Wellington People's Court finds warmongering
27 October 2001
Hundreds of people joined the rally for peace in Wellington, 27 October, as part of the International Day of Action to Stop War and End Racism. A people's court was convened to decide if the governments currently waging war against the people of Afghanistan are guilty of violations of international law.
The rally's opening speaker was Gregory Fortuin (Race Relations Conciliator) whose main message was that it is easy to make noises about what's wrong in the world and it takes courage to stand up for justice and what we believe in. It has to be done so that injustice will not continue. One day we will all have to give account, not for the atrocities of the bad people who are the minority, but for the deafening silence and inaction of the good people who are in the majority.
The other speakers were Teanau Tuiono (Aotearoa Educators), Margaret Mander (Anglican Pacifist Fellowship), Jeanette Fitzsimons (Green MP), Jamilla Homayun (Wellington Afghan Community), Graham Cameron (Urban Vision), Maxine Gay (Clothing and Laundry Workers Union), Louise May (Caritas), Lisa Matthews (Wellington People's Centre) and Fionnaigh (Food not Bombs).
They condemned the war against the people of Afghanistan; made links between military spending and poverty in this country and overseas; spoke about the links between the 'free trade' agenda pushed by the world's powerful elites and the resulting oppression and injustice; the need to stand up to injustice in all its forms; and the obscenity of the world's most powerful nation waging war on one of the weakest poorest nations.
There was poetry from Yilma Tasew, music from Robin Brew, MC Cybele Locke and some of the speakers, and an open mike session.
After hearing what the speakers had to say, an impromptu people's court was convened to decide if those governments currently waging war on the people of Afghanistan are in violation of international law. Sample charges were read out by Edwina Hughes (Peace Movement Aotearoa), the crowd was the jury, and Maxine Gay (for the unions), Grace Millar (for the students) and Elaine Jepsen (for the churches) were the judges.
The crowd ruled that all the warmongering governments, including the NZ government, are in violation of the following: the UN Charter (in particular Article 2 points 3 and 4); the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (in particular the acts of genocide as defined in Article 2 points a, b and c); the 1977 First Protocol of the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of civilians (in particular Articles 48 and 54). In relation to the use of cluster bombs and depleted uranium ammunition in the attacks on the people of Afghanistan, they are also in violation of Article 51 of the First Protocol.
In relation to the Nuremberg Principles, the people's court also found the governments to be guilty of Crimes Against Peace; War Crimes, in particular murder and ill treatment of the civilian population; and Crimes Against Humanity, in particular murder and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds.
The judges unanimously agreed with the guilty verdicts on all of the sample charges.
Copies of all the speeches will be available on the PMA website some time next week, from a link on the page at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/usatresp.htm