Bishops say anti terror laws not specific enough

The New Zealand Catholic Church recognises the urgency of responding to the threat of ISIS in the Middle East, but it is important that powers under the anti terror laws were not misused in other situations.

New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops and Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand say the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill is being rushed too fast through Parliament, and is not specific enough.

In a joint written submission to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, the Bishops and Caritas said the New Zealand government had to address all matters covered by United Nations Security Council resolution 2178.

Speaking to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Caritas Director Julianne Hickey said the specific context giving rise to the legislation needs to be clearly defined to ensure it is not applied in situations unrelated to the specific terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria.

 “Five places in the new Schedule in the Bill refer to unlawful activity causing serious economic damage to New Zealand carried out for purposes of commercial or economic gain,” Mrs Hickey says.

“It does not seem to us that commercial or economic gain is the main purpose of the extremist violence used by ISIS.”

“We would like to know what this clause is intended to be used for.”

Speaking on behalf of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Monsignor Gerard Burns told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee that urgent security concerns have long been an excuse for removal of important human rights which protect the most vulnerable.

“The Select Committee must ensure that there are sufficient checks and balances on the powers that this legislation gives to the powerful.”

The submission also included concerns about access to natural justice for people whose passports are cancelled while overseas, especially if left vulnerable in dangerous places like Syria and Iraq.

The Bishops and Caritas said that there are valid reasons for New Zealanders to travel to the Middle East, including religious, family and humanitarian reasons.


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