Jacinda Ardern rejects Golriz Ghahraman’s description of anti-terrorist law as ‘dog-whistling’.

“[Mark Taylor] was not the only New Zealander who was over there but he’s certainly the most high-profile one and has been engaged in terrorist activity.”

The Prime Minister is rejecting a Green MP’s description of a law that would impose restrictions on returning New Zealanders involved in terrorism as “dog-whistling”.

The Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill gives police the ability to apply to the High Court to impose “control orders”, or restrictions, on New Zealanders who have engaged in terrorism overseas.

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman is concerned about the “human rights implications” of the Bill, and feels existing criminal laws in New Zealand already cover “everything that needs to be covered to keep us safe”.

Ghahraman is worried that the legislation employs foreign nations’ definitions of what terror is. She said countries like Iran – where she was born – consider feminists and political activists as terrorists.

“We are literally doubling down on oppression that foreign nations might be employing to define dissidence as terrorists, and we’re not employing New Zealand law in this… There is no place for it.”

The law might affect Mark Taylor, known as the “Kiwi Jihadist”, a New Zealander who lived with IS extremists in Syria for around five years, and earlier this year surrendered to local forces and was jailed in a Kurdish prison.

Ghahraman said Taylor could be tried if he made it back to New Zealand, and agencies like the Government Security Communications Bureau (GCSB) could watch him closely.
“There’s no place for this extra sort of dog-whistle law-making.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rejected Ghahraman’s description.

“This is a very practical response. We have an emerging issue that the globe is trying to deal with. We’ve got to protect the safety of New Zealanders,” Ardern said.

“We do have known individuals who have engaged in activity.”

Ghahraman said what’s “frightening” about the new law is that New Zealand would be relying on evidence collected by “foreign agencies that may have employed torture and we know that’s not going to be reliable information”.

“We know that they may be relying on convictions that are completely unsafe, or are actually targeted at political dissidence rather than actual terrorists.”

Ghahraman said the proposed law panders to “that tough on crime, war on terror language that especially in a post-Christchurch New Zealand has no place here”.
“We know that it will rile up fear and anxiety about something that isn’t a problem… We do need terrorism to be a crime, but we need to try it in appropriate circumstances.”

Ardern said it is a decision for the Greens whether they want to support the proposed law. She said she feels the “right balance” has been struck.

“We need to be prepared for what our new challenge is and returning foreign terrorist fighters is a new challenge.”

National leader Simon Bridges said he backs the law, and feels a “deep sense of duty” to support it given the Greens will not.

Bridges has put forward a number of recommendations for the legislation, including lowering the age limit for control orders to those aged 14 years and over.

He also wants police to be able to detain returnees upon arrival if necessary, increase the duration of control orders, and increase the term of imprisonment to five years.

“I will be strongly urging the Government to take these,” Bridges said. “I think New Zealanders will be less safe if the changes National is recommending don’t happen.”

Justice Minister Andrew Little said National’s recommendation to limit control orders to those aged 14 years and over is “a bit silly”.

“I don’t know who that would apply to,” Little said. “Mark Taylor is well over 18 years of age. It does look like dumb politicking on the part of National… it’s a pity.”

Little said a review of New Zealand’s terrorism suppression orders started last year, and during that review, the situation in Syria “has been changing and in the last couple of weeks changed quite rapidly”.

Over the weekend, hundreds of Islamic State prisoners reportedly escaped from a detention facility in the country’s northeast.

“We have to be prepared for the possibility that New Zealanders, and at least one New Zealander who has gone to that area for the purpose of terrorist fighting, will come back to New Zealand,” Little said.

“[Mark Taylor] was not the only New Zealander who was over there but he’s certainly the most high-profile one and has been engaged in terrorist activity.”

Little said the conditions imposed by the High Court will be “carefully tailored to the individual’s personal circumstances, risks, and rehabilitative needs”.

He said the more serious the risk, the more restrictive the conditions are likely to be.

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Jacinda Ardern rejects Golriz Ghahraman’s description of anti-terrorist law as ‘dog-whistling’