Why Thursdays' anti-terrorism bill is bad for New Zealand

17 October 2007

Media Release:

Since 2001 our government has passed three pieces of legislation to
"suppress terrorism" with the fourth now due in parliament tomorrow.
This latest piece is the Suppression of Terrorism Bill 2007.

There will be many more such bills to follow in the future.

The government says it is just doing its part supporting international
moves to isolate and control terrorism. In reality it's part of the US
leadership's drive to have American foreign policy objectives adopted
by governments around the world.

So what are the latest changes and why are they dangerous?

Change 1:
Under the proposed law the definition of a terrorist changes to
someone who, for political reasons, causes "serious disruption to an
infrastructure facility, if likely to endanger human life"

Effect: There are many examples of protest activity and civil
disobedience from past events such as the 1981 Springbok tour which
could now be classified as terrorist. (A better definition would be
the UN definition of "criminal acts, including those against
civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily
injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of
terror in the general public")

Change 2:
Under this legislation New Zealand would automatically adopt the UN
list of terrorists and terrorist organisations. It is the US which
dominates the compilation of these lists.

Effect: New Zealanders working to support liberation struggles,
democracy and human rights overseas would now face the prospect of
being charged with supporting terrorist organisations. Under the new
proposal it would have been illegal to provide support for the African
National Congress in the fight against apartheid or for campaigns to
have Nelson Mandela released from jail. It could easily also be used
against New Zealanders supporting Palestinian groups such as Hamas
despite Hamas being democratically elected to power in the occupied
territory of Palestine. (Previous legislation allowed support and
assistance to organisations provided it was "for the purpose of
advocating democratic government or the protection of human rights".
This wording is to be removed)

Change 3:
New Zealand would give up its right to make its own independent
assessments of terrorists and terrorist designations.

Without the ability to make our own independent assessments we become
captive to shonky, prejudiced, politically motivated overseas
assessments such as those relating to Ahmed Zaoui. (Previously New
Zealand adopted UN designations "in the absence of evidence to the
contrary". This safeguard would be removed)

Change 4:
The courts are removed from considering designations of terrorist or
terrorist organisations. (At the moment if the Prime Minister
designates a terrorist organisation then this is reviewable by the
High court after three years)

Effect: Independent scrutiny of cases will no longer be available. The
PM will be judge and jury. The US wants this because governments are
then more open to international pressure. At least with the courts
there is the semblance of independent scrutiny.

This assumption of power by politicians over court processes is
demonstrated most clearly by the US with its treatment of Guantanemo
Bay detainees and the CIA's "rendition" programme whereby suspected
terrorists have been clandestinely transferred around the world for
torture. In both cases the courts have been sidelined. It would be a
disgrace for New Zealand to follow.

Monday's arrests
Monday's police action in arresting 17 people on gun charges and
raising the spectre of terrorism charges to follow is an attempt to
soften the public up to the idea we have terrorism in New Zealand.

This creates a climate of fear and makes it easier to pass
anti-terrorism laws which inevitably undermine the civil rights of New
Zealanders and our relations with organisations overseas.

The government should withdraw this grubby piece of legislation.

John Minto
Ph (09) 8463173 (H)
(09) 8452132 (W)


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