A Whale of a Kangaroo Court
Commentary By Captain Paul Watson
The Japanese government has requested that the Australian government pursue charges against my self, my crew and our ship the Steve Irwin. Japan has accused us of deploying a propeller entanglement system to shut down their harpoon boats and is accusing us of deliberately colliding with the harpoon vessel Yushin Maru #3.
For this reason, the Steve Irwin was met by Australian Federal Police with a warrant to seize our logbook and hundreds of video tapes. This despite the fact that none of the documentation recorded was obtained in Australian territory or on an Australian vessel.
No arrests were made but the question now is where is this going to go? Will I, or any other Steve Irwin crew be arrested and by whom and for what exactly? Will we get our property back, or will it be sent to Japan from where it will never return? Will any of us be sent to Japan from which we may never return - at least anytime soon thereafter.
Our position is that we would welcome a trial, and if arrested we will be plunged into what will surely be a complex and controversial case. A Canadian Captain, a Swedish 1st Officer, a British Second Officer, a crew of 12 different nationalities on a Dutch registered ship charged under a Japanese complaint for actions to oppose illegal whaling in the New Zealand Ross Dependency, inside the Antarctic Treaty Zone and arrested in an Australian Port and tried in an Australian court with a possible extradition to Japan. This is a legal boondoggle that will not be resolved before the next round of dangerous skirmishes at the bottom of the world between whale killers and whale defenders.
But it will be a case that could illustrate that Australia, claiming it has no authority to intervene to stop the illegal killing of endangered whales in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary has instead chosen to exercise the authority to arrest a ship that is intervening to stop the killing of whales. In other words, Japan, a nation whose whaling operations have been condemned by the Australian government will be calling the shots on how Australia will act against an international organization whose position of opposition to Japanese whaling is shared with the Australian government. It's all very confusing but whenever politicians get involved with such issues there no longer is any black and white or right or wrong. It all comes down to trying to be everything to everybody with the result that nothing constructive ever seems to get done at all by anyone.
If the Australian government decides to arrest us and to put us on trial in Australia for our efforts to defend whales it will see Australia calling whale killers from Japan as witnesses for the Crown to testify against whale defenders. However this will give us the opportunity to put these whalers on the stand to answer some hard questions about the legality of their activities. Or it will be a whale of a kangaroo court that will condemn us without answering or addressing the question of just what it is that Sea Shepherd is doing in the Southern Ocean and why we are doing it.
Our defence will be the United Nation World Charter for Nature that allows for intervention against illegal activities in international waters by individuals or non-governmental organizations. If the Australian crown prosecutors use our video of our activities as evidence to convict us for our actions, then we will be allowed to introduce video evidence of Japanese whalers physically assaulting the crewmembers of the Steve Irwin and attempting to foul the prop of the Steve Irwin. We will also present evidence of the Japanese whalers deploying a sonic weapon against our crew and especially against our helicopter pilot. And we will be able to present evidence of the cruel slaughter of the whales.
The Rudd government in Australia was elected on a promise to take the Japanese whalers to court for illegal whaling. It is a promise they have not kept. It will be embarrassing if they decide to take the whale defenders to court instead. And if convicted would they then extradite myself or my crew to Japan to face a very real kangaroo court where evidence will be irrelevant and the certainty of conviction absolute. What will the Australian people, the most whale loving nation on the planet think of their government handing the shepherds of the whales over to the Japanese wolves?
I don't really care myself if Australia decides to arrest me or not. My crew are safe. The responsibility for the actions by the Steve Irwin are mine alone. I am the Captain and I gave the orders and my orders were clear. We were to stand our ground and we were not to back down from our objective of blocking illegal Japanese whaling operations.
We were witness to a murder on February 5th of a gentle and intelligent sentient being. Shot in the back by a cold blooded killer. We saw that innocent gentle giant scream in horrific pain and roll in unimaginable agony in its own hot blood on the surface of a very cold sea for over twenty minutes. We also saw the bodies of four other murdered whales that day and nothing they can do to us will even come close to matching the suffering those whales experienced at the bloody hands of those viciously cruel killers.
We did what we had to do and that was to stand our ground to block the loading of the corpses of those whales onto the flensing deck of that floating abattoir called the Nisshin Maru. To have backed off would have been cowardly and it would have told the Japanese whalers that Sea Shepherd lacked the resolve to do what we came here to do and that was to protect the whales.
Our motto always has been that we don't surrender, we don't retreat, we don't compromise and we don't hang banners, instead we hold fast. And hold fast is what we did. We did not deliberately ram a Japanese harpoon boat. We blocked it and a collision occurred when the harpoon vessel ran our blockade.
Our job is especially difficult because we have to do what we do, taking the utmost precaution to ensure that we do not injure the killers that we oppose. The whalers have no such restrictions. They know their government will justify and defend any action they undertake including injury or death. They literally have license to kill. The U.N. World Charter for Nature gives us a license to save lives but unlike the whalers, we are not killers and thus we are restricted to tactics that ensure that we do not injure the killers we oppose.
The Australian Federal Court in January 2008 ruled that the killing of whales by Japanese whalers in the Australian Antarctic Territory was prohibited under law. Japan has chosen to ignore that ruling, and instead these criminals are now making demands of Australia to arrest the very people trying to uphold the Australian Federal Court ruling.
Oh what a web they weave when they practise to deceive. Australia and Japan are both signatories to the International Whaling Commission, the Antarctic Treaty and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). They proudly signed these agreements and pride themselves for doing so. The trouble is that without enforcement and compliance it is all just worthless paper.
A trial will expose both the hypocrisy and the complacency of the signatories to these international treaties and agreements. As for going to jail, history has demonstrated from Henry David Thoreau to Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela that social reform often requires sacrifices and that going to jail occasionally, is simply part of the business of changing the world. This war to save the whales must be fought on many fronts, in the field, on the high seas, amongst the icebergs and in the courts, including the court of public opinion.
The bottom line is that the Japanese whalers are killing endangered whales in an internationally established whale sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on commercial whaling and in contempt of an Australian Federal Court ruling. We on the other hand, merely scratched their paint, saved hundreds of whales, cost them their illegal profits and wounded their pride.
Saving whales from ruthless poachers is not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. As it is we are the only ones defending whales in the field and the only ones actually saving lives.
And saving lives is worth going to jail for.
It sure beats doing nothing.