Changes will give courts a say on terror decisions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 12:00am

The Chief Executive will need to seek court consent before labelling a person or a group as a terrorist, the Secretary for Security confirmed yesterday.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee briefed lawmakers on a series of amendments to the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Bill in the wake of concerns over some of its provisions, which have been called draconian.

The bill has been criticised for loopholes that can allow innocent people to be accused easily.

Others fear that stringent disclosure requirements would affect confidentiality in the legal and financial professions.

Mrs Ip said that under the proposed amendments to the bill, the Chief Executive would need to seek approval from the Court of First Instance to have a person or a group not already designated a terrorist by the United Nations Security Council cited as such in the Government Gazette.

Those wrongly named as terrorists would be able to apply to the Court of Appeal to have their names cleared. Those who had their assets seized would be entitled to seek compensation. Changes will be made to relax the clauses governing disclosure of potential terrorist funds or assets. One amendment requires anyone who knows of or suspects terrorist links to funds to disclose the information. The present bill requires disclosure even if there are only grounds to suspect.

'Even though we require comments from the Judiciary on the naming of possible terrorists, we are willing to continue to accept comments from legislators and consider changes accordingly,' Mrs Ip said.

While legislators welcomed the changes, legal sector representative Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said there were still grey areas to be addressed concerning the responsibility of lawyers in dealing with terrorists.