The delayed findings of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch mosque shootings will finally be released this afternoon and Muslim leaders hope its recommendations will help prevent future terror attacks.
Almost 21 months since the worst terror attack on New Zealand soil, the contents of the Royal Commission’s 792-page report, examining how the tragedy was able to occur, can be publicly revealed at 2pm.
NZME journalists in Wellington and Christchurch will be given advanced looks of the potentially-historic findings at secured “lock-up” events from 10am to digest and analyse its contents.
The Herald understands it’s likely that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will speak at an embargoed press conference at the lock-ups, along with Andrew Little as minister in charge of New Zealand’s spy agencies, the Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), Police Minister Poto Williams, Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi, and local MP Megan Woods.
It’s not clear if the chief executives of NZSIS and GCSB will be in attendance.
The inquiry, chaired by Commissioner Sir William Young, has been investigating the Australian mass killer Brenton Tarrant’s activities before the March 15, 2019, attacks, including his travel in New Zealand and around the world, how he obtained firearms, his use of social media, and what relevant state sector agencies knew about him before the attacks.
It also looked at what actions state agencies took, what more they could have done, and whether some of them, such as intelligence agencies, were too busy looking at Islamic fundamentalism at the expense of the threat of white nationalism.
It’s expected that the report – which took into account around 400 interviews, including one with Tarrant who was jailed for life without parole in August – will include many recommendations aimed at avoiding future similar tragedies.
Ardern met with survivors in Christchurch on Sunday ahead of the report’s release.
After the meeting, she promised victims they will see “immediate action” from the Government.
“We have said to them: there are some areas they’ll see us respond immediately [to] and others that we will need to come back and work through in more detail, and take a bit more time on.”
But Ardern said one of the main things she wanted the victims to know is that “there will be accountability on our side in terms of delivering on the Royal Commission [report]”.
“I do want to make sure that after such a hefty piece of work … that we make sure that we’re acting upon it.”
Islamic groups have called on the Government to appoint a dedicated minister to oversee the report’s recommendations.
After Sunday’s meeting with Ardern, Muslim chaplain Ibrahim Abdelhalim said he was satisfied that the report brings “a good end” to a “very hard time”.
“But we still have a big responsibility for ourselves now to … learn a lesson from what happened, to prevent and stop anything happening again in the future. This is very important,” he said.
A spokesman for the Muslim Association of Canterbury and Al Noor Mosque hopes the report will result in the Government addressing “the institutionalised racism and prejudicial practices within the public and private sectors, in particular the intelligence services”.
“The way the Muslim community and the Islamic faith have been misrepresented in our age and many ages before us, is a deep wound that will require a concentrated effort to reconcile,” he said.
“There needs to be a strong investment into nurturing the relationships between Muslim communities and the wider society of New Zealand.”
The spokesman added: “We have hope that our Government, and in particular the intelligence services will be prepared for a paradigm shift in the way that it has dealt with the Muslim community before the March 15 terrorist attacks.”
Evidence given by ministers and public sector bosses to the inquiry will be suppressed for 30 years. The interview with Tarrant will never be released out of concern it could inspire and assist further attacks.
National security was cited as a reason for the suppressions. Full publication of the evidence could provide a “how-to manual for future terrorists”, the commissioners said. Those concerns would likely have “dissipated” in 30 years, they said.
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