Anti-Democratic Outrage in New Zealand

On 9 December a request for a jury trial was denied to the 13 Maori and five other peace, anarchist and environmental activists arrested in raids on Maori communities and leftists’ homes on 15 October 2007. Although the New Zealand Solicitor-General decided there was no basis to pursue terrorism charges, they are currently on bail accused of a variety of offences, particularly in connection with the Arms Act. Now it has been ruled that they will be tried next year by a judge sitting alone rather than by a jury of their peers. Outrageously, any publication regarding that ruling and the reasons for it has been banned.

The International Bolshevik Tendency has supported action in solidarity with those facing trial from the time of the arrests (see our 10 November 2007 posting). Over the intervening three years the Crown (ie government) has engaged in complex legal manoeuvres rendering the expected 60-day trial a farcical mockery. Not only is the basic democratic right to trial by jury denied, but the High Court has prohibited reporting both that decision, and the reasons given for it. We have heard that the chief rationalisation for this Alice-in-Wonderland decree is that the trial would be very long for a jury to hear. The real reason for the gag-rule is obviously to spare the learned officers of the court the ridicule they deserve.

On 12 December the October 15 Solidarity group issued a statement on the ruling. This was republished by two independent news websites in New Zealand – Indymedia (Aotearoa Independent Media Centre) and Scoop. In both cases their posting was modified to remove the fact that this will be a trial without jury.

Indymedia originally included the full statement, but was forced to cut it by a letter from the New Zealand Crown Law office which wrote that the High Court decision to remove the right of trial by jury in this case, is “suppressed” along with “any commentary, summary or description of it”. See the Crown Law Office letter, and the cover page of the judgement as sent to Indymedia by the Crown Law Office.

The International Bolshevik Tendency defends the right to be tried by a jury of one’s peers as a minimal democratic protection against arbitrary state power. The denial of that right merely confirms our position that there can be no expectation of justice in the bourgeois courts.

Expose injustice! No censorship of court decisions!
Restore the right to a jury of one’s peers!
Drop the charges against New Zealand activists!

Posted: 20 December 2010