Human rights should head agenda with top US official

Major human rights issues should top the agenda for meetings today with a top United States official, Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Chris Hill will meet Foreign Minister Winston Peters this morning and Prime Minister Helen Clark this afternoon.

“This is a perfect opportunity for New Zealand to raise the harsh treatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, and lack of due process, which is no longer acceptable to the international community – as seen in a recent UN Commission on Human Rights report,” Mr Locke says.

“It is important that all nations put pressure on the Bush administration to abide by the report and close down this hell-hole. The torture and indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay cannot be condoned any longer.”

Another important area of focus right now was the Philippines.

“Commendably, Helen Clark last week responded to appeals from myself and others to challenge the Philippine President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, over the arrest of one Filipino parliamentarian and threats against five others. Our Prime Minister should enlist Mr Hill’s support for an end to such attacks on democracy in the Philippines,” Mr Locke says.

A number of other human rights issues in New Zealand’s Asian-Pacific neighbourhood needed urgent discussion also.

“In West Papua there has been a military crackdown on pro-independence activists following the death of three Indonesian soldiers there on Thursday.

“New Zealand also needs to work closely with America in pressing the Burmese junta to free Aung San Suu Kyi and open a path to democracy. America has taken a stronger stand than New Zealand over Burma, putting into place economic sanctions.”