Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 26 August 2019

New Zealand orders top-level inquiry into Christchurch terror attack

Jacinda Ardern says the country’s highest form of investigation is appropriate for "matters of the gravest public importance"

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a press conference in Wellington, New Zealand, Monday, March 25, 2019. AP
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a press conference in Wellington, New Zealand, Monday, March 25, 2019. AP

New Zealand's prime minister has announced a top-level inquiry into the circumstances around the massacre of 50 people in two Christchurch mosques.

A royal commission of inquiry "will look at what could have or should have been done to prevent the attack" on March 15, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

Ms Ardern said the country’s highest form of investigation was appropriate for "matters of the gravest public importance."

The independent investigation – which will report to the country’s governor general – will look into the availability of semi-automatic weapons in the country, the role of social media in allowing extremist ideology to flourish, and whether intelligence and security services could have done more to prevent the attack.

"There are questions I too have asked and want answers to as well," Ms Ardern said.

These included whether law enforcement and security agencies ought to have been aware of the gunman. A 28-year-old Australian white supremacist has been charged with murder for the March 15 attacks.

"What I can say today is there will be a focus on whether our intelligence community was concentrating its resources appropriately and whether there were any reports that could or should have alerted them to this attack," she said.

The inquiry’s terms of reference and the timeframe for it to complete its investigation will be confirmed in the next two weeks.

The government has already announced changes to gun laws, including banning military style semi-automatic rifles like those used by the gunman.

New Zealand’s chief censor has declared a livestream video of the attack and a manifesto published by the gunman to be objectionable material, making it illegal to share or download either publication.

Two men have already been charged with sharing the video and both have been denied bail ahead of their next court appearances. One is an 18-year-old student with interim name suppression, the other is a neo-Nazi with a prior conviction for offensive behaviour towards Muslims.

Internet giants Facebook and YouTube have been criticised for allowing the livestream of the terrorist attack to be broadcast and re-posted.

An organisation in France announced on Monday it would sue the two companies. The French Council of the Muslim Faith said it was suing the French branches of Facebook and YouTube for "broadcasting a message with violent content abetting terrorism, or of a nature likely to seriously violate human dignity and liable to be seen by a minor," according to the complaint.

Facebook said it "quickly" removed the live video showing the killing but the 17 minute livestream was shared extensively on YouTube and Twitter, with both platforms scrambling to remove repostings of the video.

Updated: March 25, 2019 06:52 PM

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