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The Government is Responsible for the Mental Torture of Ahmed Zaoui
, said Keith Locke on October 6. Keith has been visiting Algerian asylum seeker Ahmed Zaoui since December last year. Mr Zaoui has been kept in solitary confinement in Paremoremo Prison for ten months, and a report produced by trauma consultant and professor of psychology, Tony Taylor, after a three-day examination of Mr Zaoui, concludes that he has been “mentally damaged” as a result of his solitary confinement.
The Greens believe that Mr Zaoui should have been freed after being granted refugee status by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority. But if he is to be forced to endure hearings on a Security Risk Certificate then it should be in the most humane environment possible, with the rights of a remand prisoner to receive visitors at any time. Read
Zaoui Victim of Mental Torture
. Keith Locke had an Opinion Piece published in the Herald on Tuesday accusing the Government of being responsible for the mental torture of Algerian asylum seeker Ahmed Zaoui and demanding that he be immediately moved out of Paremoremo Prison.
Trauma consultant and professor of psychology, Tony Taylor has conducted a three-day examination of Mr Zaoui and concludes that he has been “mentally damaged” as a result of his solitary confinement.
“Not unexpectedly, 10 months in Paremoremo’s D-Block has taken a severe toll on Mr Zaoui’s mental health,” said Mr Locke, the Green Party’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson. “It would be cruel and unconscionable to keep him in solitary confinement there for any longer.”
There was a mini-furore over National targeting New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy
after US Ambassador Charles Swindells, in a speech due to be delivered on October 8 (it was cancelled due to protests, but the
speech notes are on the US Embassy site
– PDF 100KB), said the US wasn’t going to “get over it”. National said it was all doom and gloom for an NZ/US free trade agreement. Of course, the Greens don’t think such a free trade agreement is likely or would be a good thing for New Zealand anyway.
Keith took the opposite tack when Foreign Minister Phil Goff appeared at the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee the next morning. He asked Mr Goff “if trade and other relations with the US would be improved if the US fulfilled its international obligations to take steps towards nuclear disarmament and celebrated New Zealand’s nuclear-free status.” Goff replied that there is no connection between nuclear and trade issues…
‘Invisible War: Depleted Uranium and the Politics of Retaliation’, Wellington, Monday, October 15, 7 p.m. 203 Willis St. An hour long video, followed by a ‘bring the troops home’ campaign planning meeting by Peace Action Wellington.
Afghanistan — Two Years on
. It is two years this week (October 7, 2001) since American bombs began raining down on Afghanistan, a country that never attacked or otherwise threatened the USA. A country, which was too poor, divided and terrorised by local warlords and foreign insurgents to be a threat to anyone else. The Greens said at the time that this was not the right way to deal with Osama bin Laden, and any other terrorists believed to be responsible for the September 11 attack on the US, who may have been hiding in Afghanistan. (See:
Justice, not vengeance, must be sought
Strike against terror will kill more innocents
Green concern rises as civilian deaths mount
Aid doesn’t excuse New Zealand’s war contribution
New Zealand must have no part in massacre
Greens oppose using Hercules for war effort
As the only party in Parliament to vote against sending NZ troops to the assistance of the US in Afghanistan, we said that bombing and occupying Afghanistan would only create more deaths and misery to the innocent, and increase the likelihood of terrorism, not decrease it — nor would it be likely to deliver bin Laden to justice. Sadly, we have been proven right on all counts.
In what now looks like a rehearsal for securing the far richer prize of Iraq, (and indeed there is evidence to show that the invasion of Afghanistan was planned in advance of September 11 — see ”
Pipelineistan: The rules of the game
” – the US succeeded in imposing ‘regime change’ on Afghanistan. In what also looks suspiciously like what is happening and will happen in Iraq, a puppet and client ‘government’ is unable to guarantee security in the country, the reconstruction of basic infrastructure and utilities like roads and electricity supplies is hardly occurring, and the killing continues. The US$2 billion that the US promised to spend on the reconstruction of Iraq pales into insignificance beside the US$1 billion a week it is spending on keeping its armed forces in Iraq.
