Ter­ror laws hit 8 Ki­wis

Ex­pert sur­prised by the to­tal, which he de­scribes as a ‘sig­nif­i­cant num­ber’

The New Zealand Herald - - Front Page - Kurt Bayer

Eight Ki­wis have lost or been de­nied their pass­ports un­der tough ter­ror laws cre­ated to block New Zealan­ders leav­ing to fight for Is­lamic State.

The mea­sures were taken amid Se­cu­rity In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice ef­forts to iden­tify peo­ple classed a “na­tional se­cu­rity threat”.

Ter­ror and se­cu­rity ex­pert Paul Buchanan was sur­prised by the to­tal, which he de­scribed as a “sig­nif­i­cant num­ber”.

Those af­fected have not had their cit­i­zen­ship re­voked and there have been no known prose­cu­tions.

Eight Ki­wis have lost or been de­nied their pass­ports un­der tough ter­ror laws cre­ated to block New Zealan­ders leav­ing the coun­try to fight for Is­lamic State (Isis).

The dras­tic mea­sures were taken amid the ef­forts of the Se­cu­rity In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice (SIS) to iden­tify peo­ple classed a “na­tional se­cu­rity threat”.

Three peo­ple had pass­port ap­pli­ca­tions re­jected in 2015 and 2016 after the pass­ing of the Coun­ter­ing Ter­ror­ist Fighters Leg­is­la­tion Act in De­cem­ber 2014.

Four more had pass­ports can­celled in the same pe­riod. The eighth per­son had their pass­port scrapped last year.

Those af­fected have not had their cit­i­zen­ship re­voked and there have been no known prose­cu­tions.

The mea­sures were de­signed to stop peo­ple trav­el­ling to fight for

or­gan­i­sa­tions with ter­ror­ist links dur­ing a pe­riod of height­ened in­ter­na­tional ten­sion.

The fig­ures were re­leased to the Her­ald by the Depart­ment of In­ter­nal Af­fairs un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act. Ter­ror and se­cu­rity ex­pert Paul Buchanan was sur­prised by the to­tal, which he de­scribed as a “sig­nif­i­cant num­ber”.

“If all eight of those peo­ple had their travel doc­u­ments re­moved, re­fused, etc, be­cause it was sus­pected or known that they were go­ing to fight for Daesh [Isis], that’s a lot of ex­tra sym­pa­this­ers for a coun­try of this size, and that’s scary,” Buchanan said.

One of the cases in­volves a Mel­bourne-based New Zealand woman who had her pass­port can­celled in May 2016 on na­tional se­cu­rity grounds.

How­ever, the leg­is­la­tion is not un­der­stood to have af­fected New Zealan­ders who have gone to Syria or Iraq to join the fight against Isis.

One of those is Kiwi law grad­u­ate Ash­lee Boniface, who trav­elled to Syria and joined YPJ, an all-fe­male Kur­dish armed unit fight­ing Isis, in a civil­ian role. She told the Her­ald she had not re­ceived travel re­stric­tions from New Zealand au­thor­i­ties.

“I didn’t do any­thing il­le­gal from a NZ per­spec­tive,” she said.

In 2015, the SIS con­firmed a num­ber of New Zealand women were head­ing to Iraq and Syria. It wasn’t clear whether the so-called “ji­hadi brides” had gone to fight or to sup­port Isis fighters. Then-Min­is­ter of In­ter­nal Af­fairs Peter Dunne said none of their pass­ports had been can­celled. A very small num­ber of men’s pass­ports had been can­celled, but Dunne would not re­veal the num­ber.

The Coun­ter­ing Ter­ror­ist Fighters Leg­is­la­tion Act was passed in De­cem­ber 2014 and amended three ex­ist­ing laws to bol­ster SIS sur­veil­lance ca­pac­ity and to give the Min­is­ter of In­ter­nal Af­fairs greater pow­ers to sus­pend and can­cel pass­ports.

The rules were beefed up fur­ther in April 2017 by the In­tel­li­gence and Se­cu­rity Act.

No pass­ports have been can­celled over the past 18 months, some­thing that co­in­cides with a se­ries of calami­tous de­feats for Isis in Iraq and Syria.

An SIS spokesman said New Zealand has obli­ga­tions to pre­vent Ki­wis com­mit­ting ter­ror­ist acts or trav­el­ling over­seas to join ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions. Buchanan sus­pects not all eight in­di­vid­u­als were go­ing to fight for Isis. He knows of one Syr­ian fam­ily liv­ing in New Zealand who alerted au­thor­i­ties to their son re­turn­ing home to fight against Isis.

“He was not a ji­hadi, he hated [Pres­i­dent] As­sad but he hated Daesh even more. So one of those can­cel­la­tions could well be that kid.”

The mea­sures are also de­signed to pre­vent the com­mis­sion of ter­ror­ist acts on New Zealand soil.

But Buchanan said global stud­ies have found no ev­i­dence of a height­ened risk of former fighters com­ing home and com­mit­ting ter­ror­ism.

Pro­fes­sor Richard Jack­son, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Cen­tre for Peace and Con­flict Stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Otago, la­belled the Gov­ern­ment’s ac­tions as “se­cu­rity the­atre”. Jack­son said the lack of prose­cu­tions stem­ming from any of the can­celled pass­port cases showed of­fi­cials had made “de­ter­mi­na­tions on prob­a­bil­i­ties of fu­ture ac­tions” and re­sult­ing in “pun­ish­ment with­out a crime”.

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