Last week the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade select committee considered a resolution from Keith Locke (Greens) calling for an inquiry by the committee into the allegations raised in the recent Metro article, that NZ Defence Forces in Afghanistan had handed detainees over to other forces (US and Afghani) who were known to torture prisoners for information. This would be in breach of the Geneva Convention, the UN Convention Against Torture, human rights in general and make a mockery of our current participation at an international level on the UN Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture.
The Nats on the committee decided to block this inquiry. Labour and the Greens voted in favour of it and the Nats rolled us with their majority.
At the end of last year, I asked for the NZ Defence Force to come to the FADT committee and explain how the “rules of engagement” in war worked and how we maintained our commitment to our well known anti-torture position, especially in Afghanistan. This was long before there was a whiff of a story from Jon Stephenson (Metro). Kevin Riordan (NZDF’s head legal man) came and gave us a full briefing in public session (although noone from the public was there!), explaining that when detainees are held by NZDF soldiers, the decision on who to hand them over to, particularly if we knew they were likely to be tortured, went right back to the head of our NZDF. This isn’t a decision made by anybody in the field – it goes right to the top – in this case, GG-designate, Gerry Mataparae.
Why wouldn’t we have an inquiry into this? Our international reputation is being impugned by this journo. Are there any grounds for that? Even if it happened on Labour’s watch, wouldn’t we want to know so that it didn’t happen again? Labour is happy for an inquiry to occur. Why did the Nats vote it down?