The Fight Against Terrorism – Robson Speech
Hon Matt Robson
24 September 2001 Speech Notes
The Fight Against Terrorism
Tragedy in the States
New Zealand is the only country in the world with a Minister for Disarmament.
In the wake of last week's horrific terror attacks in the United States, how does the government use this Ministry to fight terrorism?
11 September 2001 will long be remembered as a day of tragedy for the United States.
Time does not diminish the sense of outrage over the terrible attacks on New York and Washington and the awful loss of life.
The response of ordinary citizens the world over has been one of great shock. The loss and trauma being experienced by the people of the United States has touched us all.
Individuals, organisations and governments of all cultures and political systems have expressed their horror and their feelings of unity on this issue.
In this awful tragedy the nobility of the people of this world has been expressed in condemnation for those who have done this and compassion for the victims.
From a rich country like Germany to a poorer one like Cuba have come offers of not just human sympathy, but practical help with doctors and engineers.
Fighting terrorism in the long term
There is no place for any kind of national hatred and feelings of fanaticism based on hatred in the kind of world that we are seeking continually to build.
Our conduct as a nation must continue to be based on principles such as those enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted in the aftermath of the Second World War, in December 1948.
These principles squarely address root causes of terrorism. They are the basis on which people around the world can live without fear.
What we must do now is bring those directly responsible for these attacks to justice.
In the long term, we must also make sure that we have the tools available to us on the world stage to eradicate terrorism for good.
We need to increase the pressure to ratify and establish an International Criminal Court of Law.
We in New Zealand need to continue to work with our nuclear-free friends across the world – Ireland, South Africa, Sweden, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt – to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
We need to increase our surveillance of the legal small arms trade in order to control to the best of our ability, the illegal trade in small arms.
And we need to increase the pressure to get rid of the horrors of biological and chemical weapons.
Imagine these weapons in the hands of terrorists?
I said in Parliament immediately after the bombings how we realise that no country is invulnerable, no matter what its military and economic weakness or strength.
Why do we have terrorism in the modern world?
Funding is an issue. A Parliamentary Library research paper on Afghanistan prepared and circulated to all Members of Parliament in mid-September gives some insights.
It describes the war against the Soviet occupation. "At first, United States aid to the mujaheddin was relatively modest - $50 million, increasing to $122 million in 1984.
However, in 1985, under President Reagan, annual military aid to the mujaheddin rose to $630 million in1987. Saudi Arabia had also been helping the mujaheddin financially since 1979, and this was in part to counteract Iranian (Shi'a Moslem) influence in the area.
The decision-makers in those days did not foresee that the extreme Sunni fundamentalist group called the Taliban – "seekers of religious knowledge" – consisting mainly of members of the Pashtun ethnic group from refugee camps in Pakistan would come to the fore during the 1990s, and take over.
Nor that the Taliban regime would show itself to be Islam fundamentalist at its harshest, with gross violations of human rights, and increasing numbers of executions, floggings and torture as its hallmarks.
Nor that it would come to harbour and protect Osama bin Laden.
Shock at the destruction of the World Trade Centre has led commentators all around the world to look afresh at policies which, in the past, only a minority of commentators may have seen as being flawed.
Recall the support for the ex-general, President Sukarno, now widely denigrated, but courted by countless western leaders and diplomats, including New Zealanders, for three decades, regardless of the reign of terror that he presided over, in East Timor – a death toll of 200,000.
Sukarno was actually a Mafia chieftain plundering his own country, responsible for the deaths of up to a million of his own citizens, and we had a foreign policy that put us on the side of such a tyrant.
Recall the support extended to the ex-general, President Pinochet, who presided over the disappearances and deaths of so many Chilean people.
Recall the support extended to Iraq fighting its war during the 1980s against Iran.
Remember New Zealand's support, year after year, for the credentials of the Pol Pot regime in the United Nations.
Yes, there are men who advised our governments in the past, and who have now grown old, who must have difficulty looking honestly at themselves in the mirror as they think about how they recommended that perverse policy of support for the bloodstained Khmer Rouge.
International Criminal Court
In September last year, New Zealand ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This Court, once 60 states have ratified the Rome Statute, will have jurisdiction over individuals who commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Our ratification is a signal of New Zealand's continuing strong commitment both to the principles of international justice generally and to ending the current culture of impunity for those most serious crimes.
