Mosque shooting – victim statements

Surviving victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings began to present their victim impact statements in court yesterday – the actual sentencing of Brenton Tarrant will happen on Thursday morning at the earliest.

The statements give victims a chance to have their say in front of the person who callously injured them or murdered their family members and friends.

Tributes and defiance in courtroom 12

Now they were having to make peace with the unimaginable, a heinous murderous attack on the holiest of days, a Friday, in the holiest of places, a mosque. Yesterday, the first wave of March 15 attack victims and families of the Shaheed, or martyrs, faced the gunman and told their stories.

Widows spoke of their struggles, parents recounted how their children keep asking where their grandfather is. Families paid tribute to their lost loved ones, their achievements, their courage and bravery.

Raw and painful testimonies showed how victims and families are still living this tragedy. Bodies still containing bullets or shrapnel – and always will. People who are waiting for their next surgery, or fighting ACC for help, who expect to live the rest of their lives in constant pain because of nerve damage.

Some are too mentally traumatised to work, and are struggling financially. Whose suffering is so close to the surface they’re easily angered and reduced to tears. They can’t sleep, and are paralysed by hopelessness and unimaginable grief. They dread Fridays.

It’s no wonder. They’re haunted by horrific images, flashbacks of the terrible attack.

But having their say in court gives them an opportunity to deal with their trauma and grief.

And to show their defiance and strength.

Khaled Majed Abd’el Rauf Alnobani saw people he knew get shot at An-Nur. He outlined his struggles with everyday life through an interpreter. As he finished, he pointed at the gunman and said in English: “We have become more united. You have made that, and thank you for that.”

Janna Ezat, whose son Hussein Al-Umari died at Masjid An-Nur, recounted the Islamic saying: If we are able to forgive, forgive. There was only one choice, said Ezat, a calligraphy artist. “I have decided to forgive you, Mr Tarrant, because I don’t have hate, I don’t have revenge.”

Al-Umari’s sister, Aya, said: “Now you’ve killed him I’ve turned to God and that’s made my faith in Islam even stronger.”

Marium Gul’s parents, Karam Bibi and Ghulam Hussain, and brother Muhammad Zeshan Raza, all died at the Linwood mosque. In a video statement recorded in Pakistan, Gul says the gunman should repent for what he’s done. “But more important is the realisation that hate towards Islam is wrong – Islam is a peaceful religion.”

These were ordinary people living in New Zealand who happen to be involved in one of many religions.

The vast majority of fellow New Zealanders have expressed sympathy and solidarity with the survivors.

Christchurch mosque attack victims address gunman: ‘We did not deserve your actions’

Victims of the Christchurch terror attack

Christchurch mosque shooter appears moved as victim’s mother offers forgiveness

Mosque survivor: ‘I have about 1000 bits of shrapnel throughout my body

Police managed the firearms buy back scheme well – Auditor-General

The Auditor-General has investigated the firearms buy-back and amnesty scheme that was put in place following the deaths of 51 people at the Christchurch mosque shootings, and says that the Police managed the scheme well, but advised that “more work should be done to find out what level of compliance with the scheme has been achieved and the extent to which it has made New Zealanders safer.”

The Minister of police summarised the findings of the report in Gun buyback well run, ongoing work needed

  • The buyback scheme was complex, challenging, and high risk, and Police managed it effectively,
  • 61,332 prohibited firearms were collected, destroyed, or modified, as at February 2020. Every single one of them was tightly traced and accounted for during the process.
  • Compensation of $102 million was paid and the final cost is forecast to be $120 million. Police took a principled and informed approach to compensation prices,
  • Police communicated well with the public, and treated gun owners with empathy and respect. There was a wide range of opportunities for people to hand in guns,
  • No one could be certain how many prohibited firearms existed before the law change. Police estimates, scrutinised by NZIER, suggested it could range from 55,000 to 240,000 firearms. NZIER advised part of the uncertainty was because guns could be easily modified with certain parts to make them a prohibited firearm,
  • There were deficiencies in how information was recorded in the past for military style semi-automatics, or E-category firearms. However Police were successful in locating them and are actively following up outstanding items,
  • The buyback scheme was supported by good systems and processes, with a robust level of oversight,
  • It cost more to administer the scheme than first anticipated. The initial estimate of $18 million grew to $35 million which Police met from internal budgets. The OAG found financial controls were appropriate and there was no wasteful spending,
  • More work is needed to process some applications. The OAG Report lists the number of outstanding applications as at February 2020, but the figures are now lower. Police are expected to keep publicly reporting on this till it is complete,
  • The scheme is important for the well-being of New Zealanders and Police should carry out a formal evaluation to look at compliance with firearms laws and improvements to public safety over time.

From the OAG report:

As part of the response to the attacks, Parliament passed the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Act 2019 on 11 April 2019. The Act prohibited firearms with the ability to cause harm in a rapid and highly destructive way from a distance.

The Act, supplemented by a set of associated statutory regulations, included a provision for a firearms buy-back and amnesty scheme (the scheme). The scheme allowed owners of newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts to hand them in to the New Zealand Police (the Police) in exchange for compensation. The purpose of the scheme was to improve public safety. We examined how effectively and efficiently the Police implemented the scheme.

We thought it important to provide the Police with real-time feedback so that they could make any improvements the scheme needed quickly. The Police were open to receiving and acting on Ernst & Young’s feedback and recommendations. I commend the Police for the open approach they took to this assurance work.

