Wednesday, October 16, 2019

An odious bill

The government has decided that someone has done Something Bad. But despite their belief, there seems to be no evidence that they have actually broken the law. So the government's solution is to pass a retrospective law allowing them to be punished anyway, on a lower standard of proof.

If it was Russia or China doing this, we would have no qualms at all about condemning it as a tyrannical abuse of power and a violation of basic human rights. But its not Russia or China: it's New Zealand:

On Wednesday, Justice Minister Andrew Little introduced a new bill to to strengthen counter-terrorism laws and support the de-radicalisation of New Zealanders returning from overseas.

The need for law change was highlighted when it came to light that a case against Taylor, known as the "bumbling jihadi", would not necessarily be a slam dunk with much of the case dependent on proof.


The Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill will now give the New Zealand Police the ability to apply to the High Court to impose control orders on New Zealanders who have engaged in terrorism related activities overseas.

The orders are effectively a bail regime, allowing someone's freedom of movement, assembly, association and expression to be restricted for up to six years. While imposed by a court, there's an implicit assumption that evidence will be secret (or rather "non-disclosable" to the accused), and it will be done on a civil rather than criminal standard of proof. Like asset forfeiture, its essentially a way to punish without prosecution or evidence (and to punish those acquitted by the courts), freeing the police from having to do their actual jobs properly. Except here, there'll be default permanent name suppression, so we won't be able to see who it is being applied to.

Terrorists who commit or plan murder and mayhem should (and can) be prosecuted for their crimes. But this odious bill is an attack on the rule of law and the fundamental principles of a free society. And it is proving once again that (in the words of the UK Supreme Court) the real threat to the life of the nation comes not from terrorism but from laws such as this.