally successful. Sure, there are still remnants of the IRA around, but it is has, basically, brought relative peace to Northern Ireland through proceeding in that way, rather than try to criminalise people who might have given money to Sinn Fein.

The same thing applies in Sri Lanka today where there has been effective ceasefire since November 2001. A whole lot of effort is going on, involving nations around the world – and the New Zealand Government has played its role in this, to its credit – to try to rebuild Sri Lanka, to promote human rights, and to get both sides in the earlier vicious civil war where terrorist acts were committed by both sides, through dialogue, through rebuilding, through aid, through what they call – if one listens to the Norwegian peace negotiators – confidence building measures, to bring peace to that country.

That process has been undermined by the designation of the Tamil Tigers, still this year by the United States, as a terrorist organisation.

It just does not help.

If those designations are combined with the practice of trying to smash that organisation, it does not help in the whole rebuilding process. Actually, one of the submitters to the select committee, David Small from Arena, made a good point and related it to development, and I quote him:

“It is now widely accepted by governmental agencies like New Zealand Aid that long-term development assistance is most effective when local organisations are intimately involved in every aspect of the work, from its conception to its evaluation, and in situations of conflict such as exist in Aceh and Sri Lanka, groups that are representative of local communities are necessarily involved in the rebuilding work. However, such groups may also fit within the criterion of having participated in the carrying out of a terrorist act. This bill would criminalise any group or individual who provided assistance to such a group. I’m, of course, not suggesting that the tsunami donor records of the development agencies would be seized and prosecutions brought. However, in considering amending the law in the way the bill proposes, one must seriously take into account just what is made possible and not just what is likely in the current conditions”.

By which I suppose he means that with a Labour Government in power today and the general atmosphere towards tsunami relief we are not expecting any prosecutions, but when we write laws we are writing them for a more difficult situation. In the future we might have a Government that is pretty antagonistic to the aid community and running some rather strange foreign policy agendas.

One of the problems, and this came out in the debate, and the report from the select committee stated that we cannot give to any organisation if it had in the past, or had an aspect of, committing terrorist activities, even if – and I refer to groups like the Tamil Tigers – it is involved at the moment in constructive activity that the international community is supporting.

The select committee report states that the provision is not catching those who are involved in the funding of legitimate human rights, humanitarian, or democratic rights groups, and those groups have to be acting “solely in this way”. The word “solely” was put in specifically to relate to the Tamil Tigers and groups like that, or Sinn Fein; that if there is any aspect at all of terrorism in their activities, then New Zealanders can be put in jail for funding them.

That is where the amendment crosses the line and does not become useful for advancing peace and reconstruction. That is the problem. Unfortunately the Green amendments to this bill were not passed.


Third Reading, Parliament