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LAC submission


November 2001

Submission of the Latin America Committee of New Zealand on the Terrorism Suppression Bill to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee.

Introduction

The Latin America Committee of New Zealand is a human rights organization which works in support of struggles for democracy, self-determination and social justice in Latin America and Caribbean. We currently have a membership of 90 individuals and organizations and are a member of the Council of International Development.

General

As a solidarity organization that has supported and given aid to groups opposing dictatorships, military governments and armed para military groups, the Latin America Committee (LAC) could have been subject to charges of supporting damage or disruption to a national economy.

Through the decades of the 80s and 90s, LAC was directly involved with a Nicaragua Must Survive Campaign, which involved political support for a Government under attack by the United States financed Contra rebels. Economic aid for literacy and medical aid amounting to close on half a million dollars was sent to the Sandino Foundation, a government agency. The US branded the Sandinista Government communist and terrorist and the contra war led to 50,000 deaths.

LAC supported visitors to New Zealand from El Salvador, Guatemala and Chile who opposed their respective military led governments. Salvadorean Doctor Hector Silva, a member of a medical association who worked clandestinely giving medical aid to members of the FMLN, spoke to members of the Government and Foreign Affairs officials in the mid 80s. The FMLN was a coalition of political groups in El Salvador who had chosen to arm themselves, following the assassination of large numbers of their activists. Silva is now the mayor of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. The United States labeled those in opposition to the Salvadorean Government, communists and poured $US6 billion in military aid to the counter insurgency campaign, which led to the death of 80 to 100,000.

Labour party members have at various times actively supported our human rights campaigns, amongst these Helen Clark and David Lange. In 1985, a petition presented to the House by Helen Clark from our Committee, demanded an end to the continuing violations of Nicaraguan sovereignty by the Government of the United States of America.

LAC opposes military aid to Colombia as it believes that much of the current violence and human rights violations in that country, are due to Government support for para-military operations (death squads?), widespread corruption and the unwillingness of Government agencies to defend, Trade Unions and community organizations against human rights abuses.

LAC aims to give a voice to all those whose lives are threatened. Left wing figures who have stood for political office, effectively sign their death warrant, with their group decimated by the time the election finishes. We are a strong supporter of the peace negotiations presently taking place between the Government and FARC, a guerrilla group which controls about a major part of Colombia. LAC has sympathy for the position of FARC, the main armed opposition, which believes armed struggle is the only way to effectively change the concentration of power and wealth in the country. We believe that a peaceful solution can found, as in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, and that this will be supported by the international community. However, United States has classified FARC a terrorist organization.

LAC supports the broad aims of indigenous groups such as the Zapatistas of Mexico who are seeking greater autonomy and control of their local culture and resources. LAC also supports the indigenous groups in southern Mexico who oppose "Plan Puebla Panama", a massive development project, which would expand the number of transoceanic canals, and also allow private interests to gain greater access to natural resources at present under indigenous control.

LAC will at times invite to New Zealand, persons who are in conflict with their government's policies, in order to testify on behalf of their communities. We do not wish to be restricted by some provisions in the Terrorism Suppression Bill, and wish to make the following comments:

Defining "A terrorist Act"

Section 5 Subsection two, paragraphs d and e should be omitted.

As well as the obvious terrorist outcomes, there are three other possibilities listed that make the category of terrorism very broad. ..

c. destruction of, or serious damage to, property of great value or importance, or major economic loss, or major environmental damage, in any country, but only if that damage or loss is likely to result in one or more of the outcomes specified in paragraphs a, b and d; d. serious interference with, or serious disruption to, an infrastructure facility in any country; e. serious damage or serious disruption to the national economy of any country.

What damage or disruption to a national economy would entail is highly subjective. It is already illegal to disrupt such things, and goes beyond the normal meaning of terrorism to include such acts in this legislation.

Financing, Property Dealings, Providing Services, Being a Member of or Recruiting Members for "Terrorist or Associated Entities" Section 9 and 10.

Sections 9 and 10 are very broad categories of services rendered, and include provisions for people being "reckless" as to the end to which their product or service is to be put.

It is illegal to offer support to not only the entity that has carried out one or more terrorist attack, but also any entity that has facilitated such an act. Overall, there would be nothing too objectionable about this part of the Bill if the definition of a terrorist act were not so broad.

As it stands, however, LAC members could have been charged under these provisions if this law had been in place before. This part of the Bill would seriously impede international solidarity work. It would make it very difficult to fund many groups or to bring people from those groups to New Zealand. We know that overseas visitors to many conferences and speaking tours are routinely spied on, harassed and used as a justification to do the same to activists with whom they are associated in New Zealand. This Bill would make it much easier for the state to engage in such activities.

We are also concerned that New Zealanders protesting at international for a such as the 1990 WTO meeting in Seattle could be accused of terrorism.

Paul Bruce,
on behalf of the Latin America Committee of New Zealand,
P O Box 7153, Wellington.
Tel 04 972 8699.



Link to Submissions on Terrorism Bill index page

 

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