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is mounting said Keith Locke on 8 March, commenting on the despatch of fresh New Zealand forces to Afghanistan and the Indian Ocean – 50 SAS soldiers to Afghanistan, the frigate Te Mana to the Indian Ocean and a P3 Orion crew to an undisclosed Middle Eastern base.
“We shouldn’t be endangering New Zealand lives for one of George Bush’s wars,” said Keith. “The $17 million this military adventure is costing the taxpayer could be spent much better in reconstructing the bombed-out infrastructure of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Clearly, the SAS will be playing an active part in the US raids which have upset so many Afghanis. Many innocent civilians have been killed and continue to be killed in American air strikes, which are called-in by the troops on the ground.
“It’s fantasy to think Te Mana will be helping a ‘war against terror.’ The entire Maritime Interdiction Operation in the Gulf and Indian Ocean hasn’t caught a single confirmed terrorist. Its main purpose is to project Western power around the Arabian Peninsula.”
Is New Zealand part of an Illegal Spy Ring?
Keith Locke asked on the Prime Minister on 29 February and 2 March, after Andrew Fowler of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Investigative Unit said that transcripts of UN Chief Weapons Inspector Hans Blix’s conversations in Iraq were made available not only to Australia’s Office of National Assessments but also to New Zealand. The ‘Weekend Australian’ and the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ confirmed transcripts went to Australia.
In Parliament on 2 March the Prime Minister refused to deny this, or to make any comment on the matter.
Keith responded: “It is not as if a denial of New Zealand’s involvement would have endangered any legitimate security operation. It would simply have cleared matters up.”
“Rightly or wrongly, New Zealand has been implicated in the very serious matter of spying on the United Nations. We have signed up to international conventions that specifically protect the confidentiality of UN communications.”
“The ‘no comment’ routine also stops New Zealanders finding out much about Waihopai satellite communications interception station which collects electronic intelligence for American and British partner agencies, and could be used to eavesdrop on UN phone calls.
I’d like Helen Clark, as a champion of the United Nations, to reassure us of New Zealand’s innocence,” said Keith.
Action Alert on Afghanistan
. Peace Movement Aotearoa has issued an Action Alert on the deployment of fresh NZ forces to Afghanistan and the Gulf. The call to action can be found at
– it contains background information on the deployment, links to relevant articles and reports (including Human Rights Watch reports on Afghanistan – see Analysis below for the latest one) plus addresses for government ministers and newspapers to write to on the issue.
“Enduring Freedom”: Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghnaistan
is the ironic title of the latest report by Human Rights Watch. The full report is available at
– the media release below summarises the findings and what HRW wants done about them.
“(New York, March 8, 2004) – U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan have arbitrarily detained civilians, used excessive force during arrests of non-combatants, and mistreated detainees, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today.
Human Rights Watch concludes that the U.S.-administered system of arrest and detention in Afghanistan exists outside of the rule of law. The United States is maintaining separate detention facilities at Bagram, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Asadabad military bases.
“The United States is setting a terrible example in Afghanistan on detention practices,” said Brad Adams, executive director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch. “Civilians are being held in a legal black hole – with no tribunals, no legal counsel, no family visits and no basic legal protections.”
The 59-page report, “Enduring Freedom”: Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, is based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2003 and early 2004. Human Rights Watch documented cases of U.S. forces using military tactics, including unprovoked deadly force, during operations to apprehend civilians in uncontested residential areas-situations where law enforcement standards and tactics should have been used. Afghan forces deployed with U.S. forces have also mistreated persons during search and arrest operations and looted homes.
The report also details mistreatment in U.S. detention facilities. Released detainees have said that U.S. forces severely beat them, doused them with cold water and subjected them to freezing temperatures. Many said they were forced to stay awake, or to stand or kneel in painful positions for extended periods of time.
“There is compelling evidence suggesting that U.S. personnel have committed acts against detainees amounting to torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment,” said Adams.
The report also describes frequent arbitrary arrests of civilians, apparently based on mistaken or faulty intelligence, and numerous cases of civilians-grocers, farmers, or laborers-who were held incommunicado and indefinitely.
Human Rights Watch said that many of the violations documented were reported in non-combat situations, and emphasized that many abuses-especially arbitrary arrests and mistreatment of detainees-were inexcusable even within the context of war.
Human Rights Watch said that Taliban and other anti-U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan had themselves violated international humanitarian law by carrying out armed attacks and abductions against civilians and humanitarian aid workers. But Human Rights Watch pointed out that under international law those violations could not serve as an excuse for U.S. violations.
“The Taliban and other insurgent groups are illegally targeting civilians and humanitarian aid workers,” said Adams. “But abuses by one party to a conflict do not justify violations by the other side. This is a fundamental principle of the laws of war.”
