Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, the Catholic agency for justice, peace and development, opposes two clauses in the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill, which it believes has the potential to impact on work for human rights in the region.
The Bill proposes amending the Terrorism Suppression Act by removing a defence to charges of financing terrorism which currently allows organisations to argue that they did not intend to finance terrorism, but instead to fund work advocating democratic government or human rights.
Caritas CEO Michael Smith believes the proposal could leave the Catholic social justice agency vulnerable, if organisations with whom we work are labeled terrorist by hostile or repressive governments, and that is reflected in a terrorist designation by the United Nations Security Council or New Zealand government.
In addition, the situation is worsened by a further proposal to remove the current High Court review of terrorist designations, and to replace this with a review process overseen by the Prime Minister, who makes the original designation.
‘The Catholic Church says there is no possible justification for terrorism, which is built on contempt for human life,’ Michael Smith said.
However, the Church also requires the same high standards of respect for human life and human rights from official responses to terrorism as are applied to terrorist activity.
‘Both the late Pope John Paul II and our current Pope Benedict have called on Catholics to overcome terrorism by addressing situations of injustice, and by working to build up a sense of the human family through interfaith dialogue and strenuous defence of human rights.
‘For organisations like Caritas, who are particularly mandated by the Church with this work, we must make ongoing efforts to build relationships with victims of repressive regimes and to support their work in advocating for democratic government or human rights,’ Michael Smith says.
‘We believe it is important that processes to combat terrorism do not allow the possibility of genuine work for peace to be labeled “terrorist”, and believe the proposed changes provide that potential.’