Sunday, April 27, 2008

Found Guilty for Being Extraordinary?! (by Sarah Williams)

Thankyou everyone for your support! We couldn't have done it without you! Thanks to Margaret who wrote up a summary of the case and for being with us from Cairns, thanks to all of those that wrote references for us, those who played frisbee around the city of Melbourne and to those who came with us to court from Melbourne to calm those nerves.
Enclosed is my statement of evidence in court and my legal defence. Enjoy!





I too, would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land of Shoalwater Bay, the Darumbal people. I would also like to thank those here that are present for your time in hearing what I have to say.

Today I would like to affirm my plea of not-guilty for the charge of trespassing onto Commonwealth land under the Crimes Act of 1914. I believe I had a lawful excuse and will discuss the reasons for my presence in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area on 21st day of June, 2007.
I have chosen to represent myself today and hope that it will not hinder this court process as I am not a trained lawyer. I have not, however, taken this charge lightly. I have in fact taken it very seriously and have tried to do much research into the relevant law whilst also obtaining legal advice. I believe that by speaking myself my reasons for entering SWTA will be best represented.
On the day that myself and four other friends entered the base we carried a letter for the Australian and U.S. Generals hoping to engage in dialogue. Our message was clear “We believe that practicing for war only means more war. That is why we must imagine peace, embody peace, practice peace.” In this letter we also stated
People are likely to say that we have no respect for the law, however, this is not so. Rather, we say, with Martin Luther King Jr. and in accordance with the principles of nonviolence, “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust,..... is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”
I too, accept the consequences of my actions and would not have usually walked onto prohibited Commonwealth land if I did not consider that it was a matter of extraordinary emergency and therefore a ‘necessity’ to do so.
I believe I was justified in committing the lesser offence of trespass in order to prevent the greater crime of Operation Talisman Saber ’07.
I believe under the circumstances I had no other alternative as I had exhausted all legal means and I did so in such a way that was a reasonable response to the emergency.

Commonwealth Crime Code, 1995
10.3 Sudden or extraordinary emergency
(1) A person is not criminally responsible for an offence if he or she carries out the conduct constituting the offence in response to circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency.
(2) This section applies if and only if the person carrying out the conduct reasonably believes that:
(a) circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency exist; and
(b) committing the offence is the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency; and
(c) the conduct is a reasonable response to the emergency.

Reason of necessity
(a) circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency exist; and
The extraordinary emergency that led me to acting as I did was the presence of Operation Talisman Saber also known as “War Games” where approximately 30,000 Australian and U.S. troops were practicing for war in various parts of Australia such as the Bradshaw Training Area and Delamere Air Weapons Range in the Northern Territory and Shoalwater Bay in Queensland. I chose Shoalwater Bay as it is one of the largest. The ADF website describes it as such:
‘The Talisman Saber series of exercises are conducted biennially in Australia with the United States. Talisman Saber 2007 is designed to train Australian and US Forces in planning and conducting Combined Task Force operations, which will help improve ADF/US combat readiness and interoperability…
Talisman Saber 2007 focuses on operational level warfighting with training based on fictional scenarios that vary according to location between ground, air and marine activities in conjunction with simulated exercises’ (
http://www.defence.gov.au/exercises/ts07/default.htm).
It is no secret that these exercises include land and sea bombings, combat on the ground and the use of active sonar, all in one of Australia’s most environmentally sensitive areas.
What is a secret to the general public is the alternative agenda of the “war games” in our foreign policy practice.
During the year 2007, I became aware of these exercises and upon this knowledge started making arrangements to be present in opposition to what these games stand for “the training of violent ways in dealing with conflict resolution.” I had heard many personal stories and evidence in regards to the effects of these games and decided to not only let the general public know by creating awareness but somehow also represent my voice (however small) in trying to stop these “war games” from happening. I joined a group of people who learned about the principle of non-violence and underwent much training and researching in how this principle can change the world as it has in the civil rights movement and with so many other courageous prophets who believe another world is possible such as Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, Dorothy Day and John Dear.
I began taking the words in the Bible serious such as:
“Blessed are the peacemakers”
“Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you”
“Beat your swords into ploughshares and study for war no more”
I have even tried to live out this principle in my own life as part of a faith community named Jahwork in Doveton, Victoria.
Unlike other activists who had planned for a long time to enter SWBTA, it really became an emergency for me to enter the base when I started hearing first hand what was going on there. I met some of the indigenous elders from Guam such as Fanai Castro, a Guam activist from the Organisation of People for Indigenous Rights who shared her stories of the impact the US military is having on her country. The Chamoru people of Guam have struggled for a long time to protect their land and culture from the effects of militarisation. You only have to spend a little time researching what happened in Vieques to understand that having the U.S. army anywhere near your country can have detrimental effects.