The United States has not responded adequately to questions about arrest and detention practices. In particular, Human Rights Watch raised the case of three detainees who are known to have died while in U.S. custody – two at the Bagram airbase north of Kabul in December 2002 and one at the Asadabad airbase in eastern Afghanistan in June 2003. The first two deaths were ruled homicides by U.S. military pathologists who performed autopsies on the two men. U.S. officials have yet to explain what happened to any of the three men.
“This stonewalling must stop,” said Adams. “The United States is obligated to investigate allegations and prosecute those who have violated the law. There is no sign that serious investigations are taking place.”
Human Rights Watch said that the United States was eroding international standards by not taking action.
“Abusive governments across the world can now point to U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and say, ‘If they can abuse human rights and get away with it, why can’t we?'” said Adams.
President George W. Bush and officials in his administration stated in June 2003 that the United States does not torture or mistreat detainees in the custody of the United States. But the United States has refused to allow any independent observers access to detention facilities in Afghanistan, except for the International Committee of the Red Cross, which does not report publicly on its findings. Human Rights Watch noted that some documented abuses in the report took place after President Bush’s statement.
The report includes the following recommendations to the United States:
- Investigate and publicly report on allegations of mistreatment at detention facilities in Afghanistan;
- Instruct military and intelligence personnel to take all appropriate steps to prevent or stop abuses by Afghan forces deployed with or under the command of U.S. forces;
- Create a legal system of tribunals, in conjunction with the Afghan government, to ensure that detainees in Afghanistan-both combatants and civilians-are processed and screened in accordance with applicable standards of the Geneva Conventions and human rights law;
- Permit families of detainees, and those providing legal assistance, to visit detainees;
- Reevaluate and revise arrest methods and standing Rules of Engagement for U.S. military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan to ensure that law enforcement methods are used when U.S. forces are arresting non-combatants in non-combat situations.
The report also calls on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan government to urge the United States to bring their detention system within Afghanistan into compliance with international law, and to order Afghan commanders to stop or attempt to prevent abuses during military operations.”
Landmines R U.S.”
In a major setback for human rights and humanitarian progress, the US has recently refused to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty of 1997 and continues to allow the use of landmines in the wars it is involved in. International reaction to this very retrograde step can be found at
the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
. The NZ Campaign Against Landmines (CALM) issued the media release below on 1 March.
5th Anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty: NZ Campaign Against Landmines condemns new US landmine policy
New US government policy on landmines, unveiled at the State Department on Friday, is a dramatic and dangerous policy reversal which flies in the face of international consensus and jeopardises efforts to create a mine-free world, said the New Zealand Campaign Against Landmines today.
Determined by the Department of Defence, Department of State, the National Security Council and President Bush, the new policy abandons plans for the US to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty and confirms that US troops may deploy antipersonnel landmines in Iraq or elsewhere.
Today marks the 5th anniversary of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty becoming binding international humanitarian law. Celebrations of the significant and life-saving progress made under the treaty will be dampened by news of the new US policy.
Recognising that mines are outmoded, indiscriminate weapons with limited military utility, the vast majority of governments (141 States Parties) have signed up to the Mine Ban Treaty. This support for the Mine Ban Treaty and the unprecedented cooperation of governments, non-governmental organisations and inter-governmental organisations such as the UN, has enabled:
- the destruction of more 52 million mines from global stockpiles,
- a drop in the number of mine producing countries, from 54 to 14,
- the removal of hundreds of thousands of mines from the ground,
- a reduction in the number of casualties (from an average of 26,000 to 15-20,000 each year), and
- the slowing of trade of the stigmatised weapon.
Previously, US government policy set the country on track to join the rest of the international community and accede to the Mine Ban Treaty in 2006, when the destruction of America’s stocks of dumb mines was also scheduled.
The new policy rejects the Mine Ban Treaty and delays the destruction of those dumb mines until 2010. It also allows the US to continue using so-called smart mines which although they are set to deactivate or self-destruct cannot discriminate between the foot of a soldier and that of a child. These mines tend to be scattered by air making them difficult to mark and map, posing tremendous challenges and costs for demining teams, and threaten the lives and limbs of innocent civilians and troops working in mined areas.
While the US has announced that it will increase funding for mine action programmes, overall its policy is a giant step backwards that will do little to reduce the agricultural, economic and psychological impacts for the millions of people who continue to live with landmines.
The policy sets a dangerous example to the few remaining mine-users, such as Russia, India, and Pakistan, with devastating consequences for civilians. The policy is a significant step backwards for the US, isolating it further from the norms of international law and the international community, said John Head and Deborah Morris today.”
JustPeace was produced by Christine Dann, Tim Hannah and Keith Locke, MP
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