“There are some among us who have integrity and determination to challenge what they know to be wrong, for the greater good of us all, despite their personal loss. Malcolm is such a person.” says Margaret Kendall-Smith of her son Malcom.
by Kim Knight, Sunday Star Times, published April 23, 2006
Mother of court-martialled Kiwi speaks out
The mother of the Kiwi doctor jailed for refusing to go to war against Iraq says the outcome of his court martial was expected, but “extraordinary in its severity”.
Margaret Kendall-Smith is one of more than 1000 signatories to an online “Free Malcolm Kendall-Smith” petition, started after her son was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment on April 13.
Margaret Kendall-Smith, a PhD student in Dunedin, said her son was well and preparing his appeal.
“I suspect that those who insisted on this case being dealt with as it was may regret their undemocratic stance and bullying tactics,” she said.
“There are some among us who have integrity and determination to challenge what they know to be wrong, for the greater good of us all, despite their personal loss. Malcolm is such a person.”
Malcolm Kendall-Smith, 37, a former Royal Air Force flight lieutenant, who has an Otago University post-graduate degree in philosophy, argued that the war was illegal.
The petition calling for his release has been organised by Britain’s Military Families Against War (MFAW), which will march on Downing St on Wednesday with a separate petition demanding that British Prime Minister Tony Blair meet families of soldiers sent to Iraq: “We need an accounting for the reasons we were taken to war and the reasons we have suffered so much,” the petition says.
The Kendall-Smith petition, addressed to Defence Secretary John Reid, condemns the New Zealander’s sentence as an “outrage” and demands his immediate release.
“He acted on his conscience in refusing to serve in an illegal war. In doing so, he acted on behalf of many people in this country.
“The judge’s remarks that orders have to be obeyed also give cause for concern. The Nuremberg trials after World War II established that obeying illegal orders was no defence against charges of war crimes,” says the letter to Reid.
Margaret Kendall-Smith says the petition has been signed by people “from all walks of life”.
Signatories listed on the MFAW’s website include doctors, church leaders, veteran soldiers and New Zealand MP Keith Locke.
“There are now a number of sites with petitions for people to sign… a real ground swell of support,” she said. “Of particular interest are the comments from (Defence) Force personnel. They are not afraid to do their job, but are very aware their job must be legally sanctioned and implemented or else they become part of a complicity. Many are now aware they were sent to Iraq on the back of lies.”
She said the families of people serving in the armed forces accepted the associated risks.
“However, there are times when it becomes apparent that these people are placed in situations not in accordance with international law. The humanitarians are those who challenge such situations in order to save unnecessary loss.”