A member of the Tongan Royal Family has suggested executing those responsible for last week's riot:
"The people involved should be round up and shot really, we have the death penalty here in Tonga," says Kololiana 'Otuangu Naufahu, a first cousin to the Tongan king.
Indeed they do - but not for arson, or wilful damage, or property crime. According to the Tongan Criminal Offences Act, the only crimes carrying the death penalty are murder and treason. While six people died in the riots, they appear to have been rioters caught within burning buildings. It may therefore be difficult to prove the intent required for murder (assuming they weren't the people who set the fires in the first place). Treason OTOH consists of rebelling against, attempting to depose, or levying war against the monarch. In a sense, that's exactly what the rioters were doing - but at the same time it is a highly political crime, and charging people with treason and threatening to execute them is not going to solve the problem. Rather, it will be tantamount to a declaration of war against the pro-democracy movement - hardly a recipe for a peaceful solution.
Needless to say, I do not think that New Zealand Police should be cooperating with the Tongan regime on a death penalty case. We have a practical ban on extradition in such cases, and this should extend to police cooperation as well. The New Zealand police should not be helping foreign states to murder people, "lawfully" or otherwise.
Meanwhile, Three News tonight reported (sorry, no link) that two of the hundred or so people detained by the Tongan authorities in connection with the riots had died in custody. This stinks to high heaven, and raises the suspicion that the monarchy is now murdering its opponents. Is this really the sort of regime we want to support?
I don't think it is. As I said in the case of Iraq, a regime which institutionalises murder, or which murders its political opponents does not deserve our support. Tonga has been de facto abolitionist, and has not killed anyone for 25 years. If that is going to change, and if they are going to start legally or illegally killing people to keep the nobles in power, we should withdraw our support and leave them to their fate.
Update: (Hopefully) fixed link to Extradition Act.