I even talked to a builder who had taken part in building a temporary town inside the base which he described as a “mini Baghdad”(picture available).

In this small town was the presence of a mosque which they called a “community centre.” The soldiers were preparing in their practise of ‘interoperability’ to invade other countries as they have done in the past e.g. Iraq and Afghanistan and continue to do despite international law. In terms of the environmental impact of the games I also had spoken to many locals who had experienced unexploded ordinances appearing on the shores of public beaches despite the ADF ensuring that comprehensive environmental impact statements will be carried out. If these unexploded ordinances fell into the wrong hands e.g. a child playing on the beach this could be deadly. For these reasons and many others, I was compelled to act and put my body on the line to stop these “war games.” Upon careful deliberation I decided I had to go onto the base. By doing this I knew that it would stop the games if only for a little while, I also had to chat with the soldiers and embody another alternative to them. I entered the base in a place where I knew there was no risk and walked up the Samuel Hill airstrip carrying a peace flag, 2 letters for the Generals and a Frisbee promoting “peace games and not war games.” This extraordinary emergency of the presence of Operation Talisman Saber was of such a nature that I reasonably believed that committing the offence was a reasonable response to the emergency.
I believe that the ultimate question here is not whether you believe it was in fact an extraordinary emergency that I felt a necessity to enter the base but that I reasonably believed in the existence of the emergency.

Type of threat
The threatening situation
(b) committing the offence is the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency; and
I would like to talk a little about the type of threat that I perceived and why this was a threatening situation. I am aware that the intense pressure to take action which avoids impending harm is the hallmark of necessity or emergency.
An example of this is in the case of the Crown v Loughnan [1981] VR on page 443, (hand out sheet to magistrate, prosecutor) where the situation of necessity was described as an "imminent peril" and a threat of "irreparable evil". In this case the applicant (Loughnan) was tried and convicted before the County Court on a charge of escaping from Pentridge Prison. He believed his life was in danger whilst in prison and therefore believed it was a “necessity” to escape.
Chief Justice Young and Justice King summarised the 3 elements of the defence of necessity as follows:

“First the act or acts must have been done only in order to avoid certain consequences which would have inflicted irreparable evil on the accused or upon others whom he [or she] was bound to protect.”
Secondly, “… the accused must honestly believe on reasonable grounds that he [or she] [or those they were bound to protect] were placed in a situation of imminent peril.”
“The [third] element of proportion simply means that the acts done to avoid the imminent peril must not be out of proportion to the peril to be avoided.”

I understand that the term "imminent" in this case denotes a threat which is overhanging or impending, with provision for a time interval between the making of the threat and when it is carried out. This may be contrasted with the word "immediate" which signifies "occurring at once", without delay. Hence, the defence could be available as long as the resulting pressure from the threat persisted, until and including the time when the accused committed the crime alleged. This was certainly evident with the presence of OTS in Shoalwater Bay in 2007 which in my case was the perceived threat or ‘emergency.’ I would like to reiterate that I do not believe this emergency was “sudden”. It started in 2005 and will be going on for at least the next 20 years. I believe every time this happens it will be an extraordinary emergency and hope to join with other fellow Australians in trying to stop it.

I also understand that the description of "irreparable evil" focuses on the gravity of the threatened harm, to indicate the pressure confronting the accused. It is not concerned with time, unlike the notion of "imminence". There may be some instances where the gravity of the harm, without any urgency of time involved, sufficiently exerts the pressure to create a situation of necessity. I would also like to reiterate that the “irreparable evil” that I believed was the presence of OTS. It is irreparable evil because it causes direct harm to the land and sea (land that I see is our indigenous people’s land - the Darumbal people), it involves training for the further militarization of Australia and involves other social and economic issues which I will touch on in this statement. I believe I was under intense pressure to do something about this extraordinary emergency as the gravity of its effects is longlasting.

