Thursday, June 06, 2019

Not a good international citizen

I've spent the afternoon crafting a brief submission to Parliament on the International Treaty Examination of The War Crimes Amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The government wants to ratify a treaty amendment which would make the use of chemical or biological weapons, expanding bullets or blinding lasers in "non-international armed conflict" (you know, the sort NZDF is in in Afghanistan) a war crime. That's good! Except there's a twist. Here's what the national interest assessment says about expanding bullets:

New Zealand could make an interpretative declaration upon ratification to clarify that the prohibition on expanding bullets in non-international armed conflict does not extend to situations where they are used by police or armed forces in law enforcement and counter-terrorism operations where the intent of the use is to avoid incidental civilian injury or damage.

Expanding bullets were one of the first things banned in international armed conflict, and they were banned for a reason: because they cause horrific and inhumane injuries. Banning them in non-international armed conflict - which is most wars nowdays - is a no-brainer extension of that principle. But instead of accepting that, New Zealand seems to be trying to weasel out of it with American-style interpretation games. And this is simply dishonest and wrong. Its like signing a treaty guaranteeing people unqualified ownership of their lands, forests, fisheries, and other treasures, but "interpreted" "unqualified" to mean "we can take it whenever we want": deceitful and two-faced. But its also stupid, in that other parties may not accept New Zealand's perverse "interpretation" allowing banned weapons to be used, which means that New Zealand police and soldiers who actually use them in any circumstances which could be considered a non-international armed conflict (like, say, Afghanistan) would still be exposed to prosecution. And insofar as New Zealand politicians and officials tried to shield them, they would be in the dock too as accessories.

This is not being a "good international citizen", Its being a cheat trying to excuse war crimes. And that is simply not acceptable.