IT is now illegal to leave TT to travel to other countries and engage in terrorist activities after the Anti-Terrorism Act became law on Friday when President Paula-Mae Weekes assented to it.
At the media briefing after the PNM general council meeting, acting Attorney General Fitzgerald Hinds said the bill became law after its passage in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Act contains comprehensive measures which include criminalisation of travel for the purpose of committing terrorist acts and deeming these people as foreign terrorist fighters, redefining terrorism to broaden the scope of an act to include actions taken outside of TT, allowing the national security minister to designate travel to a particular area as travel for a terrorist act, a clear mechanism for TT to propose names of suspected terrorists to the United Nations Security Council and provisions to address risks posed to children, including recruiting and taking them into conflict zones.
Before it was passed in both houses, the Government and Opposition were deadlocked over one of the clauses of the bill, where the office of the Attorney General is tasked with handling civil proceedings, while the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was responsible for the criminal proceedings. The Opposition wanted the DPP to handle both aspects which the Government stated that it was unconstitutional to do so.
The law which gave birth to the Anti-Terrorism Act was passed in 2005 and 13 years later the 2018 version is now law. There were amendments to the existing legislation annually between 2010 and 2015.
On Saturday Hinds said the law now places TT in a “better place” with the country’s international partners. Asked if the State can now use information previously gathered to bring criminal charges against citizens, Hinds said that was a matter for law enforcement as the legislators already did their part. He added that compatible legislation will be brought to Parliament next month which will target the source of wealth and whether it can be proven it was legally obtained.
During the debates Attorney General Faris Al Rawi warned that if the bill collapsed, TT will lose corresponding banking opportunities as well as face being blacklisted by some 190 countries. Hinds reiterated what Al Rawi said during his debate saying that the law is connected to Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meetings which will be held in Miami and Paris later this year. Al-Rawi said then that FATF is evaluating TT’s action plan to deal with terrorism and terrorist financing and the upcoming meetings would have been more severe if the law was not passed.