Justice delayed, now denied, the Urewera 18

8
200
(Source | Kiwipolitico blog) Rather than ring out the old year and ring in the new year with the usual inane rubbish about new beginnings and fresh starts, ……annual lists, countdowns etc., how about we use the occasion for a reality check, in this case a reality check on the state of the NZ judiciary using one very important case.

On October 15, 2007 a number of individuals were arrested on a variety of charges, including planning terrorist attacks. Others were arrested later, and collectively they have come to be known as the Urewera 18. On May 30, 2011, three and half years after they were arrested, the majority of these defendants will finally go to trial (three defendants will be tried separately). Not only is the delay largely a result of the Police and Crown trying to introduce new charges after the fact and argue for the admissibility of evidence obtained under the Terrorism Suppression Act that was ultimately not invoked against the accused. Now, in a decision which has had its reasoning suppressed by the court, the Urewera 15 have been ordered to have a trial by judge. You read correctly: not only have they been denied the right to a prompt trial but are now denied a jury of their peers. To that can be added holding the trial in Auckland when most of the defendants live elsewhere and their purported crimes were committed outside of Auckland.

Between the delays, venue and judge-only trial, the Crown and judiciary is engaging in a blood-letting exercise designed to drain the defendants materially and emotionally long before they enter the courtroom on May 30. Arguing under section 12 that the case is too complex, with too many defendants, with too many side-issues and matters of procedure to be considered adequately by a panel of laymen and women is an insult to the NZ public as well as a thinly veiled attempt at juridically saving face in a case that was over-ambitious, politically-motivated and legally flawed from inception.

This is further evidence of the ingrained authoritarianism and lack of accountability rampant in the judicial system. Judges act as if they are above the laws they are supposed to uphold. The Crown vindictively prosecutes cases without regard to their merits or costs because political interests are at play (remember that the NZ wikileaks cables show NZ government officials telling the US embassy in Wellington that theZaoui case was not winnablethen saw the Crown go ahead for another two years arguing for Zaouis incarceration or expulsion until the SIS finally dropped the pretext that he was a threat to national security). Elites are given name suppression for the flimsiest of reasons and judges protect their own when these transgress. This is exactly the sort of judicial attitude in dictatorships.

And yet, it is the attitude in NZ as well. Meanwhile, not a single mainstream media outlet has raised the subject of the long delayed and now jury-denied Urewera trial since the decision on the latter was announced in early December. Not a single right-wing blog has raised the obvious civil liberties and rule of law implications of the case. The Left commentariat has been largely silent as well, with the notable exceptions of Idiot Savant and Russell Brown.

Why is this? Is this silence a result of the fact that the accused are an ideological minority that are easy to scapegoat and persecute? If so, that is exactly the reason why the full spectrum of democratic commentators should be protesting the case: in a democracy it is not mainstream, normal, nice guys who deserve the most legal protection and rights of redress. It is the ideologically suspect, reprehensible, marginalised, ostracized or otherwise outcast who deserve the full protections of law precisely because they are at the mercy of the majoritya majority that is often ill-informed or manipulated by authorities when it comes to evaluating the merits of any given case against anti-status quo political activists. The majority may rule, but free, fair and impartial trials are the minoritys best bulwark against its tyranny.

That is another reason why a jury trial is deserved by the Urewera 15. A jury, selected from the public mainstream, can listen to and observe the prosecution evidence and the defense against it in detail, first hand, then deliberate on the merits of each. That ensures that no judicial bias or hidden quid pro quos enter into the process. As things stand, the judge who hears the trial is vulnerable to such accusations, which is more the reason to bring an impartial jury into the process.

I am not entirely sympathetic to the causes being espoused by the Urewera 18. I do believe in their right to act militantly in defense of them subject to the penalties of law should they act in ways that contravene criminal standards (as hard as it is to say, I extend this belief in the right to militant activism to neo-Nazis and skinheads as well so long as no harm to others results from it). Here I disagree with some distinguished Left commentators, who have seen something sinister in their activities and who believe that the political motivations of the defendants makes the case special.

