Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Reported back

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee has reported back [PDF] on the Cluster Munitions Prohibition Bill. The bill implements New Zealand's obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and bans the use, development, possession, and transfer of cluster munitions by New Zealanders, members of the New Zealand Defence Force, and New Zealand companies, whether in New Zealand or overseas. Significantly, it explicitly criminalises members of the armed forces who request the use of cluster munitions when engaged in joint operations (e.g. the SAS in Afghanistan).

As initially drafted, the bill was unclear on whether it would ban investment in production of cluster munitions overseas. The committee felt that this was an oversight and has clarified it, adding a clause stating:

A person commits an offence who provides or invests funds with the intention that the funds be used, or knowing that they are to be used, in the development or production of cluster munitions.
"Funds" includes financial instruments, so holding shares in a US defence contractor which makes cluster bombs will be a criminal offence punishable by 7 years imprisonment and a $500,000 fine. The law will also apply to Crown Financial Institutions such as the Cullen Fund, and while they have all voluntarily divested themselves of investments on cluster bombs after bad publicity in the past few years, this will stop them from ever investing in such weapons in our name.