Wednesday, February 28, 2007



Complicity

When the SAS were sent to Afghanistan in 2002, it raised fears that they could become complicit in US war crimes. At the time, the US was sending captured Afghans to Guantanamo Bay, or otherwise mistreating them in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and there was some concern that prisoners captured by the SAS and handed over to the US would face a similar fate.

It seems those fears were realised. According to this morning's Herald, the New Zealand SAS was involved in "snatch-grab" missions to round up terrorist suspects for detention and interrogation by the US. Those prisoners were subsequently mistreated and were not properly registered after being turned over tot he Americans:

Instead of being identified, photographed and fingerprinted and having their weapons properly registered, they had their heads shaved, no photos or ID taken and their belongings thrown into a single pile.

The New Zealanders raised the alarm and wanted to know from other forces whether the proper procedures were being followed by them.

Fortunately they did the right thing, and arranged for the Red Cross to follow up on and monitor all prisoners captured - but it is disturbing they were placed in that situation in the first place. Helen Clark's decision to send the SAS to Afghanistan has seen New Zealand troops become complicit in American war crimes. And that is something we should hold her accountable for.

5 comments:

Havent written a honours paper on the subject and therefore having some knowledge on teh background, there is no way that legally the Al qaeda troops could be classed as combatants under the definitions included in teh geneva convention.

The decision to send troops to afghanistan has the support of the UN and the active invovlement of NATO.

I personally think that the provision of human rights and democracy is somethign worth fighting for, or the alternative should be in and the Taleban remain in power?

Posted by Anonymous : 2/28/2007 02:21:00 PM

Havent written a honours paper on the subject and therefore having some knowledge on teh background, there is no way that legally the Al qaeda troops could be classed as combatants under the definitions included in teh geneva convention.

The decision to send troops to afghanistan has the support of the UN and the active invovlement of NATO.

I personally think that the provision of human rights and democracy is somethign worth fighting for, or the alternative should be in and the Taleban remain in power?

Posted by Anonymous : 2/28/2007 02:22:00 PM

I'd be surprised that you passed. Was this the Bob Jones University School of International Law or someplace?

NZ has ratified the 1977 protocol to the 1949 Geneva Convention, which states:
"Art 43.1 The armed forces of a Party to a conflict consist of all organized armed forces, groups and units which are under a command responsible to that Party for the conduct or its subordinates, even if that Party is represented by a government or an authority not recognized by an adverse Party"

"Art 44.3 Recognizing, however, that there are situations in armed conflicts where, owing to the nature of the hostilities an armed combatant cannot so distinguish himself, he shall retain his status as a combatant, provided that, in such situations, he
carries his arms openly:

(a) during each military engagement, and
(b) during such time as he is visible to the adversary while he is engaged in a military deployment preceding the launching of an attack in which he is to participate.


Which would, in many cases, include as protected combatants insurgents assisting the then Taliban government in resisting invasion.

Also, Art 44.4 states:
"4. A combatant who falls into the power of an adverse Party while failing to meet the requirements set forth in the second sentence of paragraph 3 shall forfeit his right to be a prisoner of war, but he shall, nevertheless, be given protections equivalent in all respects to those accorded to prisoners of war by the Third Convention and by this Protocol. This protection includes protections equivalent to those accorded to prisoners of war by the Third Convention in the case where such a person is tried and punished for any offences he has committed"

Which I consider means that even if someone does conceal their identity as an armed insurgent, they are still entitled to be treated as a PoW accused of an offence.

Posted by Rich : 2/28/2007 03:31:00 PM

Anon: that's not what MFAT thinks. According to documents received under the OIA, they pretty explicitly think that US denial of POW rights is contrary to their obligations under the Geneva Conventions, and that their system of kangaroo courts violates both US domestic law and their obligations under the ICCPR.

Given US attitudes,the NZ government should have established ground rules to ensure prisoners were treated according to our interpretation of international law before sending troops. Instead, they left it to the soldiers themselves to stage a rebellion in the field in support of human rights. I'm pleased that they did, but they should never have had to.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/28/2007 04:02:00 PM

And these are soldiers, not human rights advocates. That they express concern is evidence that things haven't exactly been rosy over there. There should have been, and should still be now, public accountability and oversight for the activities of the SAS - we don't need a secret army!

Some such as the Greens and Peace Action Wellington, have been particularly vocal. The attitude of this Government however is pretty typical, offloading it's foreign human rights responsibilties where convenient.

Posted by George Darroch : 2/28/2007 04:43:00 PM