Libertywatch December 2015

A round up of civil liberty related news articles from December 2015.


'Jihadi brides' free to return

New Zealand women who have left the country to marry jihadist fighters in the Middle East have not had their passports cancelled and are free to return, the Government has said

New Zealand's Security Intelligence Service (SIS) director Rebecca Kitteridge revealed this week that a growing number of women were heading to Iraq and Syria.

She said it was not clear whether these "jihadi brides" had gone to the region to fight themselves or to support Isis (Islamic State) fighters.

The number of New Zealand women in this category was not known, but it was less than a dozen.

Counter-terrorism law changes passed a year ago gave the Internal Affairs Minister greater powers to suspend or cancel the passports of suspected foreign fighters.

Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said no woman's passport had been cancelled in any circumstances. A very small number of men's passports had been cancelled, though he would not reveal the number.

"I'm not going to go into any particular details, but any passports that have been cancelled have been cancelled because people pose a threat to national security or who are going to engage in terrorist activities. Marriage doesn't usually come into that category."

Ms Kitteridge said that if any of the women returned from Iraq or Syria, the SIS would "maintain an interest in those people".

Otago Daily Times 10/12/15


Criminal Justice

Murder suspect fights extradition to China

Human rights barrister Tony Ellis has filed for a judicial review of the Justice Minister Amy Adams’ decision to send Korean-born New Zealand resident Kyung Yup Kim to Shanghai, and the Greens human rights spokesperson, Marama Davidson, says Mr Kim should stay in New Zealand, because assurances he will not be tortured or face the death penalty cannot be trusted.

"There is no way the Minister can actually guarantee Mr Kim will receive a fair trial, won't be tortured and won't be subject to the death penalty," Ms Davidson said.

"New Zealand has signed up to the United Nations Convention against Torture and as such we are not supposed to send people to countries where they could be tortured by the state."

Just last week, the United Nations said that 'the practice of torture and ill-treatment is still deeply entrenched in the criminal justice system' in China.

Tony Ellis said: "Mr Kim will fight to the last-ditch. We probably have a year or more to go with the remedies, but I think we have a reasonably strong case that the minister's decision is wrong."

A judicial review hearing would likely be in February next year. If that went against Mr Kim, he would appeal to the Supreme Court if necessary.

"If he loses that, I think we will probably be the first case that would apply for interim measures before either the UN Human Rights Committee or the torture committee."

Dr Ellis said part of the judicial review application would be the "extraordinary" amount of time that Mr Kim had been held in prison, which had caused him to become depressed and suicidal.

Ms Adams insisted that she has, “sought, and received, undertakings from the Chinese Government waiving the death penalty should Mr Kim be convicted and providing for his monitoring, fair treatment and trial.

New Zealand Herald 16/12/15


Drug Testing

Polytechnic drug and alcohol testing policy questioned

The latest draft of Otago Polytechnic's drug and alcohol testing policy takes ''a sledgehammer to a problem that doesn't exist'', the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) says.

Under the first draft of the policy, students and staff in every programme except business and IT, could have been subject to random drug and alcohol testing.

Polytechnic organisational development director Matt Carter said that had been pared back.  The most recent version of the new policy says students or staff could be tested if they were involved in "safety sensitive activities''.

That usually meant "operating machinery or a requirement to make really high-risk decisions'', Mr Carter said, but he admitted the new model could still allow testing for a significant segment of the polytechnic population.

Students and staff would be tested after an accident, or if staff had "reasonable cause'' to suspect they were impaired by drugs or alcohol, he said. Students and staff would also be allowed to refuse "reasonable cause'' testing once with no repercussions, although their name would be recorded. Post-accident testing was mandatory.

If a student or staff member was tested for drugs or alcohol and did not receive a definitively negative result, they would be stood down from "safety sensitive areas'' pending further testing.

If further testing was also non-negative, the person would be banned from safety sensitive areas until they tested negative, and offered counselling. They would also undergo testing for 12 months following the first test, and face disciplinary action for any non-negative results.

Mr Carter said the policy was ''not about catching people out, it's about making sure it's a safe place to work and learn''.

"A lot of industries have a growing expectation that people will be subject to policies like this … it's up to us to set the standard.''

But TEU organiser Kris Smith said the new version of the policy was still "far too broad''. "You could describe absolutely every activity as having an element of risk,'' she said. And the post-accident testing included in the new draft policy ‘‘amounts to random testing'', she said.

Otago Daily Times 8/12/15



Man refused entry to NZ for being a ‘bikie’

An Australian man with no criminal convictions was held in a New Zealand jail cell without charge for 12 hours after being refused entry to the country because he is a member of the Rebels motorcycle club. John Millar arrived at Christchurch airport on 2 December where immigration officials handed him over to police after customs found a Rebels club vest in his luggage.

Millar, who intended to join a motorcycle ride with the Christchurch chapter of the Rebels, was transferred to a watch house before being put on a flight back to Brisbane the next day.

