A review of the laws that govern how New Zealand deals with terrorism has been announced by the Minister for the Government Communications Security Bureau (G.C.S.B.) and the Security Intelligence Service (S.I.S.).The Minister of Justice, Andrew Little, announced the review whilst saying that the 2007 Urewera raids where Police swooped on Tuhoe. Those raids, which generated nation wide controversy were seen as a test of the Terrorism Supression Act 2002 and the more recent Counter Terrorism Act.
The Urewera raids are widely viewed as a failure. The Police handling of them was poor and nearly all of the charges laid in the aftermath wound up being dropped because they were not admissible in court.
The Police now say that they would be reluctant to use the laws if there were grounds for doing so.
I have reservations myself. On one hand the law needs to be strong enough to prove a worthwhile deterrent – the sentences for terrorist related activities I believe need to be strengthened. On the other hand it needs to respect human rights and civil rights law – detainees need to be charged with something quickly or released; property should not be able to be searched without a warrant.
I agree with the need to review the law and believe that a review clause should be inserted, with a recommendation for legislative change if the review panel deems this necessary. But to add another piece of legislation to the existing mix, is not something I believe is necessary.
The countries in New Zealand’s neighbourhood where Islamic fighters are returning in a radicalized state have a different set of problems to what we face here. Those countries – Australia exempt – do not have as strong judicial processes as we do here. Malaysia and Singapore, as well as Indonesia are predominantly Muslim countries and therefore have strong Islamic influence. The radicalization that is happening would be taking place in Mosques. Most of the Muslim population who have come to New Zealand did so to get away from war, famine and civil instability in their home countries. Some may have come as migrants.
New Zealand also does not participate in military actions going on in Middle East countries to the same extent that Australia or its allies, the United States and Britain do. Whilst these are nations that are significant friends of New Zealand, they have a more America-centric orientation in terms of geopolitical priorities. New Zealand’s are more focussed on the Southwest Pacific.
This is not to say we should ignore the Muslim population. We should not give exceptional treatment to any group and they, like any others who are deemed a hazard, should be monitored accordingly. Whilst New Zealand has mosques, Islamic fighters are only a part of the small number of people who are thought to be a concern to the Security Intelligence Service (S.I.S.). A total of 30-40 people are thought to be of interest to the S.I.S.