New Zealand Makes Plotting a Terrorist Attack a Crime; Fixes a Legal Loophole

New Zealand on Thursday passed a new security law to criminalize preparing for a terror attack, fixing a legal loophole that was exposed earlier this month by a violent knife attack.

Ahamed Aathil Samsudeen, a Sri Lankan national, grabbed a knife at an Auckland supermarket on September 3 and began stabbing shoppers. He wounded five people while two others were injured in the chaos. Samsudeen, an Islamic State-inspired attacker was shot by police after he went on the rampage.

Auckland New Zealand Mall ISIS Terrorist Attack
An ISIS terrorist stabs six people at a mall in Auckland, New Zealand. Twitter

Enforcement Agencies will Get Greater Power to Protect New Zealand from Terrorist Activities

The bill amends the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, and the Search and Surveillance Act 2012 to criminalize planning or preparation for a terrorist act and apply warrantless powers of entry, search, and surveillance to that offence.

It is now an offence to plot and prepare a "terror" attack, which Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi said brought New Zealand's security laws in line with most other countries.

"The nature of terrorism has changed. Across the world there are more lone actors, rather than larger organised groups," Faafoi told the Reuters news agency in an emailed statement.

"These changes bring our definition of a terrorist act into line with counter-terrorism laws in other countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom and mean we have the tools we need so we can act early to prevent, respond to, and disrupt terrorist activity."

New Law Tightens a Legal Loophole

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had earlier indicated that her government was trying to plug the loophole in the law after the Auckland attacker was set free as the judge ruled that planning a terror attack was not a crime under existing law.

"The fact that he was in the community will be an illustration that we haven't succeeded in using the law to the extent we would have liked," Ardern had said after the Auckland attack while admitting that she was "gutted" over the incident.

Jacinda Ardern
Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand PM Wikimedia commons

Ardern has also been examining whether changes are needed to New Zealand's deportation laws and policies after authorities cancelled Samsudeen's refugee status on the basis of fraud in 2019 and ordered him deported back to Sri Lanka, reported Al Jazeera.

The Counter-Terrorism Legislation Bill was introduced in April this year and received its first reading and referral to the Justice Committee on May 5.

It was the Government's first step towards implementing recommendation 18 of the Royal Commission into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch masjidain on March 15, 2019.