On Thursday 14 November we appeared before the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade select committee with our submission on the Terrorism Suppression (Control Orders) Bill.
Our oral submission was supported by Gulalai Ismail, a Pashtun human rights activist who fled Pakistan after a First Information Report was raised by the Pakistani police, accusing her of an “anti-state and hate speech” for drawing attention to the stories of women claiming to have experienced sexual harassment by the Pakistani security forces. Gulalai appeared before the committee by video link.
Our submission focused on concerns that the definition of terrorism appears ambiguous – that it’s unclear whether the definition of terrorism to be used is the New Zealand definition or the definition used in the foreign country.
When we asked Gulalai to participate in the session she responded: “It is of utmost important for the world to know how anti-terrorism laws in repressive states have unclear definitions of terrorism and are used by the states to repress voices of dissidents”.
At the committee, Iain Middleton gave a brief introduction stating that the Humanist Society of New Zealand is a secular organisation with a particular focus on promoting Human Rights.
Our position is that Section 6 (c), (d), and (e) of the Bill could only be read as using the definition of terrorism as used in the countries where the charges were laid. This would lead to unsafe and dubious convictions, particularly in cases where the evidence was fabricated.
Gulalai then told her story of how she had, in less than a year, gone from being an internationally respected Human Rights advocate with multiple awards, to one of Pakistan’s most wanted persons facing false charges of terrorism. It appears that the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) thought that her speeches, including the speech she gave in Auckland last year at our conference, were bringing Pakistan into disrepute.
When Gulalai managed to evade arrest and find her way to the USA, the ISI responded by having charges laid against her father on charges of supporting terrorism (i.e. supporting Gulalai). The ISI hopes that by subjecting Professor Muhammad Ismail to inhuman treatment and torture they can silence his daughter.
Golriz Ghahraman discussed Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) 397, which contains the amendments that Andrew Little, in consultation with Golriz Ghahraman, has agreed to move at the committee stages of the whole house (after the second reading). The SOP seeks to overcome the problems related to the definition of terrorism and false or malicious convictions in other countries.
Our submission reinforced to the committee the need to tackle the problem, and gave the committee an opportunity to hear how anti-terrorism legislation can be abused to silence dissidents.