Terror in Chch

Royal commission terms please Muslim leaders

The Government has appointed Supreme Court Justice Sir William Young to lead a Royal Commission into the Christchurch Terror Attacks, and said it expects a report by December 10.

The Royal Commission’s terms of reference have also been published. It will consider factors relating to the alleged gunman’s activities before the attack, including his time in Australia, his travel internationally, how he obtained a gun license, what information relevant state sector agencies had about him, and whether more could have been done to prevent the attack.

The alleged gunman’s use of social media and other online media will be covered, but the inquiry will not look at the role of social media more generally as organisations outside the state sector, including media organisations, have been specifically ruled out of the terms of reference. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there was an expectation the Royal Commission would give a view on social media’s use as a tool, but wider issues around social media was “an issue that sits with us in central government”.

Muslim community welcome consultation

Leaders from the Muslim community had been asked for input into formulating the terms of reference and were broadly pleased with its outcome. 

Anjum Rahman of the Islamic Women’s Council said she was felt the terms of reference reflected some of the input of her organisation.

“I’m really happy that they’re wide enough to cover the kind of areas that we thought should be considered - we think we’ve been heard in that sense,” Rahman said. 

“We feel happy they’ve got a judge from the highest court in the land,” she said. 

Dr Anwar Gheni of the Federation of Islamic Associations was also pleased with the terms of reference, saying the inquiry covered the areas the Federation had been consulted on. 

Both Rahman and Gheni expected to be called to give evidence to the commission. 

One area that could cause difficulty will be the involvement of the security services - the GCSB and the SIS. Their involvement will mean the inquiry will handle information of a sensitive and classified nature, possibly including information from New Zealand’s international Five Eyes partners. 

Asked whether this would mean there would be two reports: one classified and one public report, Ardern responded: 

“[Justice Young] will be dealing with classified information, but there will also be a public expectation around there being a public-facing report”.

She said Justice Young would have “appropriate” security clearances to handle any sensitive information that came before the inquiry.

$8 million cost

The Commission has been budgeted at $8.2 million. Ardern said that if the budget were found to be a “limiting factor” on the efficacy of the inquiry, Young could request additional finance, as is the case with other inquiries.

But the total cost to the state could be more, factoring in costs to other agencies. The New Zealand Defence Force, for example, spent nearly $2 million on its response to the Operation Burnham inquiry. 

Other outstanding concerns include where the commission will meet, which has yet to be decided. 

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