We make no comment on the policy decision to have a buy-back scheme because commenting on policy decisions is outside of my statutory mandate.

The Police managed the scheme effectively

Implementing the scheme was a complex, challenging, and high-risk task, and the Police had to do it in tight time frames.

The Police communicated with the public well

We found that the Police, assessors, and support staff treated people handing in firearms with empathy and respect. Firearms assessors were trained extensively to make fair decisions on compensating people for their firearms.

The scheme was supported by good systems and processes

The Police used a software system to register and track handed-in firearms and process compensation payments. This system was well designed and thoroughly tested before it went live. Although it mostly worked well, some internet connectivity issues caused delays at some local collection events.

Compensation payments did not exceed what was appropriated, and ACC’s contribution was compatible with its statutory functions

The 2019 Budget included an appropriation of $150 million in Vote Police to fund compensation payments for people handing in their prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts. The Police’s provisional information at 20 December 2019 shows that compensation payments to that date totalled $102 million.

Administering the scheme cost considerably more than estimated

In March 2019, the Police produced an initial estimate that administering the scheme would cost $18 million.

he Police now estimate that, once fully completed, administering the scheme will have cost up to $35 million. This includes costs of tracked staff time, contractors, and goods and services.

The Police need to finish implementing the scheme and make improvements to support their regulatory responsibilities

The Police still have much work to do to complete the scheme.

The process of implementing the scheme is ongoing and has proved more challenging than the Police anticipated. Some firearms still need modifications to comply with the new regulatory requirements, and the Police are still processing applications for endorsements to use newly prohibited firearms for a limited range of purposes. In my view, the Police should continue to report publicly on the performance of the scheme until they have completed this remaining work. The Police should also report to Parliament about the final outcomes of the scheme.

Importantly, the scheme is only one component of firearms regulation the Police have to implement. The Government introduced a Bill on 13 September 2019 that includes a wide range of controls on the use and possession of firearms. Parliament was considering this Bill at the time we were writing this report.

Concluding thoughts

The Police managed the scheme well. They were effective in providing people with a wide range of opportunities to hand in firearms and receive compensation, which was paid in a timely manner. The public was kept safe at local collection events, and the Police made considerable efforts to treat people with empathy and respect. However, there is still much work to be done, and the Police should continue to focus on completing the scheme.

We do not yet know how effective the scheme was in removing all newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts from the community. This is because there is no reliable picture of how many newly prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts remain in the community. Without this picture, I cannot determine whether implementing the scheme has delivered value for money.

In my view, given the high level of public interest and expenditure, and the importance of this scheme for the well-being of all New Zealanders, more work should be done to find out what level of compliance with the scheme has been achieved and the extent to which it has made New Zealanders safer.

Read the whole report (52 pages)

 

People directly affected by Christchurch mosque attacks offered permanent residency

Immigration New Zealand is offering a special permanent resident visa for anyone directly affected by the Christchurch mosque shootings, and also for their families.

Christchurch Response (2019) — permanent resident visa

From 24 April 2019, people present during the terrorist attacks in Christchurch and their immediate families can apply for a special permanent resident visa.

Who this visa is for

You can get this visa if you:

  • were present at the Masjid Al Noor or Linwood mosques while they were attacked on 15 March 2019, or
  • are the immediate family member of  someone who was present during the attacks.

You must also have been living in New Zealand on 15 March 2019.

When you apply, we confirm you were at one of the mosques by checking the official New Zealand Police lists of people who were present during the attacks.

There are some exceptions. We cannot give you this visa if you:

  • were a police first responder or emergency worker
  • were here as a tourist, or
  • were visiting for a short time.

Living in New Zealand

You are living in New Zealand if, on 15 March 2019, you held a resident, work or student visa. If you held another type of  visa, you need to show us that when the attacks happened, New Zealand was your main home.

Family members who are eligible

Some family members can get this visa if they were living in New Zealand on 15 March 2019. Which family members can apply depends on whether the family member present at the attacks was an adult or a dependent child.

Adults present at the attacks

If you are the family member of an adult who was at one of the mosques, you can get this visa if you are their:

  • partner — married, civil union or de facto
  • dependent child
  • partner’s dependent child
  • parent or parent’s partner.

Children present at the attacks

If you are the family member of a dependent child who was at one of the mosques, you can get this visa if you are their:

  • brother or sister, and still dependent on your parents
  • parent or
  • grandparent.

If you have a resident visa

If you already have a resident visa, you can apply for a permanent resident visa. You do not need to have held a resident visa for 2 years before you apply.

If you are here unlawfully

You cannot apply for a Christchurch Response (2019) Visa unless you have a valid New Zealand visa. If you are in New Zealand and do not have a valid visa, you may request a visa under Section 61 of the Immigration Act.

RNZ – Christchurch terror attack: Families offered option to stay permanently

A spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Canterbury, Jamaal Green, said this is a generous gesture and it speaks to the government’s response to this attack.

“When your ordinary situation and expectations have been shattered, you have a whole load of uncertainties.

“In removing that and in offering this, it stabilises it and takes away some of those issues that will concern many people”.

Mr Green said this will particularly help ease the burden for grieving widows who lost the main breadwinner of the family in the terror attack.

This is a sensible and compassionate option for those affected by the mosque shootings.