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NZ MPs Prove Very Quiet On Guantanamo Bay

NZ MPs Prove Very Quiet On Guantanamo Bay

By Kevin List

As far as Scoop can ascertain, since early 2002, only two New Zealand MPs have expressed any great fuss regarding the United States prison at Guantanamo Bay – Keith Locke and Matt Robson. This is surprising considering the international opprobrium that has been heaped on the United States regarding Guantanamo Bay - a prison exists outside normal international standards of justice. A few NZ MPs have however mentioned Guantanamo Bay in passing – normally in reference to what can go wrong with legislation and standards of human decency.

When questioned in early 2002 about Guantanamo Bay, New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, informed media that the New Zealand Government believes people should be treated 'humanely in accordance with international law.'


NZ's Prime Minister Helen Clark

The New Zealand Herald reported in Early 2002 that Prime Minister Helen Clark had accepted assurances from the British Government that Taleban and al Qaeda prisoners held at a military base in Cuba are being treated humanely.

The Herald reported the Prime Minister as saying that it was "good news that the Red Cross are also there taking a look."

The New Zealand Government believes people should be treated humanely in accordance with international law."

The Prime Minister is also reported by the Herald as saying there was debate about whether those being held were prisoners of war or "unlawful combatants".

Two years later while debating the case of the (then imprisoned) Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui the Prime Minister used the example of Guantanamo bay in much the same way people once talked of notorious French prison, Devil's Island.

Kim Hill: Well you are not going to say that it is alright to put somebody in jail for ten months in solitary confinement – in jail for two years without trial or charge!

Helen Clark: Well it is hardly Guantanamo Bay! But the point I’m making is that everything around Mr Zaoui has been conducted within a clear legal framework. It is not a process that I have any legal authority over.


Hon Mark Burton - Mid 2004

As the then Minister of Defence Mark Burton explains New Zealand's position on handing over prisoners taken in Afghanistan – prisoners that could end up in Guantanamo Bay outside the protection of the Geneva convention.

Keith Locke: Does Government policy allow for prisoners taken by our SAS troops in Afghanistan to be handed over to American jurisdiction, when reports demonstrate that the treatment of detainees by American forces in Afghanistan, and also in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, does not meet the requirements of the Geneva Convention?

Hon MARK BURTON: In the hypothetical situation raised by the member, if detainees qualify for prisoner-of-war status, and not all of them do, then the Geneva Convention would apply and the expectation would be that appropriate action was taken. If they do not qualify for prisoner-of-war status, then they are still entitled to certain other provisions. On the other hand, if prisoners were taken by a PRT patrol in Afghanistan, they would be handed over to the Afghan Transitional Authority. There are a multitude of possibilities, all of which are hypothetical in the circumstances.

Later that month Mark Burton very carefully answers a question from Green MP Keith Locke regarding American forces and their abuse of prisoners – Mid May 2004.

Keith Locke: Will the Minister be supporting calls for an independent international inquiry into the treatment of prisoners at US detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, and Afghanistan, given that if the mistreatment continues it will further discredit the coalition force, which includes troops from New Zealand?

Hon Mark Burton: I think the member would understand that I have no direct responsibility or authority for US forces, but I have to say that I absolutely agree with the sentiments recently expressed by the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, when he said that Americans deplored what happened and there can be no excuses. I think every member of this House shares the same abhorrence at the actions of all of those responsible. Helen Duncan: Can the Minister assure the House that New Zealand has made clear its position on the treatment of detainees?


Hon Mark Burton: We have made clear our expectation that the treatment of all detainees will be in accordance with the applicable international humanitarian and human rights laws. I can say to members that, in the unlikely event of our transferring a detainee, we have also made it clear we would wish to stay engaged regarding the ongoing welfare of that detainee.


Richard Prebble early 2002

Former ACT Party Leader Richard Prebble had little sympathy for those incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay in early 2002. It is possible Mr Prebble did not have the foresight at the time to realise a large number of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay had no connections with Al Qaeda or even the Taliban.

The protest by Green foreign affairs spokesman Keith Locke that the Americans are torturing Al Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay by forcing them to wear blindfolds and earmuffs, is just hypocrisy, ACT leader Richard Prebble says.

"No one is suggesting that any prisoner has been physically mistreated," Mr Prebble said.


Martin Gallagher Labour MP for Hamilton West

Tuesday, 14 June 2005

In Relation to the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill (No 2).

Martin Gallagher: I heard a previous speaker allude to Guantanamo Bay and to some of the abuses that have apparently been going on there. Of course we should be very concerned about that. Of course we should ensure that such actions and processes are open to the harsh glare of scrutiny. However, as the Hon Peter Dunne very aptly pointed out, the world as we knew it has dramatically changed. The nature of international conflict has dramatically changed, and the way in which we respond to that also needs to change..


Nandor Tanczos - 1 June 2005

The Green MP Nandor Tanczos echoed his colleague's Keith Locke's, repeated calls for care in legislation, citing the example of Guantanamo Bay. This time Mr Tanczos was mentioning Guantanamo Bay in relation to the Prisoners' and Victims' Claims Bill.

Nandor Tanczos: We do believe that international conventions are important and that the standing of New Zealand in the eyes of the international community is important, and we do not agree that international conventions should not apply to us. That road leads to Guantanamo Bay; it is the view of the Bush administration on international conventions. The Green Party does not hold that view, although United Future, New Zealand First, and the National Party may.


Dail Jones December 2004

NZ First MP Dail Jones cites Guantanamo Bay as an example to fear in relation to the Prisoners' and Victims' Claims Bill.

Dail Jones: I am quite concerned about some of the statements made, especially by Dr Mapp. When he mentioned the Iraq situation, it made me think of the Middle East and Afghanistan. It made me think also of the situation in Guantanamo Bay. What level could we possibly get to in New Zealand if we did not have this type of legislation?

Almost what Dr Mapp says is that the prison officer involved should be slapped over the wrist, perhaps demoted or fired, and off he or she goes home. We could have a Guantanamo Bay situation in New Zealand, and there would be no penalty on any Government.


Ron Mark - Early December 2004

NZ First MP Ron Mark attempts to make the point that Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui's treatment in New Zealand is in no way similar to the hell endured by the inmates of Guantanamo Bay.

Ron Mark: Has the Minister heard or read the reported comments made by Dr Harrison QC at a recent law conference or those of Deborah Manning on Radio New Zealand last Friday that liken Zaoui’s treatment here in New Zealand to that of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and if he has, has he launched an inquiry to see whether Mr Zaoui has been blindfolded, shackled, led around in an orange jumpsuit, mistreated, and abused; if he has not found any such evidence, what damage does he think comments like that do to New Zealand’s reputation?


Hone Harawira late 2005

Maori party MP Hone Harawira comes to the unlikely and unflattering conclusion that Manukau city is well on the way to being the South Pacific's Guantanamo bay in relation to a Prostitution Bill - late 2005.

Hone Harawira: The Powers of the police under this Bill, are like those that the United States is using to apprehend, and jail suspects in Afghanistan and Iraq on the basis that they have reasonable grounds to do so. Is Manukau City to be the new Guantanamo Bay.


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