Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Time to sign the disappearance convention

In December 2006, 57 countries came together as initial signatories of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, a human rights treaty similar to the Convention Against Torture which would outlaw the practice of forced disappearance and ensure that its perpetrators are brought to justice. Sadly, New Zealand was not among them. While claiming to support human rights, the New Zealand government claimed that aspects of the treaty were inconsistent with established international law, notably the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which uses a slightly different definition of "enforced disappearance". The New Zealand government seems to believe that these differences are irreconcilable, and so has "no immediate plans" to sign.

That excuse is no longer sustainable. The Netherlands - the home of international law and of the International Criminal Court - signed last week, making all of Western Europe (with the notable exception of the US's reliable client "ally", the UK) signatories. These countries are all strong supporters of the ICC. If they can reconcile the differences, why can't we?

Its time the New Zealand government put its money where its mouth is on human rights. The support of Western Europe for the Convention shows the lie behind our objection. We should join them, and sign it.