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Ruling Pertaining to the Differences between France and New Zealand Arising from the Rainbow Warrior Affair

France–New Zealand Arbitral Tribunal
19 U.N. Rep Intl. Arb. Awards 199 (1986)


Greenpeace, a nongovernmental organization, used a ship called the Rainbow Warrior in protests related to environmental issues. In July 1985, the Rainbow Warrior was scheduled to sail to France (defendant) to participate in a protest against upcoming French nuclear testing. While the Rainbow Warrior was docked in New Zealand (plaintiff), members of the French Directorate General of External Security placed a bomb on the ship. The bomb exploded, destroying and sinking the Rainbow Warrior and killing Fernando Pereira, a Dutch crew member. Two French agents, Major Alain Mafart and Captain Dominique Prieur, were arrested and charged with murder and arson under New Zealand law. France eventually admitted its role in the bombing, and the agents pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Each agent received a 10-year prison sentence. New Zealand told France that New Zealand would pursue damages for the attack and demanded that France compensate Greenpeace and Pereira’s family. At the same time, France was pressuring New Zealand to free the agents, arguing that the agents had heeded superior orders and therefore should not be held criminally liable. On June 19, 1986, France and New Zealand agreed to submit the contested issues stemming from the bombing to Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar of the United Nations for a binding decision.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Pérez)

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