Anzac Day and the casualties of war

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As in previous years, Peace Action Wellington again attended the citizens wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph. This year a wreath was laid for those killed allegedly by the NZ SAS in Operation Burnham in Afghanistan and to commemorate all civilian lives lost during war.

Our presence at the ceremony was not a protest against the event itself. Rather, we were participating in the ceremony, and encouraging others to remember that it’s not just soldiers who die in conflict.

We feel it was entirely respectful of the proceedings, and the responses we received from those at the ceremony were largely – though not exclusively – positive. We’d like to thank the organisers of the event for allowing us to participate.

All loss of life in war is abhorrent. Selective commemoration can alter our view of history, and whose lives we deem to be important. We note that there is currently no public holiday to commemorate those who were killed during the New Zealand Land Wars.

Anzac day was originally a day of remembrance by and for veterans of the First World War, to remember their comrades who were killed and the senselessness of war. Given the anti-war stance implicit in its roots, it seems entirely appropriate to commemorate war dead more broadly and to say ‘never again’ – especially given that NZ is still involved in foreign conflicts today including Afghanistan.

Peace Action Wellington call for an end to NZ’s involvement in foreign wars and for Bill English to immediately instate a full independent inquiry into the raid on two villages in Operation Burnham.

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Hit and Run

Did the NZ Defence Force commit war crimes in Afghanistan?

There is now considerable evidence that in 2010 in Afghanistan several New Zealand Defence Force actions, including the treatment of prisoners and an SAS raid in Naik and Khak Khuday Dad, broke international law.

These allegations have been detailed in the book Hit and Run, published in March 2017. The government and the NZ Defence Force have tried to avoid the issues with obfuscation and distraction.

We call for an independent inquiry into the civilian deaths, destruction of property and treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Bill English has refused to hold an independent inquiry. We reject his reasons on the grounds that:

  • The government should take every step to establish the truth
  • The Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Tim Keating is not independent from the NZ Defence Force
  • The NZDF have a history of covering up allegations of wrongdoing
  • The previous inquiry by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was not independent as it was conducted by a party also heavily involved
  • ‘Security’ is no excuse for the military and government to evade responsibility

To hold the armed forces accountable we need a full and independent inquiry into civilian deaths, lack of assistance to the wounded, destruction of property and transfer of prisoners to prisons where torture was known to be used. All of this happened in our name, in an operation led by New Zealanders, by people whose salaries are paid for by the New Zealand public.

New Zealanders were told that their military was in Afghanistan to bring peace and reconstruction and that they treated the locals with empathy and respect. The current evidence brings their role and actions there into question.

Even in war there are rules – New Zealand has signed and is committed to international agreements including the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. The SAS have a duty to follow these rules and if not, we should hold them accountable. Hit and Run whistleblowers include Minister of Defence at the time, Wayne Mapp and SAS members who have spoken out against their own conduct in Afghanistan.

We have the right to know whether innocent people in Afghanistan were killed and injured by NZDF soldiers or those under their command. If we know what has happened, then we can put things right.

Actions you can take

  • Pressure the government to hold an independent inquiry eg. Write to your local MP
  • Talk, shout and scream about it – the government want people to forget or get tired of hearing about this
  • Street art – make some paste-ups or a stencil
  • Read Hit and Run
  • Take action – start or join a protest, a rally or a direct action – demand justice
  • Use the #HitandRunNZ hashtag on social media
  • Sign the petition tinyurl.com/hitandrunnz

We want justice for the people of Afghanistan who have been killed, injured or affected by actions taken in our name.
We will not stand by as the government refuses to take responsibility.

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Decolonise Your Mind!

We Teach Life – a poetry evening with Rafeef Ziadah

Last Saturday we were lucky enough to co-host Rafeef Ziadah’s show in Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington with Poetry in Motion.

150 people were treated to a powerful night of music, poetry and spoken word at Old St Paul’s in Thorndon. The night began with spoken word from Aotearoa artists Te Kahu Rolleston, Rangimārie Sophie Jolley, Winara Levi and Mohamed Hassan. Then Phil Monsour kept the energy high playing his own music before accompanying Rafeef’s performance of her political & emotionally charged spoken word. The themes of colonisation, borders, roots and resistance weaved in and out all the performances and we left inspired to take action for Palestine and decolonisation around the world.

Paiaka: Relate, Resist and Organise!

The following day a bunch of us headed off to the Innermost Gardens to participate in an afternoon of workshops. It was great to be able to do some self reflection on our activism, think about how we function as a group, how we work with others including tangata whenua and meet some new people.

Paiaka is a new community project which aims to connect local communities to the whenua, connect communities to each other, lay a whariki (mat) for learning about politics and resistance and engage discussion and develop tools to create a just world

Hit and Run

Then on Tuesday we caught PM Bill English and Chief of Defence Tim Keating sweeping some classified documents pertaining to the deadly NZ SAS raid on a village in Afghanistan under the rug. We are not going to stop talking about this and will be releasing a video soon.

Add your voice to the call for an independent inquiry now! https://our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/launch-an-independent-inquiry-into-the-nz-sas-s-involvement-in-civilian-casualties-in-afghanistan

Now the cops owe us money!

You might have caught the news a while back that we won our case against police for costs (well they said they would give it to us but it hasn’t arrived yet!). We have been awarded a small amount of money back. You can read all the details here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/327380/protesters-win-case-against-police

Some of this money has been used to reimburse further costs to activists from the court proceedings. We have decided to spend any leftover money on future campaigns against the Weapons Expo. It seems likely that it’s coming back to Wellington this year so we have been working on the campaign already.

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In February handing in a petition at parliament calling for an end to the Weapons Expo.