Immigration NZ told him yesterday that his membership of the club led him to being refused entry under section 16 of the Immigration Act. That allows authorities to turn back anyone believed to be likely to commit an offence drawing jail time or pose a threat or risk to security, public order or the public interest.

"I've done nothing wrong but I'm being punished," Millar, who has travelled to New Zealand three times in the past 20 months without incident, told Guardian Australia.

"They put me in a cell and I had no toilet paper, no phone call, no shower, a blanket and a thin little blanket on a concrete floor," Millar said.

Immigration NZ confirmed on Saturday night that a man was sent back to Australia under Section 16 of the Immigration Act for being a gang member.

New Zealand Herald 19/12/12


Australia and NZ Greens call for human rights inquiry

The Green parties of New Zealand and Australia have lodged a submission with the Australian Human Rights Commission asking it to establish an inquiry into the treatment of New Zealand citizens who are detained in immigration detention centres.

Green Party human rights spokesperson Marama Davidson has written to the Commission on behalf of the New Zealand and Australian Green Parties, saying people from both countries were deeply concerned about the human rights abuses occurring in Australian facilities and the impact these were having on innocent family members.

“Just because these people were once in trouble with the law does not mean they waive their basic human rights, and the human rights of their families, forever,” Ms Davidson said.

“The submission details some horrible human rights abuses including forcing a terminally ill woman with lung cancer to spend her last few days alone, while her husband Ra Fowell was detained for historic driving and marijuana possession offences. Mrs Fowell died two days ago.

“Detainees are being denied medical treatment, the right to family, and the right to adequate access to legal counsel, while facing arbitrary detention which is a fundamental abuse of their human rights on its own.

“The vast majority of those who are detained for historic offences are not rapists and murderers as John Key has described them.

“Decent societies that believe in democracy uphold the basic human rights of people even if they are in prison, or once committed a crime.

“The Australian Government has set itself on a slippery slope by denying those in detention some of those fundamental rights, and the New Zealand Government has let down its citizens by failing to fight for them.

“The two Green Parties hope that the Australian Human Rights Commission will help shed some light on the treatment of Kiwis arbitrarily detained in Australian centres,” Ms Davidson said. 3/12/15



Ex-judge criticises search of journalist’s house

A retired long-serving district court judge, Roy Wade, has criticised police for their treatment of television journalist Heather du Plessis-Allan, who is under investigation after purchasing a gun without a firearms licence as part of a news story.

Mr Wade said he "very much" doubted whether there was a need for police to rifle through the journalist's private space and belongings, given the nature of the investigation.

The police had executed a search warrant on the pretext of looking for a sample of handwriting at the Wellington home du Plessis-Allan shares with husband, Newstalk ZB journalist Barry Soper.

The search came after an expose by du Plessis-Allan for TV3's Story programme. She collected a rifle from a courier after sending Gun City a mail order form in which the "Police Use Only" section had been filled in with a fictitious officer's name and police registration number.

The form included details of the credit card used to pay and a firearm licence number, apparently checked as genuine by Gun City staff.

Today Mr Wade, who presided over cases in the Auckland region, wrote to Commissioner Mike Bush expressing concern and "sadness" over the handling of the investigation and search warrant.

In his letter he wrote,

Today, I saw that your officers thought it prudent to search the home of a reputable journalist who did nothing more than expose the hopeless inadequacies of our gun laws. 

 Search warrants are inherently obtrusive: how would any one of your staff (or you, for that matter) like to be subjected to seeing their most intimate belongings and documents pored over by total strangers for no reason at all?

If your officers did really need a handwriting sample (which I very much doubt, given that she always acknowledged being the author of the form in question), why not simply ask for one? Was it simply to try and humiliate her?

The Thorpe Enquiry 20 years ago highlighted the complete inadequacy of NZ gun laws. It was launched to address the gaping holes in our legislation. It cost millions but was totally ignored….

The NZ Police do themselves great harm by their insensitive treatment of the citizens of this country.

New Zealand Herald 2/12/15


Police search of journalist Nicky Hager's home ruled illegal.

The Dirty Politics author, Nicky Hager, has won his case against Police, with Justice Denis Clifford deciding Police did not meet their duty of candour when they asked a District Court judge to issue the search warrant.

Police searched Hager's Wellington home in October 2014 looking for clues to the identity of "Rawshark", who had hacked the emails of blogger Cameron Slater.

The judge found the police had failed to give relevant information on the case when they asked for the warrant, and the way police conducted the search tended to support the finding that the search was "fundamentally unlawful".

Hager's lawyer Felix Geiringer said, "This is a major landmark establishing the importance of journalistic source protection."

Asked whether Hager would be receiving an apology, police said they would not be saying anything other than a simple statement on their website from Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess. 

Hager said he felt the police effort on his case had been "strange" from the outset, but he hoped other journalists would now be prevented from getting similar treatment. "The best thing to stop this becoming common towards the media from police is for them to spectacularly lose cases like they have today." 18/12/15