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NZ should challenge US over Schafer detention

25 May 2004

NZ should challenge US over Schafer detention

Green MP Keith Locke wants answers from the Government over the long detention of a New Zealander, Andreas Schafer, in a US jail in Iraq.

"It is totally unacceptable for a New Zealander to be detained for nearly three months without our Government being told the details," said Mr Locke, the Green Party's Foreign Affairs Spokesperson.

"If any other nation treated a New Zealander as poorly as this, the Government would be actively intervening and condemning such an abuse. Instead it seems to be accepting it as just another overhead in the Americans' 'war on terror'.

"Why has our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade been so lackadaisical in this matter? Mr Schafer's family had to do much of the legwork to find him themselves.

"In mid-March the family had an email indicating he had been detained, but it took a month and a half for the Ministry to confirm he was locked up, though they didn't know for sure who was holding him. Even now the Ministry seems to be in the dark as to what exactly happened to Mr Schafer.

"Why didn't the Ministry really push the American authorities for answers? It is hard to believe that American officials didn't know where he was or couldn't find him, particularly when their people interrogated him several times.

"The American command regularly boasts that New Zealand is a member of its military coalition in Iraq and yet it treats one of our citizens with such disdain.

"It's clear from other reports that American forces have been rounding up people in Iraq in a fairly arbitrary fashion and keeping them in detention for an unconscionably long time. In failing to hold the American military to account, our Government has not only let its own citizen down, but also the many other people unjustly held in US prisons in Iraq," said Mr Locke.

ENDS

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