The articles and excerpts that follow cover the ‘forgotten’ war in Afghanistan, and show how two years on things are in some respects as bad, or worse for the majority of ordinary people. We also ask questions about whether New Zealand is doing the right thing in and by Afghanistan in taking over a glorified policing role from the US in Bamian province.
Catalogue of Killings
. Dr Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire has been keeping a tally of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, with notes on when, where and how they occurred. For his latest update go to
Afghan Daily Count
Afghanistan: In Search of Security
‘ by Mark Sedra assesses the security and reconstruction situation in Afghanistan two years after the war began in this piece excerpted from the new report.
”On May 1, 2003, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, on a visit to Kabul, triumphantly declared that “major combat activity” in Afghanistan was over and that the “the bulk of the country is now secure.” Rumsfeld scoffed at those analysts and critics who dared to challenge this optimistic assessment, derisively labeling them “armchair columnists.” Four months later, on September 7, 2003, during a return trip to Kabul, Secretary Rumsfeld delivered a very different message. He was in the Afghan capital to shore up an increasingly fragile Afghan Transitional Administration (ATA), beset by insecurity and struggling to advance a sputtering reconstruction process.
The defense secretary’s surprise visit to Kabul, and Baghdad before that, reflects growing unease in Washington that the two U.S.-led state building projects are faltering. As in Iraq, events in Afghanistan over the past three months have been alarming. August marked the bloodiest month there since the fall of the Taliban. Within a two-day period, on August 12-13, 2003, over 50 Afghans were killed in several isolated incidents across the country.
A number of factors and conditions have led to Afghanistan’s security dilemma. A low intensity war, fought between the Taliban and U.S.-led coalition forces has escalated significantly over the past six months; violent clashes between rival warlords continue to break out at various flashpoints, most notably around the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif; the narcotics trade has grown exponentially; and crime rates, characterized by offenses such as theft, extortion, and rape, have surged.
In addition to the direct human and material costs of insecurity, the indirect impacts on humanitarian and development work have been immense. Moreover, the curtailment of humanitarian assistance and the slow pace of reconstruction have engendered growing resentment among the population. This frustration has been directed at the ATA and in some cases has found expression in support for antigovernment spoiler groups. Though few Afghans mourn the fall of the Taliban regime, it is not difficult to find those who would speak nostalgically of the security and stability that it provided. After all, the Taliban’s most popular policy was to rid the country of warlordism.
Afghanistan is entering a crucial phase in the ongoing state building process, as national elections and a constitutional assembly, or Loya Jirga, are scheduled to take place within the next ten months. However, in light of recent events, many Afghans and international stakeholders have expressed doubt as to whether these processes are feasible or even desirable under current conditions. The international donor community has taken a number of steps to confront Afghanistan’s security crisis, but current levels of international support are simply not commensurate with the scale of the reconstruction and security challenges that exist. Not only is more aid needed, but these funds must be better targeted to meet Afghanistan’s immediate priorities–security and the need to provide some semblance of a peace dividend to the beleaguered population.
The U.S. strategy in Afghanistan has two distinct thrusts: the war against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Hizb-i-Islami, primarily in the South and East of the country, and the support of President Hamid Karzai’s regime and the concomitant state building process. Unfortunately, these two simultaneous endeavors have, at times, worked at cross-purposes. It is vital that Washington harmonize its two agendas, infusing its overall strategy toward Afghanistan with a greater degree of coherence and consistency…”
The War On Women In Afghanistan
. On 6 October Amnesty International released a report on the awful plight of women in Afghanistan, where for most women nothing has changed for the better since the Taleban government was ousted from Kabul. Read the full report, ”
Post-Taleban, post-war: justice for women in Afghanistan?
,” and the media release summarising its contents is below.
