While torture and human rights abuses aren't on Helen Clark's agenda when she goes to Washington, they are very much on Winston Peters' agenda in the case of Zimbabwe. Peters has strongly criticised the Mugabe regime's violent crackdown on protestors, and is promising that New Zealand 'will do what it can' to push for change in Zimbabwe. The double standard couldn't be any clearer: we will criticise our enemies, but not our friends.
Not only is this hypocritical, it also undermines our stance. Regimes with poor human rights records can point to our silence on US abuses and use it to undermine our criticism. Mugabe will allege that he is being singled out because he is poor and black, while the US is white, rich and powerful - and he'd be at least partly right. If we want to be taken seriously, we must be impartial, and reject torture and human rights abuses, no matter who they are committed by, and regardless of whether we hope to gain a free trade agreement from them. Otherwise we're not supporting universal human rights, but instead using them as a selective weapon.