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NZ to retain jurisdiction over Solomons deployment

NZ to retain jurisdiction over Solomons deployment

The Crimes and Misconduct (Overseas Operations) Bill will ensure New Zealand's non-military personnel deployed in the Solomon Islands will be subject to New Zealand criminal jurisdiction, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today.

"The Bill has particular relevance to the deployment of New Zealand police to the Solomon Islands, but it will also apply to police or civilians involved in any future non-UN deployment," said Mr Goff, who gave the Bill's first reading this afternoon.

New Zealand already has full jurisdiction over Defence Force personnel serving overseas. "This Bill protects New Zealand Police and civilian personnel from possible exposure to a legal system that may be incongruent with the standards applicable in New Zealand," Mr Goff said.

"However it also ensures that they do not have impunity with respect to offences committed outside of their official duties.

"Under the Bill, it would be an offence for any member of the Police or civilian member of an overseas operation to do or omit to do anything that would be an offence had it been committed within New Zealand.

"The Bill also ensures that Police engaged in such operations will be subject to the disciplinary processes that apply in New Zealand."

Mr Goff said a Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed by the Solomon Islands government on July 24 gave members of the deployment full immunity from legal proceedings in the Solomon Islands for any acts or omissions carried out in the course of official duties.

"However for acts or omissions that fall outside of official duties, the Solomons will only give up jurisdiction if the sending country can, under its domestic law, exercise jurisdiction over its personnel overseas.

"Current New Zealand law only provides that jurisdiction over the armed forces (Armed Forces Discipline Act 1971), and police serving as part of a United Nations force (United Nations (Police) Act 1964).

"In the absence of such jurisdiction, police and civilian personnel deployed to the Solomon Islands, or to any similar non-UN operation, could be subject to local laws and prosecution for any offences committed outside of official duties."

Mr Goff said the Bill would be retrospective to July 24 to take account of the limited time between the Solomons government establishing the necessary legal framework for the deployment, and the need to pass the necessary legislative amendments.

The Bill has been vetted by the Attorney-General because of the ban on creating retroactive offences under the Bill of Rights Act 1996.

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