A person convicted of a terrorist act that has resulted in the death of another person would be sentenced to death under proposed anti-terrorism legislation.
The Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist Related Activities Bill 2015 was laid in the National Assembly on Thursday. Government had initially wanted to suspend parliamentary rules to allow it to be debated and passed on the same day but backed down following an outcry.
The bill seeks to criminalise terrorism in its various forms and to provide for the detection, prevention, prosecution and punishment of persons involved in terrorist activities in and outside Guyana.
Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams tabled the bill and he argued that there were “consultations” on the bill. In the National Assembly, he read out a list of persons and organisations that were contacted via email on the bill. However, concern has been expressed at the nature of the “consultation.”
The Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), the business community as well as the opposition PPP had expressed concern at the rush to pass the bill.
The GHRA had said that rushing the anti-terrorism bill through the House cannot be justified. “In its present state this Bill would allow the State to perpetrate serious violations of due process and fair trial rights and should not be allowed to pass into law,” it had declared.
The bill was not made available to the general public and only after it was laid in the House on Thursday it was posted on the website of the Official Gazette.
The 107-page bill sets out penalties for committing a terrorist act, harbouring, accommodating, and offering financial support to a terrorist, among other offences. Many of the penalties are imprisonment for not less than 15 years and no more than 20 years. However, for a terrorist act that results in the death of another person, the penalty is death.
Clause three establishes those acts which are exempted from being termed as terrorist acts.
Clause four deals with a person who directly or indirectly gives financial or other related assistance to anyone intending to use such assistance for the purpose of committing a terrorist act, Clause five makes provision for the punishment of any person who makes available property to be used in committing a terrorist act and Clause six penalizes persons who use property for the commission of terrorists acts.
Clause seven establishes provision to penalize the arrangements for the retention or control of terrorist property, Clause eight makes provision to penalize persons dealing with the acquisition and concealment of terrorist property while Clause nine makes provision for the conviction of any person who solicits or gives support for the commission of terrorist acts.
Clause 10 makes provision to criminalize as a terrorist act the harbouring of persons who commit terrorist acts while Clause 11 makes it an offence for persons who knowingly offer to provide or provide any explosives or other lethal devices
Clause 12 deals with the recruitment of persons for terrorist purposes, Clause 13 provides for the penalization of persons who provide instructions or training to any person for carrying out a terrorist act and Clause 14 deals with persons who incite others to commit a terrorist act.
Clause 15 makes it an offence for persons who make available facilities in support of terrorist acts, Clause 15 makes it an offence to supply weapons to be used for the purpose of committing a terrorist act while Clause 17 makes it an offence for any person to distribute or make available messages to the public intending to incite the commission of a terrorist offence as set out in the Bill.
Under Clause 18, it is an offence for one person to agree with another person or other person to commit terrorist acts, Clause 19 criminalizes the planning and preparation for the commission of terrorist acts and Clause 20 establishes the complicity and attempt to commit terrorist acts as offences.
Clause 21 establishes as offences those acts intended to endanger the safety of maritime navigation and fixed platforms.
Clause 22 deals with offences related to terrorism such as internationally delivering or placing or detonating explosives or other lethal device while Clause 23 is concerned with the handling of radioactive material and devices and creates, for instance for the offence of the theft of radioactive material, a penalty of not less than 15 years nor more than 20 year imprisonment.
Clause 24 deals with the unlawful use or release of radioactive material or device with intent to cause death or damage to any person or the environment while Clause 25 deals with the damage to any nuclear facility.
Clause 26 makes offences hoaxes involving noxious substances or things or explosives or other lethal material while Clause 27 makes provision for the protection of internationally protected persons.
Clause 28 establishes as an offence the taking of hostages and Clause 29 criminalises the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
Clause 30 deals with the hijacking of aircraft, Clause 31 makes provision for offences against the safety of civil aviation and Clause 32 provides for offences against the safety at airports serving civil aviation.
Clause 33 makes provision for detention orders where a police officer may apply to a judge in chambers for such, Clause 34 gives powers to the relevant authority to apply to a Judge in Chambers for an order to gather information from named persons while Clause 35 deals with the jurisdiction of the High Court of the Supreme Court of Judicature in relation to any of the offences referred to in the bill.
Clause 36 deals with procedural measures for investigation where a foreign national is alleged to have committed an offence set out in the bill while Clause 37 makes provision for the applicability of international law to any trial as they relate to terrorist acts.
Clause 38 makes provision for the right of communication and visit in relation to a person taken into custody, Clause 39 deals with the issue of extradition from Guyana of a fugitive offender charged with committing an offence set out in this Bill.
Clause 40 relates to the certification of any substance as harmful by an appropriate authority while Clause 41 makes provision for the exchange of information relating to terrorist acts.
Clause 42 caters for the provision of Treaty to be used as basis for extradition while Clause 43 caters for the provision of Treaty to be used as basis for Mutual Assistance in Criminal matters.
Clause 44 addresses extradition requests for acts committed outside the territory of the requesting state.
Clause 45 provides that offences set out in the bill are not deemed to be offences of a political character while Clause 46 provides that where there is no decision to extradite the alleged offender the Director of Public Prosecutions decides the course of prosecution.
Clause 47 states the applicability of the general provisions of laws and treaties in force relating to mutual assistance while Clause 48 is concerned with the transfer of detained persons for the purposes of identification and testimony to a foreign State.
Clause 49 states for the purpose of extradition and mutual assistance the offences set out in the Bill are not regarded as political while Clause 50 mentions that there is no obligation to extradite if the request was made for the purpose of prosecution on account of gender, race, religion, ethnic origin or political opinion.
Clause 51 provides for the notification by the Minister to other foreign interested States while Clause 52 provides for notification by the Minister to relevant international organizations of the outcome of proceedings concerning offences.
Clause 53 makes provision for duty to disclose information relating to offences and terrorists acts which will assist in the prosecution of terrorist acts, Clause 54 imposes a duty to disclose information relating to property used for commission of offences set out in the Bill and Clause 55 deals with the duty to disclose information relating to passengers of aircraft and vessels.
Clause 56 repeals the amendment to the Criminal Law (Offences) Act by the Criminal Law Offences (Amendment) Act 2002.
Clause 57 makes provision for the Minister to have the power to make subsidiary legislation in respect of all matters for which such legislation is required or authorised to be made by this Act.
Clauses 58 and 59 seek to give the force of law to certain specific articles of the United Nations Convention against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances 1988, the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism 1999 and the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols thereto 2004. In addition the President may by order declare any other article of the afore-mentioned conventions to have the force of law.
The GHRA had expressed concern about some of the provisions of the bill and had argued that some of the draconian features in the proposed legislation are not justified. It had singled out the “vague definitions which allow a wide range of acts to be considered ‘support’ for terrorism, or fall under the ‘duty of disclosure’.”
The GHRA had said that the definition of “terrorist act” in the bill would include an act which is “likely to cause prejudice to national security,” and “is intended to compel a Government to do or refrain from doing an act or to intimidate the public or a section thereof.”
“The language regarding “prejudice to national security” is also too vague and capable of abuse. The additional inclusion of acts which are likely merely “to cause damage to property” is also unacceptably vague,” it had said.