New Zealand announced [press release; ICJ backgrounder, PDF] Friday that it will support Australia in an ongoing legal dispute before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] between Australia and Japan over Japanese whaling near Antarctica. Australia filed a complaint against Japan [JURIST report] in the ICJ in May 2011 arguing that Japan's whaling practices in the Antarctic violate the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling [materials]. New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully [official website] explained that New Zealand would intervene in the dispute between Australia and Japan because as a member of the International Whaling Committee (IWC) [official website], New Zealand is obligated to make sure that Japan complies with international law by not commercially killing whales:
As a member of the International Whaling Commission, New Zealand has an interest in ensuring that the IWC works effectively and that the Whaling Convention is properly interpreted and applied. ... New Zealand has worked hard with Japan for over three years to try and find a permanent solution to whaling in the Southern Ocean. The government will continue to use all avenues possible to try to bring a halt to Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean.Australia and Japan have until December 21 to file responses to New Zealand's intervention.
Japan's whaling program remains extremely controversial. Australia initiated proceedings against Japan [JURIST report] in May 2010. In July 2010 a Japanese court convicted New Zealand anti-whaling activist Peter Bethune on charges of assault, trespass, destruction of property, illegal possession of a weapon and obstruction of business for boarding a Japanese whaling vessel [JURIST reports] as part of an anti-whaling protest in January of that year. Berthune, who called the charges "bogus," was extradited to New Zealand, and he will not serve prison time unless he returns to Japan. Commercial whaling has been banned by the International Whaling Commission since 1986.