Mercenaries Bill passed

  • Phil Goff
Foreign Affairs and Trade

Today's passing of the Mercenary Activities (Prohibition) Bill will ensure New Zealand is never seen as a safe haven for mercenaries, says Foreign Minister Phil Goff.

The Bill makes it an offence to recruit, use, finance or train mercenaries, or to participate in a war or act of violence as a mercenary. All offences will be punishable by up to 14 years' imprisonment, and New Zealanders will be able to be prosecuted in New Zealand for acts committed overseas.

"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

"This Bill covers what is traditionally envisaged by the term ‘mercenary’, and it is designed to catch a relatively small number of people. After consideration at select committee, the Bill now spells out that those on peacekeeping missions, undertaking mine clearance, delivering humanitarian aid, providing policing or security services that protect individuals or property, are not mercenaries.

"It also includes measures relating to international cooperation in investigations and prosecutions, which are important to ensure that individuals can be brought to justice.

"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.

"There have been calls internationally for the Convention to be amended so that the definition more accurately reflects today’s reality, including the use of so-called mercenaries in criminal activities such as arms and drugs trafficking.

"By becoming a party to the Convention, New Zealand will be better placed to contribute to international discussions around the appropriate scope of the term ‘mercenary’ and to influence negotiations on making any amendments to the Convention," Mr Goff said.