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- Select Committee Endorses Cover-Up Of Embarrassing Public Records
- Norway Is A Good Example To Follow
- Violence By Nz Police Should Be Investigated Across The Country
was Keith’s reaction to the Government Administration Select Committee report on the Public Record’s bill.
“The bill will allow government documents, embarrassing to a department, to be kept secret even after 25 years, without any independent assessment of whether this censorship is justified,” said Green Human Rights Spokesperson Keith Locke.
“Even the Chief Archivist will not be able to assess the material, if it is judged by a Minister to prejudice security, the maintenance of law or the safety of any person.”
“We know from many Official Information Act cases how broadly government heads define prejudicing security, and in those cases we can at least appeal to the Ombudsman to override the Minister. Under the Bill, Ministers can keep deferring the release of material to the Archives indefinitely.”
Third Reading speech
if New Zealand wants to shine at peacemaking, aid and human rights work, Keith Locke said on 13 March, as the Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik arrived in New Zealand for a short visit.
“I want our government to take a lead from Norway,” said Keith. “With a population not much bigger than ours, it is leading the world in the delivery of aid to poorer countries, the promotion of human rights, and peacemaking.
“Norway’s aid level is currently four times our miserly contribution of 0.24 percent of Gross National Income, and we should aspire to matching its commitment.”
Norway is also actively promoting peace and human rights around the world. Its specialist negotiators have been involved in peace talks in the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Colombia, Haiti, Guatemala, the Philippines, the Balkans, and between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Their most recent success has been in southern Sudan, where a peace agreement was recently signed. It also has a process of formal human rights dialogues with several countries including, in the Asian region, Indonesia, China and Vietnam.
. Commenting on the news on 10 March that an inquiry had been launched into police culture in South Auckland is great, Green Police Spokesperson Keith Locke said that was great, but that the rest of New Zealand should also be included
During the trial of South Auckland Police officer Senior Sergeant Anthony Solomona’s for assaulting a 17-year-old, it was revealed that police had a wider culture of humiliating prisoners and photographing them wearing demeaning signs.
The practice was confirmed by another officer, Sergeant John Nelson, who said taking photographs of prisoners being humiliated occurred in police stations throughout the country.
”I would like to see other areas also subjected scrutiny,” Keith said.
- Wellington, Thursday 17 March, 5 p.m
- Christchurch: Canterbury Council of Civil Liberties AGM
Last Chance to register for the
spy bases seminar and tour in Wellington
on March 26 and 27. Contact the Anti-Bases Campaign, Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand, details at
., Room LT 220, 2nd Floor, Hunter Building, Victoria University of Wellington, Kelburn Parade. A public lecture by
Roberta Bacic – ‘Disappearances are not Silent’
Roberta is a Chilean lecturer who has worked as an academic and in the field of human rights, specifically researching cases of the disappeared and those executed for political reasons during Pinochet’s dictatorship. At present, she is on sabbatical after seven years as Programme and Development Officer at War Resisters’ International, London.
‘Disappearances’ for political or ethnic reasons do not occur by chance, there is a network of institutions and organisations involved in making them happen. During periods of violence they occur as an institutional practice carried out by the state, armed groups, paramilitaries or other kinds of legal or illegal associations.
Why are people made to disappear? What is the impact these disappearances have at individual, family, community, national and international levels? Who is responsible for them? Based on human rights violations in Chile, this lecture examines how ‘disappearances’ are silenced, legitimized, recorded and acknowledged. From 5pm to 7pm.
See also the article ‘
Payout For Pinochet Victims Shines In Dark Times For Human Rights
‘ under Analysis below, for more on developments on reparations for human rights abuses committed in Chile under Pinochet.
5.00pm 24 March Community Law Centre 281 Madras St.
Speaking on ”
Does Parliament defend Civil Liberties?
- Landmark Human Rights Abuse Reparation Action
. At long last some of the victims of human rights abuses by the Pinochet regime (the ones still alive) are getting some compensation for the suffering that was unleashed by the bloody coup of 1973.
In the article below Saul Landau and Sarah Anderson explore what this means for these victims in particular, and also for those who are currently suffering from abuses perpetrated by directly by US personnel, or by their agents.
Payout For Pinochet Victims Shines In Dark Times For Human Rights
On February 25, Riggs Bank agreed to pay $9 million into a fund for victims of Augusto Pinochet to settle a case over the bank’s role in hiding the former dictator’s ill-gotten gains. This latest development in the decades-long fight to hold Pinochet accountable for his crimes stands in stark contrast to the twisted human rights rhetoric – and record – of the U.S. government.
Yes, Saddam Hussein, like his fellow former dictator Pinochet, may face prosecution for human rights violations. That’s positive. But at every turn in the war on Iraq and in the broader war on terrorism, the Bush Administration has itself trampled on human rights laws when they became inconvenient, creating dangerous precedents for the rest of the world and for the prospects of advancing the human rights cause.
President Bush boasts of his allegiance to human rights at the same time that he dismisses criticism of the illegality of the Iraq invasion and occupation and of the U.S.’ involvement in extra-judicial assassinations and illegal detainment of terrorism suspects.
In the most chilling section of his 2003 State of the Union address Bush claimed that “more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. And many others have met a different fate. Let’s put it this way: They are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies.” Bush’s euphemisms don’t disguise the assault on the Magna Carta and the universally accepted basic rights of habeas corpus, even for terrorism suspects.
