Thursday, July 28, 2005

House approves new anti-terrorism laws

The House of Assembly yesterday passed new anti-terrorism laws that mirror existing legislation in the UK except for one small, yet highly significant word: Or.

The section of the Terrorism Ordinance 2005 amended by the House during the closing debate of the budget session is entitled ‘Inciting terrorism outside Gibraltar’.

It states that a person would commit an offence if he incited someone to carry out an act of terrorism, “wholly or partly outside” Gibraltar, involving a murder, a wounding, a poisoning or an explosion.

But the section, which initially followed word for word the UK legislation, included a clause that excluded “any person acting on behalf of, or holding office under, the Crown” from criminal liability.

In simple terms, a person acting on government orders or employed by the government could not be charged under this section of the Terrorism Ordinance 2005 for inciting terrorism wholly or partly outside Gibraltar.

Peter Caruana, the Chief Minister, was only half-joking when he told the House that this clause hinted at covert British Government activity he would rather not contemplate.

“It’s the closest I’ve seen to an admission of things that I’ve always thought were officially denied,” he said.

But it was the word “or” that most concerned the Chief Minister and the House during yesterday’s debate. The worry was that the language in the UK legislation implied that any person “holding office under” the Crown – a civil servant in other words – could not be held criminally liable under this section of the law, even if that person was acting of his own accord and not under Crown orders.

“That means that provided they hold office under the Crown, it’s OK [to incite terrorism] even if they are acting on a frolic of their own,” Mr Caruana argued. “It can’t be right,” he added. “It’s absurd.”

He proposed, and the House accepted, an amendment that changed the word “or” for the word “and”, leaving the final version of the clause to read:

“Nothing in this section imposes criminal liability on any person acting on behalf of, and holding office under, the Crown.”

In other words, it is permissible under Gibraltar’s new anti-terrorism laws for a Crown employee acting on Crown orders to incite an act of terrorism wholly or partly outside Gibraltar.

Sanctions on Former Yugoslavia

The House of Assembly also unanimously approved a second motion in support of the implementation of a mandate of the international tribunal providing for economic sanctions in the form of criminal penalties to give practical effect to European Council regulations in respect of the former Yugoslavia, was also approved unanimously.

This referred to the flagrant violation of humanitarian law in Yugoslavia that constituted a threat to peace and were aimed at the restoration of peace. A similar text in respect of Burma was also unanimously approved.

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