Parliament passes Anti-Terrorism Act as matter of urgency

WINDHOEK: Members of Parliament (MP) urgently passed the amended Prevention and Combating of Terrorism Activities’ Act, Act 12 of 2012 on Tuesday to avoid a variety of sanctions which may directly affect the stability of the country’s economy.

The Act was rushed through the National Assembly, and parliamentarians were not even allowed to read and/or thoroughly debate the amendments to the provisions of the Act, which was tabled by Deputy Minister of Safety and Security Erastus Uutoni in Parliament yesterday.

Uutoni said Namibia is expected to be reviewed again from 22 June 2014 by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in France. Lawmakers were thus expected to speedily consider the amendments as a matter of urgency by Tuesday.

“During 2010, the FATF notified the Namibian authorities that the country has been subjected to a prima facie review, as insufficient progress was made by the country in addressing the recommendations contained in the 2005 Eastern and Southern African Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) report,’ he explained.

The minister furthermore informed the House that failure to adequately address these concerns in line with the agreed action plan may result in Namibia being listed as a non-cooperative jurisdiction, whose financial system poses a risk to the international financial system.

Listing may also result in Namibia being subjected to a variety of sanctions which may affect the country’s trade relations, correspondent banking relationships, foreign direct investments and the availability of funds for Namibia’s foreign missions.

Meanwhile, before the amended Act was passed, some opposition politicians expressed disappointment at how quickly the Anti-Terrorism Act had to sail through Parliament, suggesting that it was important that the Act be discussed first.

Swanu of Namibia president Usutuaije Maamberua was one of the opposition leaders who wanted to know from the Ministry of Safety and Security why there were delays in tabling the Act on time.

Presidential Affairs’ Minister and Attorney-General Albert Kawana, however, explained to the MPs that in terms of the provisions of Chapter 7 of the United Nations (UN) Charter, any decision taken under it, whether a state is a member of the UN or not, has to comply with this charter.

The charter sets out the UN Security Council’s powers to maintain peace and allows the Council to determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and to take military and nonmilitary action to restore international peace and security.

Chapter 7 deals with action with respect to threats to peace, breaches of peace and acts of aggression.

The Act seeks Government’s approval to grant State security agencies and the judiciary sweeping rights to order the freezing and forfeiture of assets belonging to terror suspects in the context of protecting individual, national and international security from terror threats.

It also categorises the illegal use of nuclear substances and radioactive material in terror attacks as acts as nuclear terrorism, which can be prosecuted in Namibian courts.

The amended Act seeks to also clarify the Namibian definition of terrorism, criminalise its funding and set appropriate penalties as determined by its national security priorities.

Among other criminal acts, the Act defines kidnapping and the taking of hostages as acts of terrorism.