Writing as a grindstone. Finished writing, unfinished writing, writing ideas, things that I'll never get round to writing, other things. Grinding it out, grinding away. Writing some more.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

No justice in Operation 8

Hone Harawira has it right (Justice denied to the people of Tuhoe). The defendants and a few others are claiming the verdicts as a victory (eg, Urewera retrial unlikely and Urewera charges don’t stack up), and you can understand why. It must be a huge relief that this specific part of the police campaign of harassment is (fingers crossed) over. But in terms of justice, it is not a victory. The outcome of this trial was never going to be a victory for justice, because the wrong people were on trial.

In his keynote address to the Māori criminal justice colloquium in 2008, Moana Jackson described justice as a system which helps us deal with wrong by re-enforcing what is right, which helps us deal with hurt by dealing with those who are hurt, by helping us deal with injustice by re-defining what is injustice and what is just in our terms. Such a system is focused on avoiding and putting right social harm. It is a definition which makes sense to me.

If we use this definition to look at what happened on and since October 15, 2007, it is clear that one party is responsible for social harm (eg, from the Herald). On October 15, police smashed their way into houses around the country, and attempted to terrify everyone they found—shouting, pointing guns, holding people captive. They blockaded an entire community, stopping and searching cars, photographing occupants, all at gun point. All of this was indiscriminate, children and adults were targeted. Around 20 people were taken and held for a month. Since then, police have harassed those who were arrested, through the courts with ridiculous bail restrictions, and also on the streets. Governments have allowed and defended this behaviour; for example, Helen Clark used the media to say those arrested were guilty before charges had even been laid ( PM: activists trained to use napalm), while John Key “says there is no need for an inquiry into how police and the Crown handled the Te Urewera raids case” (Te Urewera trial cost). As recently as three weeks ago, while the Operation 8 trial was in the news, the police were still harassing the people of Ruātoki (Residents terrorised after police raid wrong house), and were lucky not to seriously hurt anyone.

Of all the evidence that was presented in the media and in court, culled from hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence collected, there is only one example of anyone other than the Crown causing harm to others (Apology followed shots). Four and a half years of harassment and vilification of those arrested, their whānau, the residents of Ruātoki, and Ngāi Tūhoe in general, does nothing to fix that harm.

We are expected to believe Ruātoki is a community of terrorists, and yet they have faced these years of provocation and threats without retaliation. The police have tried to humiliate and demonise these people, and have failed. They have been caught red-faced as the bullies they are.

But the police have not been on trial, and according to John Key, there is no need for them to be. As Hone said: There has been no apology, there has been no compensation, there has been no public acknowledgement of the need for change in police operations or for new engagement policies as a result of the litany of errors we now know as Operation 8. Those would be the first steps towards justice in this appalling mess.

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