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SAFETY AND SECURITY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
29 January 2003
ANTI-TERRORISM BILL: BRIEFING
Chairperson: Mluleki George (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Anti-Terrorism Bill (as of 15 November 2002)
The Committee was briefed on the Anti-Terrorism Bill. It heard that, because of a lack of international agreement on what constitutes terrorism, in the Bill only a terrorist act is defined. The result is that any organisation, whether legal or not, that commits any of these acts is guilty of a terrorist act. The proposed legislation deals both with national and international terrorist acts as required by international convention. International guidelines are given to ensure universality and compatibility in legislation, also to ensure compatible sanctions for offences.
Ms Ayesha Johaar, a state law advisor, responded to Chairperson Mr M George on the procedure of passing of the Anti Terrorism Bill. The chief State Law Advisor would forward the Bill to the Department of Safety and Security by 14 February 2003 and public hearings on this Bill could proceed shortly thereafter.
The Chairperson said that the public hearings would have to include people who do not generally have access to hearings, as these are often only attended by the elite. He suggested that, if possible, funds could be made available to assist in bringing less advantaged people to the hearings.
Mr P S Swart (DP) requested meetings be held with the relevant authorities during February to deal with the remuneration of the SAPS, the closing of Special Units and the redeployment of the affected staff and the ongoing killing of police officers.
The Chairperson agreed and added that the Committee must deal with logistical issues as the lack of resources such as vehicles and even uniforms is having a detrimental affect on police morale. For the last eight years the Committee has been dealing with matters that remain unresolved; he mentioned the national and provincial government blaming each other for policing problems. Last year all the provincial heads were called in to discuss these matters but it appears to have just been talk and no action.
Mr M Booi (ANC) suggested that it would be more effective to request all parties to forward matters they want raised in February, rather than have individual discussions now. The Chairperson agreed and gave parties until the Friday 31 January 2003 to comply.
Briefing on the Anti-Terrorism Bill
Mr Pierre van Wyk, a researcher with the South African Law Commission, assisted Dr P Jacobs: Chief Manager, Legal Component, Detective Services with the presentation.
Dr Jacobs explained that because of a lack of international agreement on what constitutes terrorism in this law only a terrorist act is defined. The result is that any organisation, whether legal or not, that commits any of these acts is guilty of a terrorist act. The proposed legislation deals both with national and international terrorist acts as required by international convention. International guidelines are given to ensure universality and compatibility in legislation, also to ensure compatible sanctions for offences.
Dr Jacobs said that much of the proposed legislation is similar to existing legislation and the influence of acts such as the Organised Crime Act can be seen in this legislation. He also explained the seriousness of terrorist hoaxes and the expenses and difficulty it creates for police. this bill makes hoaxes a serious offence and the perpetrators can even be held liable for related expenses incurred by the police.
Mr Booi asked about the use of technology such as cellular phones as he saw no mention thereof in the Bill. He also sought more clarity around extradition.
Mr van Wyk responded that matters of technology and the misuse thereof were sufficiently dealt with in other legislation. All countries are obliged under international convention to draw up similar laws to ensure universality in the fight against terrorism.
Dr Jacobs cautioned that nations are sovereign and regional groups and other organisations can only encourage nations to comply.
Mr van Wyk said any person may be brought before a judge in an investigative hearing and they would have to be forthcoming with information. The right to silence would only exist in such a matter is the right of legal confidentiality between lawyer and client and husband and wife. Dr Jacobs said the investigative hearing is merely an additional tool to gather information. However, information thus obtained cannot be used in court and this tool should be used selectively.
Mr Booi asked whether the Muslim community felt targeted by this legislation. How would the bill affect trade unions and their right to strike and partake in union activity?
Mr van Wyk said that motivation is irrelevant in this legislation, the action itself must be defined as an act of terror or not. He also said that lawful protest does not constitute terrorism.
A Committee member asked how the South African bill compares with other nations and he stated that 'often one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter.'
Mr van Wyk said that in the United Kingdom and the United States of America a foreigner can be detained indefinitely on a terrorism charge but not a citizen. In South Africa the bill is based on the Canadian model as well as the confines of the South African Constitution, but the bill is 'strong'.
Mr Booi asked who were protected persons in South Africa and whether Saddam Husain or Robert Mugabe fall under this category.
Dr Jacobs responded that diplomatic missions and matters relating to diplomatic immunity are dealt with in international conventions while the individual cases mentioned may be political matters.
The meeting was adjourned.
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