“don’t make bad law which could criminalise good people.” Counter-Terrorism legislation bill amendments submission to the Justice Select Committee. August 2021. Auckland Peace Action. “Activism is not terrorism.”

[This was an oral submission made to the select committee. You can just skim read and only read the bold text to get the main points.] Watch the video of that days submissions to select committee, here.

Kia ora,

ka mihi atu e te mana whenua o ngā rōhe, ka mihi ki ngā tangata whenua o Aotearoa, e tū ake. My name is [intro]. There are some things we in Aotearoa NZ can be incredibly proud of, such as women getting the vote, some our rights and freedoms we enjoy, standing against apartheid in South Africa, being nuclear free, and being anti-war, so I’m here today to speak in defence and support of social justice activism in Aotearoa and its legacy of making life better here, and plead with you, don’t make this bad law which could be used to criminalise good people. Activism is not terrorism.

Im speaking as a part of Auckland Peace action, we believe in the peace, anti-militarism, anti-war and being anti oppression. We stand for civil liberties, specifically today, the right to protest, the right to challenge and oppose what is wrong with the world, the right to do political organizing, and the right to live without the fear of being criminalised for activism.

The GCSB and the SIS have a big budget to use up to justify their existence, they all have mortgages to pay, they all want to keep their jobs, and they might use this law with the proposed amendments, to catch enemies where there are none.

An independent oversight body over this law and how it is applied, is necessary.

I know from personal experience when I was 17, on October 15th 2007, my friends who were activists, were arrested for terrorism, on trumped up hypersurveilance charges, that were dropped, and I am very worried that this law could be used in an oppressive way.

an oppressive government or enforcement body, could abuse the good intention of you, the legistaltors who care about the safety of society, and use the law to enforce state terror, especially so with the new amendments.

On October 15th 2007 the police raided Rautoki, the territory of Tuuhoe, ninja police boarded school busses on the colonial confiscation line with guns pointed at the kids – Some of my close friends who are peace activist with the deepest hearts and integrity were raided, an avocado was taken as evidence as a grenade, transcripts of private conversations were taken out of context, the police surveillance was so intense, they were trying to set them up – In Manurewa, an old kaumatua was forced out of his suburban house in the middle of the night and died of a heart attack before the court trial was finished – that is clear and relatively recent evidence of a situation where the terrorism suppression act has been used to oppress that which was not terrorism.

Do you as legistlators want your legacy to be, putting in place law which could be used so negatively. I encourage you to consider the worst case scenario about this legislation we have proposed in front of us, I encourage you to not apply any of the proposed amendments:

1.  Do not redefine terrorism, do not lower the threshold.

2. Do not create a new offence to criminalise planning or preparation for a terrorist act;


3. Do not create a new offense to specifically criminalise terrorist weapons and combat training for terrorist purposes;


4. Do not creating a new
offense for international travel to carry out terrorist activities;


5. Do not expanding the criminal offense of financing terrorism to include broader forms of material support; and


6. Do not extending the eligibility for a control orders to include individuals who have completed a prison sentence for a terrorism-related offense if they continue to
present a real risk of engaging in terrorism-related activities.

but Instead I ask:

1. institute an independent oversight body to ensure that the legislation is not being used oppressively.

2. Leave the existing evidential standards to prove a terrorist act intact;

3. Removes amendments that expand warrantless search and surveillance powers.

Now we will walk through what and some of the reasoning.

Lets begin with the redefinition of what terrorist is, lowering the threshhold, with the proposed amendments  to  sections  5(2)(a),  5(2)(b)  that  redefine a terrorist act to use the wording of “fear in a population” instead of “terror in a civilian population” and also “coerce” instead of “unduly compel”;

  1. The job of the government is to work for the civilians, as such the redefinition to be “fear in a population” is inappropriate for this Bill, and should be struck off. Terrorist is a terrible label which carries weight. It should not be redefined and threshold lowered, from “unduly compel” down to “coerce”. I strongly admonish whoever rewrote this definition and advise you, in your wisdom, to not change the definition. as this is the counter-terror legislation, not the counter-fear legislation. 

