UN to investigate New Zealand Settler Grubbyment over conduct of the Oct 15 raids

UN to investigate New Zealand Government over conduct of the Oct 15 raids (from the newswire)

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights while Countering Terrorism has agreed that there are grounds to investigate the New Zealand Government over its conduct during the October 15 raids. This is the first time that a complaint from a group against a nation-state has been accepted by the Rapporteur. The complaint was lodged by lawyers acting on behalf of the Tuhoe nation and some of the accused in the case. It is based on some 14 specific instances of breaches of human rights.

The New Zealand government has now been issued a list of questions by the United Nations and it is required to provide a response to these within six months. The complaint was submitted pursuant to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The grounds of the complaint are acute breaches of rights to privacy, freedom from discrimination and personal liberty, for which there is no available domestic remedy. The violations arise from conduct of the police, elected politicians and media, and pertain to what has been termed, albeit without objective or legal foundation, an ‘anti-terrorism’ operation. Depending on the response of the Government, or the lack thereof, the Rapporteur may make a ruling on the complaint or decide to investigate further, possibly visiting Aotearoa New Zealand in order to interview victims of the raids, arrestees, lawyers and naturally, members of the police and Government.

There is no domestic mechanism capable of inquiry into the collective rights of self determination and culture held by the Tuhoe Nation. A civil action may be pursued on behalf of individuals who were affected, but even if this succeeds at considerable cost and delay it cannot address the collective and systemic harm caused to the affected communities and the Tuhoe nation. Attempts to secure recourse through the Waitangi Tribunal for a violation of te Tiriti o Waitangi would likewise be ineffective as the Tribunal only has powers to make recommendations on such matters to the government, and has failed to report on the earlier claim by the Tuhoe nation that was concluded several years ago.

The New Zealand Government likes to extol its human rights record to the world. Meanwhile, it conveniently ignores the condemnation of various UN bodies when they don’t suit the Government’s fairy tale of amicable race relations. In 2006, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People visited Aotearoa New Zealand to investigate breaches of human rights as a result of the Foreshore and Seabed Act. Following the investigation, the Rapporteur issued a report detailing the violations of human rights which the New Zealand Government has roundly ignored.

Needless to say, people around the world are not blind to the New Zealand Government’s double-speak when it come to Maori. Statements from around the world, including the Canadian Postal Worker’s Union and the Zapatista Liberation Army indicate that support for the right of Maori to self-determination will not be denied.

From the Comprehensive Statement of Facts

Raids in Ruatoki

In one raid, a schoolgirl and a woman were ordered from their house and into the street with their hands above their heads. They were separated and not allowed to communicate. Dressed in their night attire, crying and wet from the rain, both of them were body searched by police officers in full public view of their neighbors. The woman was made to lift her breasts. The schoolgirl was crying "shame". They watched in fear as their husband and stepfather was held face down on the street with a gun to his head. They were taken to the police station and questioned for a number of hours before being released.

In another raid in Ruatoki, a family with young children were held for hours, cold and shivering, in a shed at the side of their house without food and water or nappies for their babies.

Armed police established a dawn to dusk roadblock around the township of Ruatoki. Cars and a school bus were stopped and searched. Armed 'ninja' police made the occupants get out of their cars and photographed them with identification labels. A 76 year-old woman was one of the first to be subjected to this indignity.

The children of Ruatoki were deeply traumatised by the presence of armed police at their houses and in their village. The day after the raids the Kohanga Reo (Maori language pre-school) asked for counsellors to be sent to work with the children. When a school pupil is killed in a car accident it is common for the government to send counsellors to the school the next day. One month later, there is still no response to the request from Ruatoki.

History repeats itself

For the people of Tuhoe, 15 October 2007 repeated a history of armed invasions by the colonial power. Tuhoe has always maintained te mana motuhake o Tuhoe - the independent authority of the Tuhoe nation. They have never acknowledged the Crown's claim of sovereignty. A claim to this effect has been laid with the Waitangi Tribunal. Those hearings began in 2003 and finished in 2005. The Tuhoe people are still waiting for the tribunal to report.

