The government has recently introduced a new counter-terrorism bill in response to the Christchurch massacre. Addressing white supremacist terrorism is a good thing, however this new law will not make us safer and could target political activists.
We encourage people to submit opposing this legislation. Submissions are due on 25 June and can be made here.
This material can be used in your submission.
- Lack of oversight
The Bill includes no provision for an independent monitor to review how counter-terrorism laws are operated in New Zealand and to ensure they are not abused. John Ip, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Auckland, argues the Bill should include the establishment of an equivalent of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation in the United Kingdom, or the Independent National Security Monitor in Australia. This would mean an expert is appointed to constantly review the operation of New Zealand’s terrorism legislation. The monitor’s reports would provide a ready source of reliable information for MPs, civil society groups and the public to use when calling out abuses of counter-terrorist legislation.
Submitters should urge that IF this legislation is passed, that an independent monitor should also be created.
- The definition of a “terrorist act” (Clause 6 – New terrorist act defined)
The government is actually expanding the definition of a terrorist act here. Anjum Rahman from the Islamic Women’s Council sums up the problem in her recent article for The Spinoff:
“The proposed legislation broadens the definition of terrorism. Instead of defining it as the inducement of “terror in a civilian population” it is now simply “fear in a population”, a less stringent definition which lowers the mens rea, the intention of committing a crime. Where before the definition of a terrorist act was one done “to unduly compel” a government or organisation to carry out (or abstain from) an action, now it just “to coerce”. This broadens the definition of terrorism, giving wider power to the state. It’s difficult to see the justification for doing so. These new powers would not have helped to prevent the Christchurch mosque attacks. The issue wasn’t that the laws weren’t broad enough to prosecute the terrorist prior to the atrocities he committed.”
- Create a new offence to criminalise planning or preparation for a terrorist act
It is already illegal to plan and prepare to do illegal and/or violent things: murder, robbery, arson etc. are already crimes for which you can be charged with ‘conspiracy to commit’.
The expansion of the law could make targeting political activists who are planning an action more likely. The potential for activists being targeted has always existed under the Terrorism Suppression Act, and this widening of the definition may make that easier.
- Creates a new offence to criminalise terrorist weapons and combat training
Communities organising against racist violence and attacks may organise self-defence training activities. Enforcement agencies steeped in institutional bias may interpret this type of community organising as terrorist preparation. For example, many gyms offer ‘combat style’ training activities.
Use of firearms and restricted weapons is already tightly regulated in New Zealand with the use of “reverse onus” in the Arms Act. That means that a person who is found to have guns or restricted weapons (like a crossbow or molotov cocktail) has to prove that they have “lawful, proper and sufficient purpose” in having the firearm – this is very different from most NZ law where a person is presumed innocent unless proven otherwise. So a person can have lawful possession (they have a gun license) but if using the gun to rob a store then the possession is not proper or sufficient, and therefore illegal. It is not necessary to criminalise weapons training for terrorist purposes because it is already illegal to carry out a terrorist act. Therefore, possession of weapons in training for that purpose would be illegal under the Arms Act.
- Create a new offence for international travel to carry out terrorist activities AND expand the criminal offence of financing terrorism to include broader forms of material support
Both of these justifications by the government overlook the racist and biased nature such decision-making of who “terrorist entities” are. As Anjum Rahman again writes:
“United Nations Security Council’s designated sanctions list of terrorist entities..does not include a single white supremacist, white nationalist, alt-right or neo-Nazi organisation. Even though there have been so many mass shootings by these groups, the definitions of terrorism used by the UN means that these organisations can often continue to elude authorities. This is symptomatic of an international bias that also impacts us here in Aotearoa.”
Similarly, the New Zealand government’s list of designated terrorist entities did not include any white supermacist or far right entities, until the Christchurch shooter was designated in September 2020. Those travelling to Syria or Iraq who have joined ISIS are clearly targetted by the new Bill, but people travelling to the US or Australia that join neo-Nazi organisations are not.
This new clause is also a problem because national liberation groups, fighting repressive regimes, are being designated as terrorist entities by Western governments, including New Zealand. New Zealand designates the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA). This could impact people in New Zealand wishing to provide financial or other support to Kurdish organisations in Turkey or left-leaning activist groups in the Philippines struggling for human rights — especially if the New Zealand authorities accepted their Turkish and Philippine counterparts’ word that a large range of progressive Kurdish and Philippine activist groups, political parties and trade unions are PKK or CPP/NPA front groups.
Through extending the definition of a terrorist act, the Bill means even more groups resisting repressive regimes could be designated as terrorist entities. This is concerning because New Zealand’s terrorist designations of liberation groups already encourage further state repression by abusive regimes. Cameron Walker, a legal academic at the University of Auckland, notes New Zealand’s terrorist designation of the CPP/NPA is regularly cited in press releases by the notoriously abusive Duterte Administration, justifying state violence, including extra judicial killings, against activists.
- Expand control orders to include people who have finished a prison sentence for a terrorism-related offence
This clause is unnecessary. The Parole Act already allows for a long list of special conditions to be imposed on people leaving prison:
- Conditions relating to place of residence (including that they must reside at a particular place)
- Conditions to not associate with any person
- Conditions prohibiting the person from entering or remaining in specified places or areas, at specified times, or at all times
- Electronic monitoring
More reading on the proposed new terrorism law:
- Oversight office urged after moves to expand counter-terrorism laws: (Radio NZ) The government is being asked to consider appointing an independent person to review how counter-terrorism laws are operated in New Zealand.
- Strengthening New Zealand’s counter-terrorism legislation: Regulatory impact statement done to assess Human Rights Act and other legal implications, prepared by the Treasury.
Make your opposition known. Make your voice heard. Make your submission today.