Necessary pressure
(c) the conduct is a reasonable response to the emergency.
In this section I would like to talk about the type of conduct I carried out whilst on the SWBTA. I believe this was a reasonably necessary response to the danger threatened.
I believe that I was compelled to take this course of action because all other legal attempts of action had been exhausted. I had written letters to MP’s, had been to public rallies, had put out media releases and signed petitions. Even after my arrest I still continue to do so (documents available - O Talisman). Despite the record attendance of millions of people at protest rallies across the world in 2003 our government still sent our troops to Iraq and keeps them there. In Melbourne alone (my home) there were around 150,000 people (BBC estimate) (Over 200,000 organisers estimate) who joined the demonstration.
I believe that my conduct carried out on the base was in fact the next step for me, and was the least harmful response in trying to display an alternative to practicing for war.
Before we were taken away by police we enjoyed many in depth conversations with military personnel who shared their inner feelings about the Iraq war and what they saw and were exposed to (e.g. use of depleted uranium and its effects). We got to share about our concerns for their lives and civilian’s lives and about our worry over the environmental effects that war and these games have. To our utter disbelief the hypothetical mission at the games was in regards to hypothetical “terrorists” coming to take over the country. Were we those terrorists? I believe we were just everyday Australians armed with another message: Love at all costs! As we were driven out we saw tanks and soldiers scattered all throughout the bush that had cease-fired as the base was closed whilst we were on the grounds. That day our concerns for our friend’s safety that were still on the base went to parliament, as no one believed it was possible. To me it was worth it just to have the conversation we wouldn’t have had whilst we were kept in silence. I invite you today to not silence it anymore!
As all the protesters went home the locals are left with the night sky blaring, the sound of bombing, their homes shaking, their health at risk and the real threat that because this base is located where it is they will be a likely target. The destruction of Shoalwater Bay continued until the 2nd July, 2007 and will go on for the next twenty years. Australia continues to spend $55 million a day on its military whilst where we live in Doveton, Victoria many social problems are unaddressed and experienced daily such as lack of affordable housing, social isolation, mental health issues, lack of education to name a few. We were on that base that day because we would like to call an end to further militarization of Australia!

In the leading common law decision of Crown v Loughnan [1981] VR 443, Crockett J posed the question: "Would a reasonable man in the position of the accused have considered that he had any alternative to doing what he did to avoid the peril?" In the same case, Crockett J stipulated that "[t]here was open to the accused no alternative, other than that adopted by him, to avoid the greater harm".
I believe an ordinary person similarly circumstanced who has heard the stories of war I have and who has become aware of the joint military exercises would have acted in the same or a similar way. If more Australians knew about OTS I would hope they would do the same.
I have been working as a Support Worker for the Salvation Army for approx 2 years and have heard many stories of the effects of war as we have many refugees settling down in my suburb of Doveton. I would even go as far as to say that many of the people I meet with have directly been a victim of the harm in Afghanistan and Iraq. I often sit with shared tears as they tell me the stories of their family members being murdered in front of them, stories of torture, trauma and rape. I would never wish these events to happen to anyone and yet our country is directly involved in mass murder by participating in foreign wars where we have ulterior motives.
According to a report titled “Rising to the Humanitarian Challenge in Iraq”released by Oxfam issued on the 30 July 2007:
Four million Iraqis – 15% - regularly cannot buy enough to eat.
70% are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50% in 2003.
28% of children are malnourished, compared to 19% before the 2003 invasion.
92% of Iraqi children suffer learning problems, mostly due to the climate of fear.
More than two million people – mostly women and children - have been displaced inside Iraq.
A further two million Iraqis have become refugees, mainly in Syria and Jordan.
Jeremy Hobbs, director of Oxfam International, said: "The terrible violence in Iraq has masked the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Malnutrition amongst children has dramatically increased and basic services, ruined by years of war and sanctions, cannot meet the needs of the Iraqi people. Millions of Iraqis have been forced to flee the violence, either to another part of Iraq or abroad. Many of those are living in dire poverty.
These games play a direct part in that as the soldiers present have been in Iraq themselves. Some of our soldiers still are. We heard stories of that horror whilst on the base. These soldiers were directly training for this idea of redemptive violence to proceed.
I wanted to go on the base to speak to the soldiers because I have heard testimonies of conscientious objectors who experienced the atrocities of the Iraq war. Matt Howard, a US Iraqi Veteran tells his story
"...The people of Iraq are suffering horrors hard to conceive on a daily basis because we are there. And yet their only crime is that they were also victims of previous horrors under a different regime. The Iraqi people fighting us are fighting for their freedom - to be free from foreign military occupation...We go and clear an area and they just go somewhere else and when we leave they come back, and this will go on and on until we finally admit that we're not supposed to be there. We never should have been there in the first place. This war was based on lies. As I like to say, you can't win a crime, you can only stop it...." Matt Howard
If this is not an emergency enough then I do not know what is. I believe our common humanity calls us to stand up for those who are dieing everyday in unnecessary wars and to protect our own country Australia.
The more serious question I would like to ask myself is not if another person would act in the same way but in light of what I know about war and these games – why aren’t I doing more for my international brothers and sisters who obviously have to bear the cost of war more than I do.

