INDEPENDENT NEWS

Govt. Puts Prosecution Risks On NZ Peace Keepers

Published: Thu 24 Aug 2000 12:49 AM
GOVERNMENT PUTS PROSECUTION RISKS ON NEW ZEALAND PEACE KEEPERS
ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today that New Zealand peace keepers are exposed to politically driven prosecution under a Bill being pushed through today. This Government does as little as it can get away with for defence. So it is rushing this through without caring about the implications.
The Bill will give a new International Criminal Court powers to overrule our courts. “It can try New Zealanders again if it doesn’t like the outcome of a New Zealand trial. It can apply its own ‘law’.
“That law breaches other basic rights in New Zealand law including the right to hear and test the evidence of witnesses against you.
“The US strongly opposes the Court. The Select Committee considering this Bill did not tell Parliament of that opposition.
“The US is justifiably concerned that prosecutions will be misused by enemies to harass the military of countries that believe in the Rule of Law.
“The new Court will be controlled by majority vote of countries that sign up. Mr Franks explained “Many are not democracies. Others see justice as politics under another label, like Robert Mugabe”.
“If this law had applied while New Zealand soldiers were in Malaya they could be facing prosecution for performing their duties. For example, we cut off supplies to terrorists by containing potential sympathisers in fenced villages. That could now be a ‘crime against humanity’.
A Bill before the US legislature would cut off US military assistance to countries which join the Court. That US Bill would prohibit the US from helping to rescue New Zealanders from misuse of prosecution powers, if New Zealand joins the court.
The International Court can impose fines and make New Zealand pay costs and reparations. “Some of the definitions of ‘war crimes’ are so wide that they could catch things many decent New Zealanders have done. Even our Army Cadet School in Waiouru might have been a crime, because it enlisted boys under 15”.
“The Select Committee should have been informed on all the issues. National members are as culpable as Labour. They should have asked to hear from New Zealand soldiers with direct war experience.
“Soldiers will be exposed while the politicians who send them on missions can hide from the risks. Lives will be lost if sensible military decisions are delayed by soldiers seeking legal back-cover, to ensure they are not left on their own to face the prosecutors.
This needs far wider public discussion before New Zealand promises to hand over its own people into the power of foreign lawyers,” said Stephen Franks.
ENDS

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