Independent inquiry needed into SAS prisoner transfer torture claims

This is a grave matter because on the evidence New Zealand may be accused of violating the international rules of war

The Green Party is calling on the Government to establish an independent inquiry into new evidence that New Zealand’s SAS soldiers in Afghanistan have been passing over prisoners who have later been mistreated or tortured, actions which may be in breach of the Geneva Convention.

In the latest edition of Metro, journalist Jon Stephenson provides testimony from those who were tortured after the SAS handed over 55 prisoners to American forces following a 2002 raid in southern Helmand. He also reports on a raid in Wardak province last year, where a prisoner handed over to Afghan troops was badly beaten and only intervention by the SAS prevented him from being murdered. The SAS has also handed over prisoners to the Afghanistan National Directorate of Security, renowned for its torture practices.

“This new evidence shows we can no longer accept the Defence Minister’s assurances that the SAS is not detaining prisoners and handing them over to subsequent torture,” said Keith Locke, Green Party defence spokesperson.

“This is a grave matter because on the evidence New Zealand may be accused of violating the international rules of war. As a party taking prisoners our Defence Force bears some responsibility for any mistreatment afterwards.

“There needs to be an independent judicial inquiry to test the claims made in the Metro article. Neither Labour or National have given Parliament and the public straight answers on this issue.

“An internal inquiry would not suffice, given that the Defence Force has swept this matter under the carpet for the last nine years.

“It has been extremely difficult for MPs like myself to get to the truth, because of an excessive level of official secrecy, including around what arrangements our Defence Force has with the Afghan authorities.

“Last year, I was told in response to a written parliamentary question that the Afghan government had assured us in writing that any detainees passed over would be treated in accordance with humanitarian law. However, I was not allowed to see the wording of that assurance – perhaps because it was not worth the paper it was written on.

“Only an independent inquiry will get the truth out and provide the answers that the public deserve about our activities in Afghanistan,” said Mr Locke.