Summing Up…
It is with knowledge like this that I decided recently to see for myself the effects of war. This year I spent 5 weeks in Sudan (mostly in the South) where my heart broke.

I would like to submit a picture which I believe depicts the effects of war e.g. it is a picture of a tank near one of the biggest battle fields in South Sudan and a field of landmines. You can see that the tank is rusted out, a village surrounds it and children play on it. For me it represents how comfortable we have become with the presence of war. Our lives go on whilst we forget those that miss out women/children/dead/starved/injured. I know it isn’t your job today to agree with me on points of public policy that have badly gone wrong.
I do however, through this dialogue wish to reiterate that it was my reasonable belief that there was an emergency, a perceived threat to our livelihoods and our future as Australians on the day that I openly entered the base.
Again, thank-you for your time.














3 comments:

Rhotel1 said...

I wonder what false information you shared about depleted uranium - nice that you try to fill the soldiers heads full of misleading information. For starters, they aren't even likely to encounter it. DU was used to kill tanks and it is not floating around the desert in a dust cloud as claimed by Leuren Moret or Doug Rokke, both of which really enjoy your sending them free airline tickets, hotel reservations and donations. They don't travel on their money; they travel on yours. I have nothing against Christian peacemakers, but it would be nice if you followed the ways of Christ and stuck to the facts and left out the fiction. You said "Before we were taken away by police we enjoyed many in depth conversations with military personnel who shared their inner feelings about the Iraq war and what they saw and were exposed to (e.g. use of depleted uranium and its effects). We got to share about our concerns for their lives and civilian’s lives and about our worry over the environmental effects that war and these games have"

Samuel Hill 4 said...

Hey mate, thanks for joining in the dialogue!
I guess I can't help my experiences.
I asked the soldiers on the base who shared their lunch with us if they had come into any contact with DU in Iraq and service assignments (I wasn't there to oppose them as people. I couldn't have these conversations on the other side of the fence). They said they had and saw whole villages effected by it. They worried about their own health and off the record some of them didn't agree with the war. I only posed the question of whether they had other options. They mentioned that the military had become their life and couldn't get a job elsewhere.
I wish this information wasn't true! If you want to hear more stories of other conscientious objectors go to www.ivaw.com. Their stories speak for themselves and there are over 1000 of them who have joined!
As for the Christian thing well I guess that's open to interpretation and always has been. I had to do what I felt was right going by the information I had heard. There are many who have offered us support including some of the locals who are affected by it more than I am.
Thanks for your response!

Samuel Hill 4 said...

hey rhotel...that last one was Sarah, this is Simon M...I've never heard of Leuren Moret or Doug Rokke, nor have I sent them any money.

To be honest, I agree with you about the DU in relation to Shoalwater Bay - it was probably never used there, and probably never will be (though it's certainly been used in actual wars). Our beef was never primarily with DU, but with war itself and particularly the destruction of this (well, really any) area in the name of training for war.

I personally never mentioned DU in my conversations with troops, preferring to focus on nonviolence vs violent ways of solving conflicts. I think they the most warm, constructive, helpful conversations I've ever had with military personnel.