Extra-judicial murder

New Zealand doesn’t have the death penalty. Whatever crime you may commit on New Zealand soil, the state will not execute you. We also believe in the right to a fair trial and due process, and we expect our government to stand up for those rights when we as New Zealand citizens travel overseas.

Which is why it’s somewhat of a worry that our government doesn’t seem at all perturbed that the US government has murdered a New Zealand citizen in Yemen.

Despite article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter prohibiting the use of force by one state against another, the United States defends its use of drone strikes in foreign countries as simply the use of self-defence in response to an imminent threat, with the host state unwilling or unable to take appropriate action. In November last year, in Yemen, the US launched a drone strike against a top al Queda operative associated with Osama bin Laden. Given that drone strikes can be less than completely accurate, collateral damage often occurs, and in this particular case, the collateral damage included a New Zealander.

The New Zealander, who called himself Muslim bin John or Abu Suhaib al-Australi, has been confirmed by John Key to have attended a terrorist-training camp. Which apparently makes it okay for America to have taken him out. From a stuff.co.nz article:

“Some New Zealanders … put themselves in harm’s way,” Key said.

“This is an individual that travelled to Yemen, had links with terrorist groups and had been in all sorts of associations that no right-thinking person would do. The truth of it is if he didn’t have those links and wasn’t in Yemen he would almost certainly be alive so I think most New Zealanders will judge that.”

The big question that John Key should be asking of the US is whether a credible imminent threat actually existed. It’s one thing to act to stop an imminent threat based on credible intelligence. It’s quite another thing to simply assassinate by drone those who oppose US foreign policy and advocate the use of force as part of that opposition. If no credible threat existed, it’s simply state-sanctioned extra-judicial murder. No criminal charges, no arrest, no right to trial, no ability to refute the intelligence the attack was based on (because we all know that US intelligence can always be trusted, right?).

However, prior to John Key fronting, Steven Joyce had stood in and confirmed that the government would not ask the US about the reasons for the drone strike. Was the drone strike ethical? Well, that was “a matter for those countries which do carry out drone strikes”.

This strikes me (no pun intended) as having a very “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” feel to it. It’s essentially saying that NZ will not judge the morality of other country’s actions, but that stance doesn’t make sense given our long history of international nuclear-free  and human rights activism. Our government is telling us (and the rest of the world) that it will hypocritically close its eyes when it comes to America’s actions. Personally, I expect rather more from my government, especially when the lives of New Zealand citizens are involved.


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