Last week John Key announced his plan to sell Light Armoured Vehicles (LAV’s) to Colombia.
In an effort to build trade and sell off redundant military equipment, John Key seems to have chosen to make New Zealand complicit in the further arming of a potentially illegal military force who has been responsible for very significant human rights abuses.
Colombia is one of 16 countries that the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is investigating regarding the commission of serious international crimes, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity. The military is central to those concerns.
These abuses are not solely historical.
Last year, in response to the military complaining about uncertainty due to civil investigations of 12,000 military officers, the Colombian government changed the constitution to exempt many cases of military abuse from the civilian courts.
The reality of the situation in Colombia is that people still have to leave to find safety, and New Zealand is still taking Colombian refugees.
New Zealand has done fantastic work supporting the development of a UN arms trade treaty.
It could certainly be argued that Light Armoured Vehicles fall under the developing definition covered by this treaty, which includes armoured combat vehicles.
For an historical perspective, the now-defunct U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) created the following comprehensive definition of the arms trade, which has been widely used by researchers:
“Weapons of war, parts thereof, ammunition, support equipment, and other commodities designed for military use…dual-use equipment…when its primary mission is identified as military. The building of defence production facilities and licensing fees paid as royalties for the production of military equipment.…military services such as training, supply operations, equipment repair, technical assistance and construction are included where data are available”
It also adds, “New Zealand supports a broad, comprehensive coverage of conventional weapons within the treaty’s scope. Anything less will undermine the attainment of its objective.”
At the very least, New Zealand now needs to follow the proposed protocol outlined in the draft treaty, “…to assess whether the proposed export of conventional arms could (a) be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law; (b) be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international human rights law…”
If we don’t do this, then it is clear that in a bid to get a place on the UN Security Council, John Key has undermined our efforts towards a comprehensive arms trade treaty.
How are we going to continue to argue strongly for these provisions at the next round of text negotiations in New York this month if our Prime Minister acts inconsistently?
How are we going to have any credibility on the Security Council if our trade and global interests override basic security and international law?