Support for Amnesty’s concern over Afghan prisoners

Green Party MP Keith Locke has supported Amnesty International’s call for a moratorium on New Zealand forces handing over any prisoners to Afghan authorities.

“Amnesty International has detailed shocking cases of torture by Afghan security forces,” Mr Locke, the party’s defence spokesperson, says.

“It would be contrary to New Zealand’s human rights commitments to hand over prisoners knowing they might be tortured.

“There is no way our forces should be party to torture.

“In a letter dated February 27, to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, Defence Minister, Phil Goff, said that ‘the Chief of Defence has put in place procedures for the notification of the International Committee of the Red Cross of the fact that persons have been captured and/or transferred to another power”, which presumably includes the Afghan authorities.

“However, notifying the Red Cross would not suffice, both because that organisation says it does not monitor the whereabouts of prisoners, and because it is not able to visit many of the Afghan detention facilities.

“There remains doubt over the fate of 50 to 70 Afghans detained by New Zealand SAS forces and passed over to American authorities — particularly as the United States didn’t have a rigorous process for identifying those prisoners at the point of handover.

“I will be asking parliamentary questions about what prisoners, if any, have been handed over either directly to the Afghan authorities, or via a third party.

“I would also like Mr Goff to bring the matter up in tomorrow’s meeting with the Afghan ambassador to New Zealand,” Mr Locke says.