Cherie Blair (launching a campaign for Afghan women’s rights, Nov 2001):
“The women in Afghanistan are as entitled as the women in any country to have the same hopes and aspirations [as we have] for ourselves and for our daughters – a good education and career outside the home if they want one, the right to healthcare, and, of course, most importantly, a right for their voices to be heard.”
Two years after the beginning of the military action against the Taleban, the women of Afghanistan are still subject to horrific abuses, from honour killings to forced and underage marriage, virginity testing, and prosecution and imprisonment for adultery, said Amnesty International in a major new report published today (6 October 2003).
‘No one listens to us and no one treats us as human beings: Afghanistan – Justice denied to women’ is based on interviews with women in many parts of Afghanistan and finds that the day-to-day lives of many Afghan women are little changed from the oppression they endured under the Taleban.
Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen, said: “World leaders, including President Bush and US Secretary of State Colin Powell, promised that Afghan women’s rights would “not be negotiable.” But there is violence on a huge scale in families and the community, and the criminal justice system is still completely unable to protect women.
“The international community has failed to keep its promises to Afghan women. If we are to regain their trust, there must be urgent action now to end the abuses they are suffering and to support them in building a future where they and their daughters can live freely and without fear.”
Forced and underage marriage is widespread with women and girls said to be treated as an economic asset. ‘Fariba’ was given in marriage to a 48-year-old man when she was eight years old. Her father reportedly received a payment for her, while Fariba went on to suffer sexual abuse by the husband.
Day-to-day threats to women’s basic physical integrity from their families, communities and armed groups are compounded by a criminal justice system in Afghanistan which completely fails to protect women. Rape is rarely investigated – there is no forensic capability to investigate allegations, and instead women are often subject to virginity tests. The courts frequently send women back to violent spouses when they request divorces. Under the Penal Code a husband who murders his wife when she is found committing adultery is exempted from punishment (Article 398).
The only time women significantly appear in the criminal justice system is as criminals, prosecuted and imprisoned for ‘zina’ crimes — adultery, ‘running away from your husband’, and consensual sex before marriage. ‘Jamila’, aged 16, was given a three-year sentence for running away from home. She had been forced to marry an 85-year-old man at the age of nine, and had run away with a lover when her situation became intolerable. ‘Ziba’, aged only 14, was sentenced to three years for running away from home. She had been abused by the cousin she had been forced to marry when she was 13.
The continuing reliance on informal justice mechanisms makes the exchange of women and girls as ‘compensation’ common in local disputes. A women reported seeing an eight year old girl being given in exchange in this way — the young girl was carried off, crying, by the man to whom she was given, as if she was “a prize in bozkashi” [a traditional Asian game played on horseback].
Women reported violence against them in the home on a massive scale, and said it was a normal and acceptable thing. A woman doctor interviewed by Amnesty International said:
“Domestic and physical violence are normal practice – we have a lot of cases of broken arms, broken legs and other injuries. It is common practice in Afghanistan – most Afghan men are using violence.” This violence is said to be leading to female suicide on an untold scale – one hospital in Herat reported seeing two cases a week of women who had burned themselves to death.
The criminal justice system includes few women – of 2,006 sitting judges, only approximately 27 are female. Many senior judges express outright opposition to increasing the number of women judges.
Amnesty International is calling for the international community to pressure the interim government to: ensure the new Constitution sets out clearly equality between men and women; reform criminal law to clearly prohibit rape, violence against women and the exchange of girls and to end ‘zina’ prosecutions and mitigation for honour crimes; reform family law to permit divorce and forbid forced marriage; train women and fast-track them into all areas of the criminal justice system – as lawyers, judges, police; train police/lawyers/judges on women’s needs; end impunity for members of armed groups who assault women; and for the international community to actively consider extending ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force) patrols outside Kabul.
Amnesty International recognises that building the capacity of the legal system to address issues of violence against women is a long-term process. However the Bonn Agreement, signed 5 December 2001 at the end of the military action, pledged to establish a “broad based, gender sensitive, multi-ethnic and fully representative government.”
JustPeace was produced by Christine Dann, Tim Hannah and Keith Locke, MP
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