I am writing, as a Green MP, to inform you that the Terrorism Suppression Amendment (TSA) Bill is currently before the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee. The Committee is calling for submissions, which are
due on May 18
The TSA Bill was introduced by the Government and had its first reading in the House on 29 March.
The Green Party has expressed some major concerns about the implications of this Bill for the civil liberties of New Zealanders. I include here a link to my first reading speech , but here is a summary of the concerns I have.
The change increases Prime Ministerial power, at the expense of the judiciary, in reviewing terrorist designations. The 3-yearly review of the terrorist designations will now be done by the Prime Minister, rather than by the High Court.
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.
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.
Another concern is that New Zealand would automatically adopt the United Nations list of terrorists, even if we had evidence proving a person or group so listed was innocent. The UN process operates on the basis of trusting that Governments have correct and unprejudiced information when they put forward people for inclusion on the list, and it is very hard to get a name removed, as the Swedish Government found out when 3 of their nationals were labelled by the US without any evidence. The practice of designation is a highly politicised process, and has extremely serious ramifications for those listed. The absence of review or appeal for those listed raises due process and civil liberty concerns. 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.
Finally, the Bill removes the protection, which allows New Zealanders to support a liberation movement, such as in South Africa yesterday or in Palestine today ‘for the purpose of advocating democratic government or the protection of human rights’.
download a copy of the bill
. (pdf 1.7mb) from the parliamentary website, or get a copy from the Committee, phone 04 471 9508
If you have an interest in, or concern about, the issues in the Bill, you can make a submission to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.
Submissions close on 18 May 2007
You can send in a written submission.
If this is your first time making a submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee, you may want to read the Parliamentary guide making a Submission to a Parliamentary Select Committee.
If you have the time and feel you have something important to add to the debate, there is real value in making an oral presentation in support of your written submission. You don’t necessarily have to travel to Wellington to give a submission. If many people from your area make submissions, the Select Committee may travel there, or it could set up a video link to hear your oral submission.
Keith Locke MP