North & South alleges heinous crimes in our armed forces
ALLEGATIONS OF WAR CRIMES, SEXUAL ASSAULTS AND COVER-UPS INSIDE OUR ARMED FORCES
Special investigation by Nicky Hager for North & South magazine.
Disturbing new allegations of war crimes and sexual violence inside New Zealand’s armed forces – alongside dangerous binge drinking, bullying and a crisis of post-deployment mental health problems – are revealed in investigative journalist Nicky Hager’s exclusive report for North & South magazine.
A string of current and ex-New Zealand Defence Force staff have contacted Hager since the book he co-authored with Jon Stephenson – Hit & Run – was published in March 2017.“The men and women who contacted me are all thoughtful people who are not happy about the culture of impunity in our armed forces and the cover-ups they witnessed,” says Hager.
His 12-page story in the new North & South (on sale 15 October) describes in detail an incident in Afghanistan – not covered in Hit & Run – that saw an NZSAS medic awarded a New Zealand Gallantry Decoration despite his breaching of NZDF and Geneva Convention rules in a raid that resulted in the deaths of two village boys, among other casualties. In actions that might otherwise have seen the Kiwi soldier court-martialled – medics are strictly required to keep out of offensive actions – he was instead given a medal and the incident was covered up.
The former Special Air Services (SAS) member, who reported the Afghanistan incident to Hager, said: “The SAS is the extreme end of thinking they’re above the law, that they don’t have to be accountable to others…We can say we never committed war crimes, but we have.”
The current and former Defence Force members who shared their stories with Hager also described an extreme drinking culture in New Zealand bases and in Afghanistan – in defiance of that country’s dry theatre of operations. Sexual abuse and domestic violence within the Defence Force are regularly covered up, Hager’s sources said, and mental health problems have created a “ticking time bomb”.
Most disturbing, says Hager, is an NZDF culture that sees serious allegations denied rather than confronted, a PR machine intent on burying bad news and a climate of fear and intimidation. “Most New Zealanders have no idea what goes on inside the Defence Force,” he says, “and this secrecy is a big part of the reason why all sorts of worrying things can occur.” ends