Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fuck Tonga

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.


And as an interesting question: would s8 BORA (which affirms the right to life) prevent the police from cooperating on death penalty cases? The BORA applies to all acts by the executive, without geographical limits (s3); the question would be whether the police's actions in investigating a crime in Tonga contributed significantly to or posed a significant threat of a deprivation of life, and whether (in the context of a monarchy seemingly out for revenge against its critics) the death penalty or the Tongan government's use of it could be considered to be "consistent with the principles of fundamental justice". Many New Zealanders would answer "no" to the latter as a matter of principle, which means it likely hinges on the first question: how much help is too much?

IMHO, the answer is "any". Just as we should not turn over people for execution, we should not be turning over evidence in any case without an assurance that the death penalty will not be pursued.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/22/2006 01:40:00 AM

S 8 - no.

The right to life in BoRA expressly allows for the death penalty:

"No one shall be deprived of life except on such grounds as are established by law and are consistent with the principles of fundamental justice."

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 11/22/2006 08:27:00 AM

From your "practical ban" link:
"A copy of, or extract from, an Australian document that is, by reason of its public nature, admissible in evidence in Australia merely on its production from the proper custody, is admissible in evidence if—"

I think you want Section 48(1)(b)(ii) of the Extradition Act 1999, "If the court is satisfied that ... (b)It appears to the court that ... (ii)The person has been sentenced to death or may be sentenced to death ...".

Posted by Anonymous : 11/22/2006 10:20:00 AM

Tonga's Chief Justice is New Zealander Tony Ford. I really don't think he's likely to be influenced by the hysterical calls of a remote Noble.

George Speight was facing the death penalty in Fiji over his role in the coup; the death penalty is a common penalty for treason. But I think you're going overboard to suggest that a highly respected New Zealand judge would convict a bunch of drunken, violent hooligans for treason.

Posted by Insolent Prick : 11/22/2006 10:22:00 AM

Graeme: Theoretically. OTOH it doesn't just allow any use of the death penalty; the final clause sets some strict limits on methods and the way in which sentence is arrived at. It would be contrary to s8 for example to turn someone over on a death penalty case to Texas, or to anywhere where they faced a kangaroo court or one where significant pressure was being applied to secure convictions and executions.

As for the general point, Butler and Butler notes "As to whether the death penalty could even be a deprivation of life consistent with fundamental justice, it can be anticipated that the growing abolitionist trend would significantly affect analysis".

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/22/2006 10:23:00 AM

Kietsie: Hmmm - that was the right URL last night.

Actually, I was after s30(3): "The Minister may determine that the person is not to be surrendered if [it] appears to the Minister that the person may be or has been sentenced to death by the appropriate authority in the extradition country, and the extradition country is unable to sufficiently assure the Minister [that] the person will not be sentenced to death [or] if that sentence is or has been imposed, it will not be carried out"

The website has changed in irritating ways recently; I'm wondering whether this is one of them.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/22/2006 10:31:00 AM

IP: Actually, I'd expect him to do what Tongan law tells him to. And the concern isn't the Tongan courts, but their police, who will determine what charges will be brought, and are likely to be more easily influenced by the monarchy if it desires revenge.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/22/2006 10:33:00 AM

Right. Lets start by giving aid only for rebuilding facilities not owned by the King and his family. And we can cut off diplomatic connections with Tonga.

Posted by Chris Nimmo : 11/22/2006 10:43:00 AM

I agree on the aid issue, that is, AID should only be given to genuine businesses that can demostrate hardship. Certainly businesses owned by the Royal Family and the Ramanlal's should be excluded from receiving aid. Those thugs are already millionaires and have enough of the peoples wealth anyway.

Besides, the Tongan government is happy to pay 2 million + to the Kings businesses, just to prop them up.

Tonga has become a disease of the South Pacific, the infection started with the Royal fammily and is spreading fast.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/28/2007 04:52:00 PM