The Tuhoe territories, Te Urewera, have been repeatedly invaded by the Crown. In the 1860s, the freedom fighters Te Kooti Rikirangi and Te Rau Kereopa sought refuge within te Urewera as they were hunted by colonial troops. Notwithstanding the fact that Te Kooti was escorted from Te Urewera, and Te Rau Kereopa was handed over to the Crown by Tuhoe, their lands were confiscated. The Crown claimed its action was justified as a means of suppressing rebellion by taking the wealth and breaking the autonomy of the Tuhoe people. In a clear provocation of these old wounds, the cordon around Ruatoki in Operation Eight was established on this historic confiscation line.

In 1916 armed colonial police invaded the Tuhoe nation again. This time, they arrested Tuhoe prophet Rua Kenana, shooting dead two men, one of whom was Rua's son. Once the armed constabulary gained control at Maungapohatu, they gathered together the women and children, and raped them under armed guard.

The invasion of 15 October 2007 repeats this tragic history of repression, arbitrary detention and racist abuse. This time, the Crown claims that its invasion of Tuhoe is justified as the suppression of terrorism; yet it has no evidence to lay anything more than firearms charges.

Raids across Aotearoa

In total, more than 60 homes and workplaces around Aotearoa have been searched under warrants authorised pursuant to the Terrorism Suppression Act. Stories are still emerging, as many of those who were targeted are fearful that they will be branded 'terrorists'.

Many of the searches followed a similar pattern to those in Ruatoki and Whakatane. Residents were woken by load hailers to find their houses surrounded by large numbers of armed police, who forced entry by breaking down doors. In a number of cases, very young children and old people were confronted with weapons.

In one raid an estimated 40 armed officers entered a house where there were 8 people, two of whom were under 12. Distressed children were separated from their parents and not allowed to speak to them for the whole period of the raid. Two men who were later arrested were marched onto the road outside their homes, made to kneel for lengthy periods with hands behind their heads with guns to their heads.

Some of the police actions can only have been intended to humiliate. One young woman was detained in a room while her house was searched, and then taken to her bedroom as the police went through all her drawers. They took away her underwear. In another case, police took all the baby's clothing.

The arrestees
Initial applications for bail were refused for ten of those accused, largely because of the pending terrorism charges. They faced the prospect of eighteen months to two years on remand while awaiting trial, with the loss of livelihoods, severe financial hardship, trauma to their families and children, and damage to their wairua.

On 30 October the Crown prosecutors notified counsel for the accused that the names of 12 of the 16 had been forwarded to the Solicitor General for consideration of charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002. On 8 November 2007 the Solicitor General announced that there was insufficient evidence to lay charges against any of the accused. As a result of this decision the ten people who had been held in custody since 15 October were released on bail.

Sixteen people now face charges under section 45 of the Arms Act 1983.

None has yet entered a plea. All are due to appear next in Auckland March 3rd 2008.

(Headings by AIMC)

Maori, the Labour government and the UN
  • In March 2005, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) released its decision on the Foreshore and Seabed Act, concluding that the legislation appeared, "on balance, to contain discriminatory aspects against the Maori", and urging renewed consultation and dialogue.
    The Government responded by criticising the UN Committee and denigrating Maori groups who took their concerns to the UN in the first place.
  • A year later, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples was called to review progress made by New Zealand in addressing these concern. His comprehensive report outlining action recommendations was universally condemned by Government.
  • In August 2007, the UN CERD Committee reported that the New Zealand Government's actions tended "to diminish the importance and relevance of the Treaty and to create a context unfavourable to the rights of Maori". This time, Dr Cullen admitted that the Committee had put the Government on notice.
This is a Government, of course, which was happy to vote against the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - an international human rights declaration which 143 other nations supported (while only 4, New Zealand, Australia, the United States of America and Canada, opposed).

(This background is taken from a Maori Party media release - thanks.)

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