I oppose this section for the reasons I put before the Seanad on the Second Stage. The Minister, in originally introducing this to us, told us that this was, in the main, a Bill for the purpose of implementing certain international conventions and bringing us into line with the practice in other countries where such conventions had been ratified, but in Section 8 of the memorandum accompanying this Bill, it is said that the Civilians Convention on which this Bill is based does not specifically provide for trial of enemy aliens by military courts.
The object of the section we are asked to include in the Bill is to allow enemy aliens, charged with an offence and already interned, to be tried, not by the ordinary courts, but by a military tribunal. The memorandum accompanying this Bill admits that this portion of the Bill is not for the purpose of implementing the international convention, but that there is something added to it by this Bill. The memorandum pleads the case that, since the convention which we are trying to implement does not specifically preclude military tribunal, "it is obviously desirable that there should be power in certain circumstances to bring enemy aliens before military courts." This is a measure which is brought in by the back door, so to speak.
We are told that the justification for the Bill is that the international convention agreed to do certain things. Then we find a section which has nothing to do with the international convention, and the most the Minister can say in extenuation of it is that at least the international convention does not prohibit it. There are a lot of things which it does not prohibt and yet does not recommend. The memorandum says: "It is obviously desirable". I do not see it as being "obviously desirable." If an enemy alien has been interned, I do not see any reason, if he commits an offence, why he should not be tried by the ordinary processes of law.
I would be very suspicious of granting this power to any Minister to deal with such a man by military tribunal. Furthermore, I do not think that such a Bill as this is the place to introduce a principle of this kind. Therefore, I am opposed to the whole section.