The Prime Minister’s announcement that the SAS will return to combat duties in
Will the SAS conduct more “snatch and grab” raids among civilians? What will happen to their prisoners? And who are they authorised to “ capture or kill”?
These are three fundamental questions that should have been answered in Prime Minister Key’s announcement that New Zealand SAS troops are returning to the battle fronts in
After their first tour of duty started in December 2001, the SAS was involved in actions where “individuals were temporarily detained in order to capture Taliban and for [sic] Al Qaeda suspects believed to be among them.”
There was no hard evidence that the 50 to 70 detainees captured by the SAS were Taliban or Al Qaeda. They were simply living in areas where enemy combatants were known to be active. The SAS had no resource to identify their detainees properly and handed them over to American allies for interrogation and custody as quickly as possible.
As a result, the NZ Defence Force had no means of tracking the fate of those detainees – and no means of ensuring that they were treated humanely according to the requirements of international humanitarian and human rights laws.
Has this deficiency been addressed? And will the SAS continue to mount these highly dubious “snatch and grab” raids on its return to
We cannot be sure. The government is refusing to comment on what it calls “the operational aspects of the SAS deployment”. Its announcement this week even fails to mention whether the SAS will rejoin the battle as part of the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom or the UN mandated International Security Assistance Force.
Under ISAF rules, the SAS would, at least, be required to identify their captives and alert the Red Cross before transferring them to the custody of Afghan authorities. Even if our troops do observe ISAF rules, it is far from clear that
Since the beginning of 2001, the New Zealand government has been trying – unsuccessfully – to obtain a formal agreement from the government of
On the same day that Prime Minister Key announced the SAS would be returning to action in
Apparently, we are repeating the same mistake that was made in 2001.
But worse news is coming. Even if
At the beginning of this year, UN Human Rights Commissioner Nevanethem Pillay issued the following blunt warning to countries committing troops to combat in
“They may hold detainees for only 96 hours; the International Committee of the Red Cross must be informed; after 96 hours, detainees are to be either released or transferred to the Afghan authorities, generally, the National Department of Security.
NDS continues to operate without a public legal framework clearly defining its powers of investigation, arrest and detention, and rules applicable to its detention facilities.
UNAMA [United Nations Assistance
United Nations officials also have particular concerns about the operations of special forces such as the SAS in
Now, the New York Times is reporting that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is about to release details of a new
According to the NYT, two American generals have advised the committee that 50 Afghans, believed to be drug traffickers with ties to the Taliban, have been placed on a Pentagon target list to be captured or killed. Names will be added to the list on the basis of information from two credible sources and substantial additional evidence.
Is this the kind of mission that the New Zealand SAS might be called upon to perform?
I would like to think not – but I would prefer to be told, to have a clear descriptive of the enemy that our troops have been sent to capture or kill, and to know that they are properly trained and equipped to perform their duties in compliance with the laws of armed conflict.
John Key is correct when he says “we have some of the best people in the world and we're now asking them to complete a very difficult task." We deserve to know exactly what the task is – and the location of our nearest exit.