Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Zealand government must help Mark Taylor

I woke up this morning to news that a New Zealander, Mark Taylor, had been arrested in Pakistan by security forces who suspected he had "links to Islamic militants". New Zealand's honorary consul has been informed, and MFAT are on the case. But whatever they're doing, they have to do more to get him out of there. Why? Because Pakistan tortures.

Here's what the US State Department's 2007 Country Report on Human Rights Practices had to say:

The law prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; however, there were persistent reports that security forces, including intelligence services, tortured and abused persons. Under provisions of the Anti-Terrorist Act, coerced confessions are admissible in Anti-Terrorism courts. Allegations that security personnel used abuse and torture of persons in custody throughout the country continued. Human rights organizations reported that methods included beating, burning with cigarettes, whipping soles of the feet, prolonged isolation, electric shock, denial of food or sleep, hanging upside down, and forced spreading of the legs with bar fetters. Security force personnel reportedly raped women during interrogations. The government rarely took action against those responsible.


During the year the NGO Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid recorded 410 cases that they labeled torture in police custody through August. The AHRC reported approximately 1,100 cases of torture during the year. Alleged torture occasionally resulted in death or serious injury.

Torture is particularly common against those suspected of involvement in terrorism. Even if you're just a witness. Being a foreigner is no protection, and a number of UK citizens have been tortured by Pakistani security personnel after being detained at the request of the UK government (and MI5 is currently under investigation for actively colluding in that torture).

The torture of anyone, anywhere is unacceptable. But we expect the New Zealand government to display a special duty of care towards its citizens and residents. It needs to monitor the situation, ensure that Taylor is not mistreated, and make it clear that any hint of torture will result in severe diplomatic consequences and charges being laid under the Crimes of Torture Act 1989. Otherwise, I think the rest of us are entitled to ask what bloody good they are.