Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Aid, torture, and Iraq

Alongside their expose on Iraqi torture, the Observer also reported that equipment and aid intended for the Iraqi police was being diverted to the commando units responsible for the abuses. In other words, the west was inadvertantly and unwittingly helping to support the very abuses they had supposedly invaded Iraq to end.

I was a little concerned about this, as an NZAid FAQ on assistance to Iraq and Afghanistan suggested that they were planning on contributing funds to "law and order", including "police and security reform" - so I called them and asked. The response was that New Zealand's aid to Iraq is funnelled through multilateral organisations such as the UN and NGOs; we do not directly fund the Iraqi government. No New Zealand funding has been spent on the Iraqi police. Their policy on providing aid to regimes which use torture is that New Zealand is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture, and that this precludes bilateral aid to such regimes (in a moral rather than legal sense). Aid programmes in such regimes are done through multilateral institutions which bypass the government. That said, a look at NZAid's list of "where we work" turns up a handful of countries which use torture - China, Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam - which are currently receiving bilateral aid. Though looking at the programs, they tend to be targetted and likewise bypass the government.

As for Iraq, while it is tempting to cut Iraqis off becuse of their government's support of torture, that won't actually do them any good. Instead, we should work to improve the situation. And there's a good way of doing so: fund the Iraqi Ministry for Human Rights. According to the Observer, they are working to educate police and pursue cases of abuse, but have only 24 monitors when hundreds are needed. We should help out, and make sure they have the resources to at least attempt to do their job properly...