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IHRC submission

November 2001

Submission of the Indonesia Human Rights Committee of New Zealand on the Terrorism Suppression Bill to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee.

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee submits that this new legislation is unnecessary. Any person who is party to terrorism in New Zealand already commits an offence against the Crimes Act.

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee deplores terrorism but has grave concerns that in attempting to address the problem, this legislation will instead impose restrictions on civil liberties.

We further submit that:

1. The definition of terrorism is too wide:

The category of terrorism is too wide because it includes "serious interference with or serious disruption to an infrastructure facility in any country" as well as "serious damage or serious disruption to the national economy of any country."

It is already illegal to disrupt and damage infrastructure such as computer networks, and it is not necessary to include such acts in new legislation about terrorism.

Damage or disruption to a national economy is a highly subjective matter - for example some would say that the sell-off of government assets to private companies constitutes damage to the national economy. On the other hand supporters of free trade may claim that the opponents of the World Trade organisation are threatening to damage the national economy.

2. There is potential for New Zealanders to be charged under this law for giving practical or moral support to an organisation or group overseas which is working for radical social change.

In many Third World countries, including Indonesia, liberation movements are made up of diverse groupings some of which use violence and other groupings which do not. Some organisations which operate openly and legally are none the less disliked and harrassed by the current regime because their ideas and activities challenge the status quo.

The proposed legislation states that it is illegal to offer support not only to the entity that has carried out one or more terrorist acts but also any entity that has facilitated such an act.

Given that the legislation gives a very wide definition of terrorism, we fear that our solidarity work in support of pro-democracy groups in Indonesia may bring us under the terms of the proposed legislation.

A possible example could be a workers or students engaging in civil disobedience in Indonesia against the fuel price rises. Such an action could be defined as causing "serious damage" to the national economy of Indonesia.

3. We are concerned at the powers given under the legislation to the Prime Minister (consulting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs) who is given the power under the legislation to "designate" a terrorist or terrorist group.

There are only limited constraints on these politicians involving an appeal process to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and to the Court of Appeal on matters of law only.

The Prime Minister can designate a terrorist on the basis of secret evidence provided by "an agency of a government of another country", and there is no requirement for that information to ever be made public or made available to the person or group designated as terrorist.

4. We are concerned also about the severe imprisonment penalties which can be imposed under the proposed legislation.

It is possible that someone far removed from the action or the person deemed to be 'terrorist' could still be charged. For example it is possible that providing funds to support international human rights networking could infringe the proposed law if a group or individual deemed "terrorist" is included in the network.

Taken in conjunction with the broad definition of the term "terrorism" we believe that this law risks criminalising people engaged in legitimate political activity.

We request the opportunity for an oral hearing of this submission in Auckland.

Maire Leadbeater for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee

Link to Submissions on Terrorism Bill index page


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