There is also the change to the definition which should not be incorporated into the final document submitted before parliament. That is “to unduly compel” a government or organisation to carry out (or abstain from) an action, to the new phrasing “to coerce”.  We question the intention of this change? It fundamentally lowers the bar of what terrorism is to net many forms of legitimate democracy.

We are concerned and worried that under the wrong government this changed phrasing could be used nefariously in political repression. In the context of terrorism legistlation, a serious offence, the original stronger terminology “to unduly compel” is much more appropriate than the new suggestion “to coerce”. We advise and recommend to the select committee, in the interests of safeguarding civil rights and the political progress which we as a society rely on and are culturally proud of, that the new definition in Clause 6 is not adopted.

We are concerned at who is determining what that credible threat is.

We are concerned about how the law, in its current form and draft proposal, could be used in oppressive ways to stop the exercise of democratic rights in our society. Not to throw shade on you as legistlators, but laws stay on the books for a long time, so lets consider this through a worst case scenario lens.

With that in mind, we propose that if this legislation is passed, an independent monitor should also be created.  An expert should 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.

 There is an international precident for this with Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation in the United Kingdom, and the Independent National Security Monitor in Australia.

The amendments to the Bill expands the power of the Prime Minister to designate terrorist entities under the Act, without creating any additional layers of oversight to ensure this power is not misused. We do not believe that is safe or democratic, and that should be undertaken by an impartial body to maintain our countries independent foreign policy.

  1. The designation of what a terrorist group is could be a highly political move, it could be done as a vote grab. That designation right should not be given to the prime minister, and it shouldn’t be able to be renewed without oversight. In the USA Trump declared antifa a terrorist group. Here in Aotearoa NZ antifascists are doing anti-terrorist work in fostering community safety, anti-racism and researching neo-nazis. So just to be clear, being anti-oppression is not terrorism. Only a fascist would think it was – but we need to think worse case scenario with this Bill – not how you would use it, but how it could be misused.
  • Preparation for a terrorist activity:

From a civil liberties and social justice perspective we are concerned the potential expansion of the law, including section 5 A, 1, A to D could be used for targeting political activists.  We believe that changing the terrorism law to include ‘planning or preparation for a terrorist act’ is unnecessary, and would stifle extra parliamentary progress, the same progress which has afforded you the power you now hold today and have created what we as a society think of Aotearoa New Zealand to be, a liberal democracy.

We are concerned that the things which New Zealand is proud of, such as the Rainbow warrior, Being nuclear free, Being a peacekeeping nation, The Springbok Tour protests, Our workers rights, The progress we make, may not have been able to happen if this law which is on the table, were if effect at that time.

Preparing for a terrorist activity, “a credible threat to carry out the act, whether it is actually carried out or not” , could be interpreted as many things, and even more with the poposed “fear in a population” and “coerce” wording which I hope you will not include. We are of the opinion that it is very inappropriate that a preemtive  pre-crime is being put on the table as a terrorist offense.

as it is already illegal to plan and prepare to do illegal and/or violent things, and one could be charged with  ‘conspiracy to commit’ those offences.

We caution the select committee to consider how  section 5 A  could be misused to negatively characterise social justice and other activism, and strongly recommend that the proposal to criminalise planning or preparation for a terrorist act, not be included in the new counter-terrorism Bill.

  • creating a new offence to specifically criminalise terrorist weapons and combat
    training for terrorist purposes;

Self defence training sessions are legitimate, especially for communities at risk of violence, such as women, non-binary, trans, people of colour, and other communities. This could be interpreted as combat training, potentially for terrorist purposes.

We are concerned that due to the racial and institutional bias of law agencies such as the police, this type of community activity could be, under the proposed law, be misinterpreted as terrorist preparation. Where would ‘combat style’ training activities at a gym fall in this legistlation? How would this law be applied? We think it unwise to include it in the final hansard, as it could be misapplied and misused to criminalise those who are not terrorists, and are in fact the very people who keep our society healthy and democratic, those who are anti-oppression.

