Terror attacks on Christchurch Mosque and Auckland Mall bolster anti-terror laws

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Andrew Little, the minister responsible for GCSB and SIS, comments on the terrorist threat to New Zealand. Video / Mark Mitchell

The government is seeking to expand New Zealand’s counter-terrorism legislation following the devastating attacks on the Christchurch mosque in 2019 and the New Lynn shopping center last year.

Amendments to the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2002 and the Suppression of Terrorism (Control Orders) Act 2019 will allow the government to remove ambiguity that could have allowed Brenton Tarrant, the man behind the mosque attack, to be designated as a terrorist.

When a terrorist is imprisoned, the amendments would require the Prime Minister to review the designation every three years to determine if it is warranted.

The expiration of the designation, which by law is three years unless renewed, would be suspended and the designation would remain in place while the person was imprisoned until the review be finished.

It also included a refusal to consider requests to revoke a designation made on the grounds that “the entity is no longer involved in any way in carrying out terrorist acts”.

While designations could be renewed under current law, it was not clear until now how the renewal and revocation processes applied to terrorists in prison.

Tarrant was jailed for life without parole in August 2020 for the murder of 51 Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, 2019.

It was designated as a terrorist entity on August 27, 2020 – meaning its three-year designation would expire next year, if not renewed.

“These changes provide appropriate safeguards to ensure the designation system is effective in addressing the threat of further terrorist acts,” Allan said.

“The proposed changes to the designation and control order regimes are in line with this government’s commitment to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the terrorist attack on the Masjid in Christchurch.”

The Cabinet also agreed to amend Control Orders – civil orders intended to prevent high-risk individuals from engaging in terrorism by imposing various restrictions.

The changes have broadened the criteria so that they can be applied to more people.

The changes included people who had been convicted for objectionable posts advocating torture, extreme violence or cruelty, which is in addition to the current criteria which include a conviction for objectionable posts promoting the terrorism.

It will include those sentenced to house arrest and community sentences, as it is currently limited to prison sentences.

Greater judicial discretion would be allowed when setting control order restrictions to tailor them more appropriately to the risk posed.

Restrictions can limit a person’s movements, communications and activities; Internet access, terrorist propaganda or chemicals; the use of certain financial tools, and more.

They may be required to stay home at certain times, report regularly to an officer, submit to electronic monitoring and drug testing, and report to a shooting range only in the presence of the font.

Name removal requirements would also be relaxed to strike an “appropriate balance” between preventing the glorification of terrorism and notifying the public that a known risk is being managed.

“While no law can ever prevent a motivated terrorist from undertaking an attack, these changes will go a long way to preventing, disrupting and limiting their ability to do so,” Allan said.

A review of control order legislation will take place next year.

Almost all other parties had been consulted on the legislation. Its first reading would take place next week before heading to a select committee.

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