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New Zealand: Parliament Passes Foreign Fighters Legislation

(Dec. 11, 2014) On December 9, 2014, in a 94-27 vote, the New Zealand Parliament passed the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill, which includes amendments to the Customs and Excise Act 1996, the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Act 1969, and the Passports Act 1992 aimed at stopping people from leaving the country to join Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria. (Press Release, John Key, Foreign Fighters Legislation Passes (Dec. 9, 2014), New Zealand government website; Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill, NEW ZEALAND PARLIAMENT (last visited Dec. 10, 2014).)

Under the amendments, the NZSIS will be able to conduct visual surveillance of private premises in relation to investigating activities of security concern and will be able to access New Zealand Customs Service information as part of counter-terrorism investigations. (Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill (version 1–2), cl 9 & cl 7, respectively, NEW ZEALAND LEGISLATION.) It will also be able to conduct emergency surveillance of terrorist suspects for 24 hours without a warrant. (Id. cl 9.)

The changes to the Passports Act 1992 will enable the Minister of Internal Affairs to suspend passports for up to ten working days and to cancel passports for up to three years if there are reasonable grounds to believe a person is a danger to the security of New Zealand. (Id. sch.) The current law allows the Minister to cancel passports only for up to 12 months. (Passports Act 1992, s 8A, NEW ZEALAND LEGISLATION.)

The bill included sunset clauses for each of the new provisions, which are set to expire in April 2017. A major review of intelligence agencies and security laws will take place in 2015 and will include an assessment of what longer-term actions are needed. (Foreign Fighters Legislation Passes, supra.)

Backdrop

The measures in the bill were identified during a recent review of New Zealand’s legislative and security settings with respect to foreign terrorist fighters. (Press Release, John Key, Review of Foreign Fighters Security Settings to Begin (Oct. 13, 2014), New Zealand government website.) Following the review, in addition to introducing the legislative measures, the government committed additional funding of nearly NZ$7 million (about US$5.4 million) for the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) in order for it to increase investigative staff. (Press Release, John Key, Protecting National Security and Responding to ISIL (Nov. 5, 2014), New Zealand government website; Press Release, John Key, Draft Foreign Fighters Legislation Released (Nov. 23, 2014), New Zealand government website.)

The bill was passed under the Parliament’s “urgency” procedures. (House Goes into Urgency, NEW ZEALAND PARLIAMENT (Dec. 9, 2014).) The proposed legislation was introduced on November 25, 2014, and referred to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee. The public was given two days to make submissions on the bill, and the Committee’s report was tabled in the Parliament on December 2, 2014. (Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill, supra.)

The Committee received nearly 600 submissions on the bill and heard 63 of the submitters in hearings conducted over three days. (Audrey Young, Foreign Fighters Bill Passes 94-27, NEW ZEALAND HERALD (Dec. 9, 2014).) The Committee recommended several changes to the bill, which were accepted by the government. (Press Release, John Key, PM Welcomes Report Back of Security Bill (Dec. 2, 2014), New Zealand government website.)