Thursday, November 26, 2020

NZDF should not be allowed to handle this in-house

Yesterday we learned that an NZDF soldier with links to Nazi groups has been charged with espionage (along other things) and will be prosecuted via court-martial. Whether the charges are justified is for a court to determine, but it seems deeply inappropriate to use a military court for this. The vast majority of the offences - and the most serious - are against civil, not military law, and while the Court Martial has jurisdiction, it is normal for ordinary crimes by soldiers to be tried in ordinary courts (as evidenced by the litany of drunken assaults and drug dealing in the pages of the Manawatu Standard). While espionage is an extraordinary offence, it is not a military one, and the same standard should apply. In addition, a civil court will have more experience in dealing with the other offences (possession of an objectionable publication, accessing a computer system for a dishonest purpose), and is therefore less likely to fuck it up. But ultimately, it comes down to trust: civil courts are seen as more trustworthy than military ones, and less susceptible to the institutional arse-covering behaviour so recently displayed by NZDF over Operation Burnham.

Some of the charges are purely military, and the military can handle those. But they shouldn't be allowed to handle serious criminal offences against the people of New Zealand in-house. These charges should be tried in an open, civilian court, so that we can all see that justice is done.