SAS ‘rebellion’ in Afghanistan welcomed

Green MP Keith Locke welcomed evidence that our SAS soldiers have ‘rebelled’ against the mistreatment of prisoners by American forces in southern Afghanistan.

Mr Locke was commenting on media reports today that in 2002, an SAS unit fighting in southern Afghanistan called a protest meeting in Kandahar about the treatment of prisoners.

“Ever since the first SAS contingent went to Afghanistan, I have expressed concern at what would happen when our troops handed over prisoners into US custody.

“The world has been disgusted at the barbaric US treatment of prisoners. At least two prisoners have died in custody after beatings, while others been locked away for years without trial.

“I am glad our SAS troops took the step of registering prisoners with the Red Cross before handing them over, which may have acted as some restraint on their mistreatment in US hands. However, it must be said that the Red Cross has been unable to properly monitor US-held prisoners at Guantanamo Bay — where there have been gross violation of prisoners’ rights.

“Although New Zealand has favoured treating those captured according to the Geneva conventions, it wrongly accepted the US definition that Afghan prisoners were not ‘prisoner-of-war’ because they usually didn’t wear uniforms. Our Government has refused to recognise that a 1977 Protocol to the Geneva Conventions covered insurgent forces, who commonly don’t wear a uniform.

“Until the issues surrounding the treatment of prisoners is clarified, New Zealand should not be sending an SAS unit back to Afghanistan. It is important that our armed forces do not contribute — even indirectly — to any processes that undermine the Geneva Conventions or the Convention on Torture.

“The Government also needs to assure New Zealanders that our armed forces have not, in any way, abetted the process of rendition, whereby prisoners are subsequently ferried into the hands of people in other countries willing to torture them on behalf of the US.

“The SAS are to be commended for taking the step of involving the Red Cross. We need to know what other steps were taken to distance this country from responsibility for inhumane treatment of prisoners, and whether SAS operations were reliant on an air war that has killed many civilians, and unfortunately fostered the resurgence of the Taliban.”