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Goff introduces Bill outlawing mercenaries

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

15 October 2003

Goff introduces Bill outlawing mercenaries

Foreign Minister Phil Goff today introduced into Parliament a Bill outlawing mercenary activities.

The Mercenary Activities (Prohibition) Bill will make it an offence to recruit, use, finance or train mercenaries, or to participate in a war or act of violence as a mercenary. The offences will all be punishable by up to 14 years in jail.

Under the Bill, New Zealand nationals could be prosecuted in New Zealand for acts committed overseas. The legislation also ensures greater cooperation with other countries in the investigation and prosecution of mercenary activities.

"The use of mercenaries in armed conflicts is an age-old phenomenon but it is only in recent decades that the international community has tried to curb the practice," Mr Goff said.

"New Zealand has long opposed the use of mercenaries. Our position has been that their involvement in a conflict works against its peaceful resolution. Indeed, their involvement often tends to aggravate the scale of the conflict, as in the Angolan civil war.

“However prior to the creation of the new offences in this Bill, mercenary activities have not previously been punishable here.

"The offences will discourage mercenaries from ever trying to use New Zealand as a base for recruiting and training mercenaries, or from regarding New Zealand as a safe haven.

"It will also send a signal to any New Zealander who might consider becoming a mercenary, or who might consider providing mercenaries for external conflicts, that they risk punishment in New Zealand.''

Mr Goff said the Bill focused on two types of mercenaries – those who participate in wars, and those who participate in concerted acts of violence, including acts designed to destabilise governments.

“The common thread is that the person participation is motivated primarily by profit.”

The Bill implements the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing, and Training of Mercenaries, which entered into force in 2001. New Zealand will accede to the Convention once the Bill is passed.

"By becoming a party to the convention, New Zealand will demonstrate to the international community that we consider the recruitment and use of mercenaries to be unacceptable as a method of conflict resolution and that we are committed to tackling the issue at the international level."

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