Use of firearms and restricted weapons is already tightly regulated in New Zealand with the use of “reverse onus” in the Arms Act.

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.

  • The proposal to create a new offence for international travel to carry out terrorist activities AND proposed expansion the criminal offence of financing terrorism to include broader forms of material support

Astoundingly with deeper research I find that the New Zealand Government has defined Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as terrorists.

Those in who the Philippines and do human rights work, I would fear for their safety, under Duturte’s fascist regime where the Communist Party of the Philippines is designated as a terrorist organization and human rights lawyers are assassinated, but also because the New Zealand government has also designated the communist party of the Philippines as a terrorist organsiation.

The proposed amendments to the Terrorism Suppression Act (2002) section 4(1) includes a very broad definition of material support

 I want to draw our attention to the case of a father and a brother charged with terrorism in the UK under a similar law to the one we are reworking today. Dan Newey was volunteering with the YPG, to defend the survival or the Kurdish in Northern Syria, against ISIS. The Kurdish people are also being persecuted by the Turkey. The Turkish government told the UK government that the YPJ was a terrorist organization. So, Dan’s father Paul Newey was charged under terrorism legislation and was being prosecuted for sending a small amount of money to his son. Dan’s brother, Sam was also facing terrorism charges for helping his brother fill out a form on the internet. Thankfully after a lot of stress, in July 2020 these charges were dropped. But do you see how section 4(1) of providing material support could be problematic. We strongly suggest and advise the removal of expansion of financing terrorism and that it not be inclusive of broader forms of material support.

1. The family of Dan Newey were not committing terrorism, nor part of a terrorist activity.

2. Other states designating who or what is a terrorist is highly problematic, and means we risk losing our countries impartiality in some situations and conflicts, it means our independent foreign policy is compromised, and it is unfair, especially in situations where the marginalized peoples are struggling against oppressive governments. There are millions of Uyghur people, suffering under a totalitarian surveillance state (that’s no exaggeration) where China has demonized Uyghurs as a terrorist race. Terrorism, by governments, is being used as a tool to carry out oppression. Please don’t be part of establishing the conditions for abusing the civilians freedoms and rights.

  • Then there is the matter of expanding the 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:

Including: Conditions relating to place of residence (including that they must reside at a particular place)

  1. Conditions to not associate with any person 
  2. Conditions prohibiting the person from entering or remaining in specified places or areas, at specified times, or at all times
  3. Electronic monitoring
  4. And many more

We consider that a final control order is a severe deprivation of liberty amounting to a de facto criminal sentence. 

    Unlike Extended Supervision Orders or Returning Offender/Prisoner Orders, control orders would be imposed on the basis of facts which have only been proven at the civil standard (balance of probabilities) rather than the criminal standard (beyond reasonable doubt).

    It is unacceptable for a civil regime to be imposed in order to circumvent the evidential issues associated with prosecuting New Zealanders for engaging in terrorism overseas.

Auckland Peace Action is opposed to the control orders in concern of how they could be applied oppressively and inappropriately, and believe that the parole act already suffices, is unnecessary and should not be included.

What legacy are we creating with this law which is proposed. What future are we setting the stage for. I implore to you, rework the bill to make the changes of:

1.  Do not redefine terrorism, do not lower the threshold.

2. Do not create a new offence to criminalise planning or preparation for a terrorist act;


3. Do not create a new offense to specifically criminalise terrorist weapons and combat training for terrorist purposes;


4. Do not creating a new offense for international travel to carry out terrorist activities;


5. Do not expanding the criminal offense of financing terrorism to include broader forms of material support; and


6. Do not extending the eligibility for a control orders to include individuals who have completed a prison sentence for a terrorism-related offense if they continue to present a real risk of engaging in terrorism-related activities.

Instead we ask:

1. Leave the existing evidential standards to prove a terrorist act intact;

2. Remove amendments that expand warrantless search and surveillance powers.

3. institute an independent oversight body to ensure that the legislation is not being used oppressively.

Thanks for your time,

Nga mihi tumanako,

Words by Eliana Darroch

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