This court will help to ensure that individuals responsible for atrocities are brought to justice without delay.
The clear message is that people cannot with impunity commit acts of terror, violence and persecution.
The message is that political and military leaders must expect to be held accountable for the atrocities committed by their supporters either with their direct encouragement or which they have condoned by their failure to act.
But the International Criminal Court doesn't exist yet because only 37 states have ratified the Rome Statute. The sooner another 23 states ratify it, the sooner the International Criminal Court can become a reality.
If this Court was up and running today, the likes of war criminals like Milosovich would be standing in that dock now. Instead another temporary court has had to be established, and delays arisen.
I hope that in the future, the International Criminal Court will be available for swift and transparent justice to take place.
One of the most shocking facts about this recent attack on the States is that no weapon of mass destruction was necessary to kill nearly six and half thousand people.
How do we stop a handful of men, armed only with a few knives turning three commercial airlines into bombs?
The fight to curb the awful destruction caused by small arms is as important as nuclear disarmament.
Just look at our own region in the South Pacific.
The South Pacific is faced with a modern plague of illicit small arms – in the Solomon Islands, in Fiji, on Bougainville
The illegal trade of small arms in the South Pacific kills and maims hundreds of people every year.
This year I represented New Zealand at the first ever United Nations conference to deal with small arms issues.
New Zealand voted with most of Europe for a clause calling on all governments not to supply non-State-actors (which includes terrorists) with weapons.
Unfortunately the United States did not support that clause. It is hoped that we will have an opportunity to re-visit that in the future.
I made it clear at that conference that New Zealand is working with our Pacific partners to control illegal small arms in the region. We introduced a 'Programme of Action' which will help South Pacific governments do their best to control the illegal trade of small arms.
This means disarming warring factions after conflicts, destroying weapon stockpiles and managing securely the legal trade and ownership of small arms.
The sad reality is that the legal trade of arms remains the originating source of illegal weapons in the South Pacific region.
This is a backdrop to most terrorist attacks in the world. Therefore we must act swiftly and effectively to stamp out the illegal trade of small weapons.
I can make a promise to you today that this government will continue to push for appropriate controls of small arms, at international forums across the world.
There is no good reason for any government in the world to protect the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. Governments can help and must help combat the illicit trade with a better management of legal weapons.
Nuclear weapon free Southern Hemisphere
Since coming into government at the end of 1999 I have argued across the world for our right to declare the Southern Hemisphere (and adjacent areas) nuclear weapon free.
Today, more than ever before, it is vital to continue the fight for nuclear disarmament. The risks are too catastrophic.
The United States and China have to date refused to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that would see the gradual elimination of all nuclear weapons.
We must continue to argue for the full ratification of that treaty in order to make the world safe.
The International Court of justice 1996 ruling made it clear that nuclear weapons are illegal, and all countries must work towards their abolition.
A nuclear weapon free Southern Hemisphere sends a powerful message to the Northern Hemisphere that it is possible to live without nuclear weapons. Half the world already does.
I see no reason why in the future the Southern Hemisphere cannot be truly, nuclear weapon free.
The South Pacific, indeed all of the countries south of the equator, and in the adjacent areas are free of nuclear weapons. Together, we make up more than 60% of the world’s countries.
Today I ask for your support for the establishment of a nuclear weapon free Southern Hemisphere.
New Zealand has a proud history of anti-nuclear struggle. I'm here to tell you today: that struggle is not yet complete.
I have asked myself this week – what does it mean to be the Minister of Disarmament?
Quite a few years ago, New Zealand decided it needed a Minister to stand on the world stage and represent our commitment to the total elimination of nuclear weapons everywhere.
One of the outcomes of last week's attack on the World Trade Centre is that it may hasten the pursuit of the total elimination of nuclear weapons in the world. The need is even greater than it was a week ago.
Terrorists armed with a nuclear weapon is almost too horrifying to contemplate - but we must.
The government's disarmament agenda now takes on an even greater urgency
New Zealand will stand as one of many in a united front to bring those who planned this cruel and shocking attack to justice. New Zealand is ready to back the UN Security Council resolution calling for all nations to work together to combat terrorism.
We will also continue to work towards nuclear disarmament, the elimination of chemical and biological weapons, and the control of the illegal trade of small arms.
The big question is of course, 'How do we disarm those who have hatred as their weapon?' That is not just a question for the Minister of Disarmament. It is a question for us all.