International Non-Aggression and Lawful Use of Force Bill



It is disappointing that National is not supporting my colleague Kennedy Graham’s International Non-Aggression and Lawful Use of Force Bill being referred to a select committee. The very questions and criticisms raised by the Minister of Defence, Wayne Mapp, in respect of the bill are the very issues that should be tested at a select committee.

He said, for example, that this bill would have prevented New Zealand troops from being involved in the International Force for East Timor operation in 1999 and in the Solomon Islands. If members look at, for example, the International Force for East Timor operation, they will see that it went in only after an agreement with the Indonesian Government; it did not take on the Indonesian Government militarily. That can hardly be considered aggression, and this bill would determine it not to be aggression. If that operation had been tested legally, then the sovereignty of the people of East Timor would have been factored in. Their sovereignty has now been reinstated and was never cancelled by the Indonesian occupation from 1975 to 1999.

The fundamental importance of this bill—it is laid out quite clearly in the explanatory note—relates to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of nations, which have been frustrated many times by the aggressive actions of, usually, bigger powers. Wayne Mapp referred to Nuremburg, where those who had committed the grave crimes of aggression and genocide—Nazi Germany under Hitler—were brought to book for those crimes. The member accepts that. It was a war in which New Zealand troops died fighting aggression and defending people from aggression.

Mr Mapp is worried about the question of Afghanistan. I ask him what is wrong with testing the decision of the Government to send the SAS to Afghanistan. I ask him what is wrong with testing that decision legally against standards of aggression, and against standards that have been previously applied in the example he gave, because there are genuine standards.

Mr Mapp said that leaders of our Government do things in good faith and that they should not then be subject to the law. That does not apply in any other area of our Parliament. Sure, people do good things in good faith, and nobody denies that, but we must obey the law when we act. This bill would benefit from being tested at the select committee. There is recognition from Wayne Mapp that the world is moving towards universal codification of aggression under the Statute of Rome, under the processes of the International Criminal Court. Why should we not test where we are going on that and what it would mean for our domestic legal process? As Kennedy Graham said, there is nothing wrong with being a little bit ahead in terms of an application of international laws into our domestic jurisdiction. It can help that process. It can inform the process of the world putting aggression more clearly under the Statute of Rome.

The other point that I think is very important is that as a small nation we are often under pressure from bigger countries. Historically we were under pressure from the United States to commit troops to the Viet Nam War. About 40 New Zealand troops died in that war, and many have been scarred by that war. That was partly because of pressure. Is it not good to have a law that protects and helps? Keith Holyoake, the Prime Minister at the time, was not keen on going into Viet Nam. He did it in a minimal way, and historians have proved that. It would have been good if he had a law at that stage stating that troops could not be sent unless conditions were met. Those conditions would not have been met, and, therefore, New Zealand troops would not have died in that way. As Kennedy Graham said, the antinuclear law—written down in law—protects our Government.


House of Representatives