In the aftermath of a controversy which brewed, the APNU+AFC government yesterday announced public consultations on its anti-terrorism bill.
An advisory from the Minister of Legal Affairs said that Attorney General Basil Williams will be holding public consultations on the Anti-Terrorism and Terrorist Related Activities Bill 2015 for stakeholders on Monday, December 28, 2015 at 10:00 hours at the Arthur Chung Convention Centre, Liliendaal, East Coast, Demerara.
The move comes after the government backed away from attempting to take the bill through all of its stages at last Thursday’s sitting of the National Assembly.
That intention had drawn sharp criticism from the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) which had said that passage of the bill in that form “would allow the State to perpetrate serious violations of due process and fair trial rights and should not be allowed to pass into law”.
At Thursday’s sitting, Williams defended his record of consultation on the bill but in the end the Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo announced that it would be deferred for further consultation.
The bill is also down for debate on the Parliamentary Order Paper for the December 30th sitting of the National Assembly. It is unclear whether the bill will be taken through all of its stages on Wednesday or whether it would be sent to a Select Committee for further deliberations.
Well over 30 amendments had been submitted by the GHRA to the Attorney General but none was incorporated into the bill, according to the statement from the human rights body two Wednesdays ago.
“The fact that none of the GHRA recommendations was accepted in the Anti-Terrorism consultation would have been defensible if there were evidence of amendments from elsewhere having improved the original draft.
In the absence of such evidence, an explanation of what ‘consultation’ means for the Attorney-General’s Chambers in particular would be helpful”, the human rights body said in the statement.
A person convicted of a terrorist act that has resulted in the death of another person would be sentenced to death under the proposed legislation.
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.