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SAS - 'Clark should stop charade'

SAS - 'Clark should stop charade'

20 December 2001

Kia ora,

Today’s Dominion Editorial, ‘Clark should stop charade’, provides the opportunity for those of you so inclined to write to the Editor about the deployment of SAS troops in Afghanistan (contact details are at the end of this alert).

The focus of the Editorial is Helen Clark’s refusal to confirm where, if anywhere, the SAS troops have been deployed ... “when New Zealand troops are sent into a foreign country, it is bizarre for the prime minister to refuse point-blank to say so, or to give a broad indication of their task. She might reflect that besides her obligations to the Security Council, the Defence Force and the SAS itself, she owes some residual duty to the New Zealand public, on behalf of whom both she and the SAS hold their briefs.” and “The Australian prime minister and defence minister have informed the Australian public ­ telling them how many troops have been dispatched, where they will operate and under whose command they will be operating. Ms Clark's approach is as ridiculous as it is futile.”

The Editorial is available on-line at http://www.stuff.co.nz/inl/index/0,1008,1046769a1939,FF.html

Perhaps Helen Clark’s refusal comes from the knowledge that if SAS soldiers have been sent to Afghanistan, their deployment is in breach of both the government’s Defence Policy Framework (June 2000) and the spirit, if not the practice, of the NZ Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act (1987).

* Defence Policy Framework (June 2000)

The Defence Policy Framework states that “New Zealand will not engage in military co-operation or exercises with the armed forces of states which sanction the use of their armed forces to suppress human rights.” (point 18). To put this into practice would require the NZ armed forces to stop military co-operation with (in the case of Afghanistan) the US and British armed forces.

In July 2000, we pointed out that the Defence Policy Framework had already been breached because of NZ military exercises with British air force and naval units. British armed forces have been used to suppress human rights in respect of their continued bombing of the people of Iraq since 1991; as have the US armed forces. A copy of that alert, which gives the details of their human rights abuse, is available at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/milbreach.htm

Just four days ago, a report in The Independent pointed out that in addition to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, now thirty British Labour MPs have backed a motion calling on the British government to mount an investigation into "serious abuses" of humanitarian law, in particular of the Geneva Conventions.

“They are particularly concerned about reports of events at Mazar-e-Sharif, where it is claimed Taliban forces were executed after surrendering, some with their hands tied behind their backs, and reports of massacres and ill-treatment of prisoners.” (The Independent, 16 December 2001)

It is well documented that during the ‘riot’ from 25 November to 27 November, which was apparently triggered by CIA interrogations of prisoners, the United States air force carried out air strikes on Qala-i-Janghi Fort (Mazar-i-Sharif) where hundreds of prisoners were being held. If that doesn’t qualify as a human rights abuse, what does?

Indeed, the whole war against the people of Afghanistan is the grossest abuse of human rights, as well as a serious violation of international law - the killing and maiming of civilians, the use of indiscriminate weapons, the interruption of the delivery of essential food supplies to name but some.

Incidentally, today’s Dominion also has the following under the heading ‘US warns countries not to harbour bin Laden’ - “US Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said yesterday that the war that had ravaged Afghanistan should be lesson enough to any country that might contemplate harbouring the man accused of planning the September 11 attacks on the US”. And there are some people who still deny that revenge is one of the motives for the war ...

* NZ Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act (1987).

“Section 5 (2) No person, who is a New Zealand citizen or a person ordinarily resident in New Zealand, and who is a servant or Agent of the Crown, shall, beyond the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone - (b) Aid, abet, or procure any person to manufacture, acquire, possess, or have control over any nuclear explosive device.”

“Section 14 (2) Every person who commits an offence against this Act is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.”

Well, what do you think? The US and British governments certainly have control over nuclear explosive devices, the US over more than anyone else - would NZ SAS troops under British or US military command (the two most likely suspects in Afghanistan) be aiding and abetting persons with control over any nuclear device?

Contact details for Letters to the Editor, Dominion, are fax (04) 4740257, letters@dominion.co.nz And while you’re in letter writing mode, why not send one to Helen Clark and Jim Anderton raising some of the above points, and asking if their government will be calling for war crimes trials for all those who have committed atrocities in Afghanistan - regardless of whether or not they are from the United States armed forces, or allies of the United States government.

PS - the Dominion Editorial also says “Americans have been allowed to see pictures of their troops on the ground.” - yes, that’s all very well, but the big question is, have they also been allowed to see, in closeup, what their troops are doing?

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Peace Movement Aotearoa the national networking peace organisation PO Box 9314, Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand Tel +64 4 382 8129, fax 382 8173 email pma@xtra.co.nz PMA website - http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/ Internet Peace Gateway - http://www.peace.org.nz
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