Legal mandate – ADF and AFP in Solomon Islands

Legal mandate – ADF and AFP in Solomon Islands

Australian government

The legal framework for the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), Submission, DFAT, Senate inquiry into Australia’s involvement in Peacekeeping Operations, 2007

As well as enshrining RAMSI in international law, through the RAMSI Treaty signed by the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) and all participating countries, Australia recognised that a strong legal foundation in Solomon Islands domestic law was essential to the credibility and validity of RAMSI. Australia therefore sought, and achieved, SIG approval of the enabling legislation – the Facilitation of International Assistance Act (FIA Act), passed unanimously by Parliament in July 2003.

While the current government has threatened to repeal the FIA Act on occasion – as one way it could force RAMSI’s removal – in order for this to happen a majority of Solomon Islands members of Parliament would need to vote to end RAMSI.

RAMSI’s ability to achieve quick early results benefited greatly from the agreement with SIG to give RAMSI personnel the same powers as their Solomon Island counterparts. At the outset, officers of RAMSI’s Participating Police Force were not just advisers, but could conduct investigations and make arrests, with full police powers bestowed upon them under the FIA Act.”

Solomon Islands Government

The Facilitation of International Assistance Act (No. 1 of 2003), passed by the Parliament of Solomon Islands, 17 July 2003

An Act to Make Provisions for the Requesting of International Assistance for the Restoration of Law and Order in Solomon Islands, and for Matters Connected Therewith or Incidental Thereto, Enacted by the National Parliament of Solomon Islands.

Pacific Islands Forum member governments

RAMSI agreement, Australian Treaty Series [2003] ATS17, signed in Townsvilla Australia, 24 July 2003

“Article 2: The Assisting countries may deploy a visiting contingent of police forces, armed forces and other personnel to Solomon Islands to assist in the provision of security and safety to persons and property; maintain supplies and services essential to the life of the Solomon Islands community; prevent and suppress violence, intimidation and crime; support and develop Solomon Islands institutions; and generally assist in the maintenance of law and order in Solomon Islands.”

United Nations

There has been no formal United Nations Security Council endorsement of RAMSI, beyond a media statement in 2003 from the President of the UN Security Council at the time of the initial intervention.

Press Statement on Solomon Islands by Security Council President Fayssal Mekdad (Syria), UN Press release SC/7853, 26 August 2003

The members of the Security Council welcome warmly the collective action of the countries of the Pacific Islands Forum to support the people of the Solomon Islands in their quest for the restoration of law and order and stability.  The members of the Security Council welcome the leadership exerted by Australia and New Zealand, in close partnership with other countries in the region in this regard. They hope that this important regional initiative will quickly lead to the restoration of normalcy and national harmony in the Solomon Islands and that it will facilitate a peace-building process and economic recovery.  They encourage all parties to cooperate in promoting these objectives and to renounce the use of armed force and violence to settle their differences.”

Commentary and analysis

Submission, Australian Red Cross, Senate inquiry into Australia’s involvement in Peacekeeping Operations, 2007

The provision of such training to all those involved in peace operations is invaluable if those deployed are to fully understand the environment in which they will be asked to operate and the legitimate roles of humanitarian actors they will encounter. However, with the exception of the AFPs lDG course, which all deploying AFP personnel must attend, other training programs target only a limited number of Defence and other government personnel who may be deployed. The vast majority of a peacekeeping contingent is therefore unlikely to have a clear understanding of the humanitarian organisations and their legitimate roles in the area of operation.

This raises squarely the need for more uniform training of all Australian personnel deploying on peace operations. Such training must include a detailed explanation of the legal framework within which the operations are undertaken and therefore needs to include, as a minimum, the relevant UN or bilateral agreements permitting and circumscribing operations and the underlying international legal framework, in particular international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Similarly, such training should include clear guidance as to the application of Australian domestic law, including criminal law. As was suggested in the Parliament’s 1994 peace keeping report (Recommendation 44), humanitarian and other organisations should be involved in general and pre-deployment training. While this occurs on occasion, there does not appear to be a uniform practice in this regard.”

See also: