Phil Goff has left some messy unfinished business for his successors to the Foreign Affairs and Defence portfolios after nearly three years of fruitless negotiations with the Karzai government
New Zealanders have been conditioned to think that we enjoy a respected position as peace-builders in
Since the beginning of 2006, Labour’s foreign affairs and defence specialist Phil Goff has been embroiled in protracted and fruitless negotiations with the Karzai Government in
There was just one problem: as ISAF members, the
ISAF procedures state that: “When transferring a detainee to the control of the Host Nation, ISAF cannot seek to constrain the freedom of action of the Afghan authorities. However, bilateral agreements may be concluded between the TCNs and the Host Nation, according to national requirements.”
Phil Goff’s problem was that his government had negotiated a Bilateral Military Technical Arrangement with the Afghan Transitional Authority led by Hamid Karzai before serious concerns about detainees surfaced.
The New Zealand Arrangement contained no provisions to ensure that detainees transferred to Afghan custody were treated in accordance with international human rights or humanitarian law, could be tracked by the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) or the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, or that New Zealand’s opposition to the death penalty would be respected.
Such safeguard provisions were a feature of bilateral agreements negotiated by the governments of other nations participating in ISAF, including
By 2006, the omission in the
The grand ambition for global leadership would be threatened by any looseness in
In 2004, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Council had warned that “torture continues to take place as a routine part of police procedures. The AIHRC has found torture to occur particularly at the investigation stage in order to extort confessions from detainees. Forced confessions are clearly in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The same year,the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment condemned interrogation practices used on Afghani and Iraqi detainees. The practices included “depriving them of sleep or light for prolonged periods, exposing them to extremes of heat, cold, noise and light, hooding, depriving them of clothing, stripping detainees naked, and threatening them with dogs.”
US Department of Defence documents confirm that these practices were applied at the Bagram Base in
The Bagram Base has been used by senior NZDF liaison staff since December 2001 and by the NZDF logistics team supporting the Kiwibase provincial reconstruction operation since August 2003.
Because of the secrecy surrounding operations by the New Zealand SAS troops, it is not possible to confirm if Bagram was the centre used to process the 50 to 70 detainees that they captured in 2002 and turned over to
However, in January 2006
The issue was pursued in a series of diplomatic contacts with
On 7 October 2007, the Karzai government executed 15 prisoners who had been sentenced to death.
All insurgents, terrorists, and anti-government forces in
Four months after the executions, Minister Goff confirmed in a letter to me that
Since then, there have been no reports of progress, and I did ask for a copy of the amended agreement if and when it was finalised.
Goff’s successors in foreign affairs and defence would be well advised to exercise extreme caution in our continuing relationship with