I have already written at length on why politically-motivated crimes should not be treated as a special category so will not belabour it here. But I am sure that those who see sinister intent in the Urewera 18 will agree that the way this prosecution has gone is wrong on several levels. Even if the Urewera defendants are in fact complicit in something more than activist fantasy-ism and role-play, they deserve to be treated fairly according to the rule of law consistent with the foundational principles of a free society. Yet they have not, and nary a peep has been heard about that from those who should know better and who ostensibly are champions of the democratic ethos.

This attitude is shameful and should be repudiated by all fair minded people regardless of ideological persuasion. The trial-by-judge decision must be appealed as a denial of due process and publicly repudiated by those who believe in the democratic ideal.

Hows that for some New Years resolutions?

Submitted on 03/01/2011 – 19:41

8 COMMENTS

  1. Here's another theory. When new organisations are formed for whatever reason, the organisation's effectiveness is tested under as realistic conditions as possible. Whoever the officer was that was given the task of planning such an (exercise), must have convinced his superiors including the commissioner, to go with the plan. The plan got stuffed up as was seen on TV through over enthusiasm. A great face saving (real) operation was launched to pull out from the archives people who were deemed trouble makers and dress them up as terrorists. The appropriate authority didn't buy the "terrorism" bu****it. A high award for the commissioner started to slip away as a result. So, maybe if the trial could be delayed to after the commissioner's retirement, a lesser award could still be in the offing. Now,

    how realistic is it that we are being led to believe that the supposed terrorists were deemed terrorists because they hadn't licensed their hunting firearms etc. Is this the strong evidence??? What terrorist will just wait around patiently for several years to be tried??? Surely they would have already staged at least one terrorist act. The fact that the 18 haven't done anything untoward during this time shows some very flawed evidence. If the "operation" was deemed totally correct those years ago, why is it taking so long for justice to be concluded. And why is the system being changed for their case??? Must be a hell of a problem for those in Bu****it Castle to solve.

  2. I agree with you this has just been a load of rubbish from the beginning. Wow maoris in camo style clothes in the Urewara! They cant be hunters no they have to be terrorists. What struck me as strange is that not long after a white male (mark Ellis) decided it would be fun to take explosives to the top of a mountain and blow them as a joke to make it look like Rangatoto was blowing up…yet NOTHING happened to him, funny i would have thought conspirisy to blow something up, then doing it would have been dealt with under the terrorist laws..but no just Maoris in camo…

  3. I agree with you. But justice, like politics is all about perceptions. It has to be seen to be done. I think there is a law or something about a case having to be before the court within reasonable time and I heard in the media of one case being chucked out because 2 years was seen as beyond reasonable time. Now I am ex Armed Forces so I have very definite views about the taking up of arms against the crown, sedition or treason. Having said that I am also Maori, Ngatiwai to be precise and registered with Ngapuhi for some strange reason. Ngapuhi state categorically that they never ceded sovereignty to the English / British Crown when they signed Te Titiri O Waitangi. How it is for other iwi I do not know, but methinks that if any of the Urewera 18 could whakapapa back to Ngapuhi then they could argue a case that they have not committed an offence against the crown.

    From 15th October 2007 to 1st February is in my opinion to long for a trial because it has not proceeded in what could be called a reasonable time. What reasons could there be give for a judge only trial? National Security? If that was the case why aren’t the defendants being held in a secure location? I know Tama Iti likes discharging his shot gun in a public place to whit using the Blue Ensign of NZ as a target. OK I find that offensive because I served under that flag as did my father and uncles, a lot of Maori served very honorably, bravely and some died in battle under that flag.

    In my opinion the cases against the Urewera 18 should be dropped because natural justice will not be served by prosecuting what appears to be farcical charges.

    • For more than 150+ years, Tuhoe has waited to have the injustices visited upon them by the colonialist government, righted. Why then is there a rush to have this case heard? After all, It's only been 3 years! Surely with all things being equal, this case has to be left to fester for a few more years yet.

      I mean to say, the missionaries and native schools have yet to setup shop in the backyards of the accused terrorists and the NZ Land Company have yet to charge for surveying the terrorists front yard for the roading .. and the terrorists house looks far too maori what with it's satellite dish and hot running water, so lets just confiscate it and call it a national park .. and what's that? you can't pay for the surveying! Okay, lets just subdivide your front yard into farms for the settlers .. and package you off to Guantanamo – oops, I mean, The Chatham Islands. Pai?

      Yes, a few more years of stewing and simmering on low .. things should be ready about 2157

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.