Greens Question PM on her upcoming meeting with President George Bush
Green MPs hope that Prime Minister Helen Clark will make the most of her meeting with President George Bush in Washington next week and raise the issues which really matter. It seems, after a series of questions in the House on Wednesday, that this will not be the case.
When asked, by Keith Locke, if she would raise climate change, the United States’ human rights record, and the war in Iraq, the PM replied: “The time for such meetings is always limited, and my intention is to focus on progressing areas for cooperation. I have made it clear that Iraq is not on my agenda to raise.”
Keith continued by asking “What will she say to George Bush about the United States’ barbaric treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, and the American Government’s practice of rendering prisoners to torture in third countries”. Again the PM rebuffed him saying “It is not on my agenda to raise issues of that kind with the President. As I have already observed, raising human rights issues is a two-edged sword.” She said a US State Department report on New Zealand “drew attention to the level of violence against women. It drew attention to the poor socio-economic status of indigenous people, to attacks on Jewish cemeteries in our country”.
Keith didn’t accept this as an out, asking: “is she saying that the human rights violations committed by the United States at Guantanamo Bay and in the rendition programme are in some way comparable with the human rights issues raised in the United States report on New Zealand, and should not New Zealand take the high moral ground in an exchange of human rights standards between the two countries?”
Read Amnesty International’s latest report on
Guantanamo Bay detention facility
Cluster Bomb Conference a Success – But where was the US?
A historic process to develop, negotiate and conclude a new treaty prohibiting cluster bombs was launched at a conference in Norway on Feb 23. Civilians constitute 98% of all recorded cluster submunitions casualties, many of them injured or killed while carrying out their normal day to day activities, according to the groundbreaking report by Handicap International (HI)
Fatal Footprint: The Global Human Impact of Cluster Munitions.
The conference was attended by 49 states and 100 NGO participants. The group of 46 states agreeing to the new process includes key users, producers and stockpilers of the weapon, such as UK and France and a number of countries affected by cluster munitions such as Afghanistan, Lebanon and Serbia.
Of the 49 states attending the conference 3 refused to sign the declaration, they were Japan, Romania and Poland. Most disappointing, however, was the absence of nations such as the United States, Russia and China from the conference.
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: “We… take the position that these munitions do have a place and a use in military inventories”. The US position is hardly surprising when they haven’t ratified the land mine ban treaty and the Bush administration’s February 2004 land mine policy reserves the right to use what it called self-destructing mines through 2010.
Without the support of the US, Russia and China, key producers of cluster bombs, the credibility of any new treaty remains open to debate.
the full text of the Oslo declaration (16kb)
the Handicap International petition
New Zealand’s defence reengagement with Indonesia
The New Zealand government’s decision to reengage militarily with Indonesia is very disappointing. Ties with Indonesia have been broken since the devastation of East Timor in 1999, during which the Indonesian military played the major role. Now, an Indonesian staff officer will be invited to attend this year’s course at the New Zealand Defence Force staff college, and members of the course will travel to Indonesia.
Keith Locke contests Phil Goff’s assertion that the Indonesian military ‘has undergone significant change and reform’, sufficient to justify the limited re-engagement. Goff’s claim that Indonesia has made real progress in terms of human rights is countered by
the latest Human Rights Watch report on the country. (pdf 56kb)
While the military are still violating human rights in places like West Papua with impunity and to date no Indonesian military officers and only one militia leader have been held to account for the mayhem in East Timor, how could the NZ Government seriously consider re-engagement.
Read the full
Shoot outs in the Sky
Green MP Keith Locke has warned against the danger of legally allowing foreign armed air marshals onto planes coming into New Zealand, as proposed by the Aviation Security Legislation Bill introduced into Parliament on Tuesday.
It is irresponsible for the New Zealand Government to authorise an armed security officer from a foreign country to discharge a gun in the confined space of a pressurised aircraft cabin that will quite possibly be full of New Zealand citizens.
Fears about cowboy behaviour by unsworn air marshals are not unfounded. Between late 2001 and mid 2003, Time magazine has reported, there were
600 reports of misconduct involving US air marshals
, including one who drew a gun on someone who had taken his airport parking space. Another involved a passenger finding an air marshal’s gun in the plane toilet.
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