Monday, October 13, 2008

Goff lied over Afghanistan is already proving its value with a serious scoop about the treatment of prisoners of war in Afghanistan by New Zealand troops. The important part:

After seven months of probing under the Official Information Act, Goff has been forced to confirm that the NZSAS did complain about the “robust” handling of their detainees by US forces.

In a letter to me on September 3, 2007, he admitted that, “Following the transfer, the New Zealand officer in command of the NZSAS element informally raised the issue of the handling of detainees with the local US command, because the handling was more robust than the New Zealand approach. He was assured that the practice observed was consistent with US procedures prior to internment in a detention facility and was satisfied that the treatment was not inhumane.

Goff had also learnt by that time that—contrary to his earlier statement—no arrangements had been made with the Red Cross to follow up on the subsequent treatment of the NZSAS' detainees in US custody. Asked what steps he had taken to obtain information from the Red Cross, the Afghan authorities, and other coalition forces about the detainees' welfare, he replied with a single word.


This explicitly contradicts previous claims by Goff that NZ troops had not protested, that "none of those people are still in custody in the hands of US authorities", and that the NZ Defence Force had arranged for the Red Cross to monitor the prisoners New Zealand had turned over. In other words, Goff lied to us to keep his little war running. Lovely. Meanwhile, we have no idea what happened to the POWs we turned over to the Americans - whether they were released, sent to Bagram to be beaten and hung from the ceiling by hooks, rendered to Guantanamo, or disappeared into their network of secret torture centres. If any of them have been, then our troops are inadvertently complicit in war crimes.

The Greens are calling for an inquiry into this, and rightly so. As for what we should do about it, there are two obvious responses. Firstly, we should ensure that we have made arrangements for the Red Cross to monitor prisoners before participating in multinational operations. And secondly, we should never, ever cooperate militarily with governments which torture and abuse human rights. And if that means the US, then so be it.