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Former ISIS man needs to be brought back to NZ, says law professor

07 March 2019 - By Craig Stephen

A law professor says ISIS recruit Mark Taylor should not lose his New Zealand citizenship even though he has clearly and deliberately acted against New Zealand’s interests.

Alexander Gillespie of the University of Waikato also warns that Taylor could end up being tried in a “quasi-legal way” by the United States if the New Zealand government does not try to get hold of him.  

Taylor is being held by Kurdish forces in northern Syria after leaving ISIS. The US government declared him a global terrorist in 2015 after he appeared in an ISIS propaganda video and encouraged attacks on New Zealand and Australia.

Section 16(b) of New Zealand’s Citizenship Act 1977 allows the Minister of Internal Affairs to deprive a person of their New Zealand citizenship if they have “voluntarily exercised any of the privileges or performed any of the duties of another nationality or citizenship possessed by him in a manner that is contrary to the interests of New Zealand”.

Serious crimes against New Zealand

Dr Gillespie says Taylor has committed serious crimes which he needs to answer for in New Zealand.

“You could argue quite easily that was he acting against New Zealand’s interests. He called for terror attacks against Australia and New Zealand on Anzac Day in a propaganda video. So, even if he wasn’t fighting directly against New Zealand, he was trying to instigate others to fight. He has committed high crimes that he has to answer for. I do believe he is our responsibility,” he says.

“Anyone who is a threat to the international community and holds a New Zealand passport then we need to pull them back here, not to put them on the dole but to face court and jail if found guilty of violating both domestic laws, and possibly abetting in crimes of an international nature.

“He is very much someone who needs to face trial and be brought to justice in New Zealand. But my concern is that there is no political impetus to bring him back and he will just go into the wind and he will end up in the next war zone.

“Although our government has made clear that if he could make it to a New Zealand embassy and ask for help, that some form of assistance might be given, the chances of Taylor walking through the Middle East to find the nearest embassy, as opposed to the next combat zone, are not great.”

Not your average jihadi

Dr Gillespie also says Mark Taylor shouldn’t be seen as someone being led astray and a fool.

“There’s a lot of people who are trying to portray this guy as a bumbling idiot but, actually, he is someone who has survived five years in a very difficult war zone.

“He isn’t just your average jihadi, he’s on been designated by the Americans as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. This means that the Americans believe that, due to the crimes he may have committed or the risk he continues to represent, they will want to talk to him. The risk here, if we don’t bring him home,  is that he, like many other post-ISIS combatants, could end up in some kind of  quasi-legal context – kind of like Guantanamo 2.

“We need to get hold of him as our responsilibilty to the international community. He’s our problem.”

Dr Gillespie also notes that under the United Nations’ 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness – which New Zealand is a signatory to – no one should be left without nationality.  Even without this Convention, he says, New Zealand remains bound by basic human rights law that everyone is entitled to nationality, and cannot be, in essence, disowned if they have nowhere else to go - no matter how dislikeable they are.

The UNHCR, the United Nations' refugee agency, says the exact number of stateless people isn't known but it estimates there are many millions globally - of which about one-third are children.

Last updated on the 16th September 2019