By respecting laws when it suits them and thumbing their noses at laws that don’t, Bush officials have undermined internationally accepted treaties – some of them written mainly by US officials, like the Nuremberg Laws and UN Charter – and made a parody of human rights. In doing so, they have increased the likelihood that other governments will do the same. How long before U.S. soldiers or other citizens suffer at the hands of foreign governments that claim they are only following the Bush administration example? When Saddam Hussein faces charges of torture, he might quote Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld: “the problem was caused by a few bad apples.” It’s hard to see how human rights can benefit in places like Iraq and Afghanistan when its leading advocates hold people without charging them, without allowing them to consult lawyers and even their families.
By contrast, the legal actions against Pinochet constitute part of a genuine fight for human rights, one that has set a very different precedent in the use of international law. The $9 million settlement with Riggs, grew out of a Spanish investigation launched in the mid-1990s into violations by Pinochet of international laws on torture, genocide and terrorism – including his role in the September 21, 1976 assassination of Orlando Letelier in Washington, DC. Letelier had served as Allende’s US ambassador and later as Defense Minister. The FBI traced the car bombing plot that also killed Ronni Moffitt, Letelier’s young US colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies, to the highest reaches of the Chilean government. The indictment named the head of Chile’s intelligence service, but not Pinochet. Later, FBI agents and the former US prosecutor publicly linked Pinochet to the crime.
Pinochet came into power in 1973 through a US-backed bloody coup against the elected government of Dr. Salvador Allende. He ruled Chile until 1990, when Chileans voted in a referendum for civilian government. Pinochet stayed on as head of the army and became a Senator for Life, terms he had negotiated before handing over power.
A Chilean government commission later ascertained that Pinochet’s regime had assassinated almost 3,200 persons, tortured tens of thousands and forced hundreds of thousands into exile. However, in Chile, Pinochet and his fellow former officer enjoyed self-delivered immunity from prosecution, making it highly unlikely that Chilean courts could reach them.
So, in 1996, a group of Spanish lawyers, working on behalf of thousands of victims of the Pinochet dictatorship, convinced a Spanish judge to accept jurisdiction over the Pinochet case. A Spanish court then opened an investigation that led to Pinochet’s arrest in London in 1998. Believing he was protected by his immunity and his hidden fortune, Pinochet made no secret of his visit. Indeed, he strode up the VIP red carpet into the airport, had tea with his old friend former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, went shopping at Harrod’s and dining at London’s fanciest restaurants. But the military bully’s famed smug smile disappeared when a British policeman arrested him on a request from the Spanish judge. Unlike Pinochet’s treatment of prisoners, the British policeman read the former tyrant his rights to “remain silent, have an attorney?”
Although Pinochet escaped trial in Spain when the British government accepted a phony medical pretext (too mentally and physically sick to stand trial), the House of Lords nevertheless decided a crucial point of law. By dismissing the argument of Pinochet’s lawyers that the Spanish court’s arrest order had no validity on the grounds that Pinochet, as a former head of state, enjoyed sovereign immunity, the distinguished legal body affirmed the idea that heads of state cannot escape prosecution by claiming immunity; nor can they appeal to the “exigencies” of rule to commit criminal acts. The Law Lords drew a clear line between political needs and criminal acts.
The international attention caused by the Spanish case also bolstered efforts within Chile to strip Pinochet of his immunity and put him on trial in his home country. These efforts are ongoing. Chilean judge Juan Guzman has indicted Pinochet for a series of executions and “disappearances,” while still other judges consider further charges.
The Spanish case also made possible the action against Riggs, since it hinged on Riggs’ violation of a Spanish judge’s order to freeze all of the dictator’s financial assets. A Senate investigation into illegal activities at Riggs uncovered Pinochet’s disguised accounts. The Justice Department launched a criminal investigation into possible money-laundering at the bank.
Under the settlement, Riggs will contribute $8 million to a Spanish foundation named for the fallen Chilean President Salvador Allende and established by Juan Garces, the lawyer who has represented the victims in the case. Joseph L. Allbritton, former Riggs CEO and its controlling shareholder, and his son, current Riggs CEO Robert L. Allbritton, will deposit an additional $1 million in the fund. After legal costs, the foundation will have $8 million for a pension fund that will make annual payments to victims or family members of victims of the Pinochet regime, which number in the tens of thousands.
The families of the dead or tortured victims of Pinochet’s crimes will not grow rich from the money they receive. But the symbolic value of punishing Pinochet and the bank that aided him has larger political implications. Other bankers will now think twice before coming to the aid of a disgraced dictator. And criminals in state power will sleep less easily.
The victories in the Pinochet case represent a real step forward for human rights. Just as Bush has replaced law with empty rhetoric in his human rights policies – illegal war and illegal occupation of Iraq, violation of fundamental human rights for prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, as examples – the Riggs Bank settlement teaches both lawyers and politicians alike that civilization requires attention to the written codes. The “noble intentions” of George Bush hardly compensate – even symbolically – for the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis. At least some Chileans can find a small measure of justice in the fact that Pinochet had his funds seized and then delivered to some of his victims.
JustPeace was produced by Christine Dann, Tim Hannah and Keith Locke, MP
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