Thanks once more for your support and solidarity, it means a lot.

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We Teach Life: a poetry evening with Rafeef Ziadah

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On Saturday 8th April, join critically acclaimed Palestinian spoken-word artist Rafeef Ziadah in celebrating the release of her new album, We Teach Life, right here in Wellington. The evening will feature a powerful selection of Rafeef’s poetry in her signature performance style accompanied by musician Phil Monsour. Tickets for this Wellington event at Old St Paul’s church are available here.

Rafeef will be supported by huge names from the Aotearoa spoken word scene; National Poetry Slam Champions Mohamed Hassan & Te Kahu Rolleston (Ngāi Te Rangi), as well as Winara Levi (Ngāti Haua).

“Rafeef ’s poetry demands to be heard. She is powerful, emotional and political.” – Ken Loach

Rafeef Ziadah is a Palestinian performance poet and human rights activist based in London. Her performances of her poems ‘We Teach Life, Sir’ and ‘Shades of Anger’ went viral online within days of their release.

Join Peace Action Wellington and Poetry in Motion for this event in solidarity with Palestinian people and their struggle against apartheid, discrimination and colonisation, from one colonised land to another. Any proceeds above the costs of the show will go to a Palestinian organisation of Rafeef’s choice.

Doors will open at 6.30 pm and the show will start at 7.00 pm. Event running time is approximately 2 hours. The Facebook event is here. Tickets, priced from $16 unwaged to $21 waged, are available at tinyurl.com/RafeefWGTN

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The People’s Climate Rally Taranaki

Peace Action Wellington traveled up to Taranaki with Oil Free Wellington to attend The People’s Climate Rally, a protest in response to the Petroleum Conference being held there. We were there to tell the oil executives that they can’t continue to burn fossil fuels in the face of climate change and tautoko our friends in the Climate Justice Movement. Auckland Peace Action have written a great blog on how war and climate change are two sides of the same coin.

Here are some choice pics and videos of the day.

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Drone Assassination Awareness Week February 26 – March 3

woodcutPeace Action Wellington are supporting the Catholic Worker Movement during their Drone Assassination Awareness Week. The Catholic Worker Movement is raising awareness of New Zealand’s complicity in US drone strikes and military action with a week-long Drone Assassination Awareness Week.

Throughout the week a converted school-bus with a shrine to remember victims of military drone-strikes will be roving Wellington streets. There will be six days and nights of prayer, fasting and witnessing for the victims of drone strikes. At the end of the week they will call on the GCSB to end all assistance given to the drone assassination programme and release all historic files up to February 2007.

The Catholic Worker Movement and Peace Action Wellington worked together against the Weapons Expo in 2015 and were fellow defendants in a botched prosecution where 15 defendants recently had their charges dismissed in the Wellington District Court. “Anti-war groups are active across Aotearoa and have been uniting to stop war where it starts – in the intelligence services and Weapons Expo. We’re happy to support this Drone Assassination Awareness Week and to stand in solidarity with people threatened by drones around the world,” said Alison Grand of Peace Action Wellington.

The NZ government, through GCSB, is in partnership with the US by supplying information gathered through the Five Eyes alliance and is therefore complicit in the crimes committed by the US military. This includes drone strikes which have killed thousands of innocent civilians in seven Muslim majority countries.
“We will be praying and fasting for the thousands of civilians killed by the USA’s targeted drone assassination programme.” said Catholic Workers’ Movement spokesperson Adrian Leason.

“Most kiwis would be horrified to learn that our own GCSB is helping the US drone programme that has killed so many civilians. So we will be calling on the government to withdraw the GSCB’s contribution of intelligence to this programme.” said Mr Leason.

For more details, see: www.takeourbloodinstead.com

 

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Not Guilty! Court Case Over

The court case against fifteen peace activists arrested protesting the 2015 Weapons Conference finished today with the last activist with a trespass charge being found not guilty. Over the course of seven days in court fifteen charges of obstruction, trespass and disorderly behaviour were dismissed or found not guilty due to lack of evidence.

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This has been fifteen months of stress, both emotional and financial having these charges hanging over us. Many of the people arrested at the protest were not able to fight the charges because of study, work, travel and other commitments and were forced to take diversion or plead guilty. Those of us who could, choose to fight these charges because we believed we were within or legal rights to protest and were arrested at random to shut down the protest.

At this point we are relieved that no one has been found guilty and the court has vindicated our freedom to protest but it also feels like we have already been punished by the police, who have used these arrests, charges and lengthy court case to deter people from protesting.

Throughout this court case they have accused us of being a violent mob and of assaulting people without any evidence or charges relating to these claims. If anything the police were the violent mob at the protest and have left many people traumatised by their aggressive arrests of peaceful protestors.

The police sought a pre-emptive trespass order days before the protest began which was found to be without legal merit on the first day of the trial because the protest took place on public land. Their priority from the start was not to uphold public order but instead assist business people who profit from war rather than respect peoples right to protest. The real criminals were the companies inside the building busy making deals in weapons.

Recently released figures by The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) show that the global arms trade is at it’s highest volume since the Cold War so challenging the arms trade is as important now more than ever, this court case though taxing will not deter us from continuing to take a stand against the arms trade here in Aotearoa.

Thanks to everyone who has supported us during the arrests and court process. Whether it was a message of support, your presence at court, food or financial help every bit of support we have received has helped us fight these charges and win! Thank you!

Media:

http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2017/02/all-charges-dropped-against-wellington-weapons-expo-protesters.html

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/325168/last-peace-activist-cleared-over-protest-charges

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/89721716/peace-protesters-celebrate-after-court-victory-over-arms-industry-conference-arrests

 

 

 

 

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