New Zealand currently has around a hundred troops in Afghanistan – 38 with the SAS in Kabul, and the rest as a Provincial Reconstruction team in Bamiyan. So far the deployment has cost us three lives [in combat]: Lieutenant Timothy O’Donnell, Corporal Doug Grant, Lance Corporal Leon Smith. So, what have they been dying for?
Prisoners have been systematically tortured while in the custody of Afghan security officials, according to a UN reportwhich described abuse including ripping detainees’ toenails out and twisting their genitals.Nearly half of prisoners interviewed by Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said they had been tortured while a third of those arrested by Afghan police reported abuse.
The report, based on interviews with 379 randomly selected prisoners including teenage boys, says torture was systematic at five locations around the country and was designed to obtain confessions, which are often the only form of evidence against a suspect.
Abuse had occurred in 47 facilities across 24 of the country’s 34 provinces, although it was not “institutional or government policy”, the 74-page report says.
SO, our soldiers are propping up a government which permits this. Worse, when they take prisoners – and the SAS takes prisoners, laundered under their own version of Australia’s “Afghan model”– they are turned over to organisations who torture and sent to these facilities. Given the widespread nature of this torture, it is highly likely that prisoners taken by kiwi soldiers have been mistreated in this way. Doesn’t that make you proud to be a kiwi? To know that our soldiers are over there, capturing people and turning them over so they can be electrocuted, threatened with rape, have their toenails ripped out with pliers?
The Greens are right: we need a full review of what the SAS has been doing in Afghanistan, including tracing the fate of every prisoner they have captured. But more importantly, we need to bring them home. Our government should not be propping up torturers, let alone supplying them with victims. The longer we stay there, the more complicit we become.
In case you’re wondering, here’s the relevant part of the Geneva Convention (III)
Part II. General Protection of Prisoners of War
Art 12. Prisoners of war are in the hands of the enemy Power, but not of the individuals or military units who have captured them. Irrespective of the individual responsibilities that may exist, the Detaining Power is responsible for the treatment given them.
Prisoners of war may only be transferred by the Detaining Power to a Power which is a party to the Convention and after the Detaining Power has satisfied itself of the willingness and ability of such transferee Power to apply the Convention. When prisoners of war are transferred under such circumstances, responsibility for the application of the Convention rests on the Power accepting them while they are in its custody.
Nevertheless, if that Power fails to carry out the provisions of the Convention in any important respect, the Power by whom the prisoners of war were transferred shall, upon being notified by the Protecting Power, take effective measures to correct the situation or shall request the return of the prisoners of war. Such requests must be complied with.
Art 13. Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.
Compare that requirement to Wayne Mapp’s statement: “The information I have is that they haven’t [been tortured], that’s about as far as I can go – we are talking about Afghanistan here…. I would like to think it is correct [that SAS prisoners don’t go to the notorious Department 90] but I am not prepared to go beyond the information I have received,