What the campaigners are asking the Govt. to do ( Part 2)
By Mandy Hager
Although the Defence Force has admitted lying about the position of the SAS raids revealed in Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager’s book Hit and Run,
they still refuse to address the questions raised.
The ‘Hit and Run’ campaigners say that if our soldiers killed and hurt innocent civilians, NZ needs to stand-up and learn the lessons so that such events are never again repeated.
( Six innocent civilians, including three-year-old Fatima, were killed and 15 wounded in the SAS raid on Afghan villages in August, 2010. See my earlier article, ‘Truth – A NZ War Casualty,’ March 21)
To summarise the arguments, here’s the briefing the campaigners have given Attorney-General David Parker :
The Hit and Run Inquiry campaign has been urging the government to launch an independent inquiry into the events described in the book Hit and Run since it was published one year ago. We are very grateful for your government’s moves towards an inquiry.
We…urge that the inquiry itself be scrupulously independent, fair and well designed: the type of inquiry, its terms of reference and rules around the conduct of the inquiry. We would much rather use our energy participating fully in the inquiry process than worrying about whether the process is fair or criticising systemic problems in the process, and as such present the following six points.
Summary of key points
The inquiry is occurring in a charged environment of official denials, evidence of a long-term cover up and active non-cooperation from senior officers in the Defence Force. For the public to have confidence in the process and for the sake of a sound and enduring outcome, we request that the inquiry structure includes the following points. To briefly summarise: number 1 is to ensure that the defence force cannot use its control of government information to skew the process; number 2 is to ensure the inquiry has the necessary status and capacity; numbers 3 and 4 are to ensure the inquiry is not hamstrung by its terms of reference; number 5 is to avoid the Defence Force being able to control who can give evidence; and number 6 is to ensure that the public can participate fully in the inquiry.
- To ensure the inquiry’s integrity, that the Defence Force does not make the decisions about what information is withheld from public for reasons of “security”. The inquiry should appoint an independent person to make the decisions on what evidence can be provided to the public, noting that the less secrecy, the more there will be public trust and full participation in the inquiry. Secrecy, when investigating an alleged cover up, will naturally reduce the credibility of the inquiry and hinder its effectiveness.
2. That the inquiry be a Public Inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2013to ensure it has the necessary independence, status and time to do its job. There are serious allegations about the actions of New Zealand military personnel and equally important allegations about a high-level cover up. They require the status and resources of a public inquiry. A public inquiry (the approximate equivalent of a commission of inquiry) is the right balance between a longer royal commission and a shorter government inquiry ( the approximate equivalent of a ministerial inquiry). We also call for a clearly communicated timeframe that reflects the urgency yet thoroughness of such an inquiry.
3. That the inquiry have comprehensive terms of reference, including the civilian casualties, lack of care for injured, destruction of houses and the subsequent cover up. This requires terms of reference that fully cover the book Hit and Run, including all planning and detailed execution of the 22 August 2010 NZSAS raid, its aftermath, port-activity reports and assessments, inquiries about civilian casualties, advice given to ministers and official statements (by NZDF staff and ministers) about the raid; and also all events surrounding the beating and torture of the prisoner Qari Miraj. The terms of reference should also explicitly refer to the relevant international law, including the ICC Rome statute articles 7 (crimes against humanity) and 8 (war crimes). It is essential that the terms of reference do not serve to restrict the scope of the inquiry.
4. That the inquiry have broad terms of reference covering actions and omissions by NZDF, relevant intelligence agencies and Cabinet ministers, and all aspects of the cover up, from mid-2010 to present. Such terms of reference will help to define the scope of the inquiry.
5. That confidential evidence is allowed from past and present defence staff and other relevant public servants without them needing to get permission from senior staff. Any member of the public should also be able to make submissions and, except to protect any whistle-blowers requiring confidentiality, the inquiry should be open to the public. Noting the context of a military cover up, it is essential that military personnel presenting evidence officially do so in open sessions.
6. That the inquiry enables informed public input by making all the basic source materials about the raid, alleged torture and other Hit and Run issues publicly available early in the process. This includes source materials such as Operation Burnham operation maps and PowerPoints, decision-making documents, post-activity and battle damage assessment reports, defence and SAS public relations plans and correspondence, and so on. The public can play an important role in providing critical advice to the inquiry but the precondition for this is having information.
There should be a deliberate process of obtaining source materials from the Defence Force and releasing them in the early stages of the review. To date the Defence Force’s main response to the Operation Burnham allegations has been secrecy and denial. Public access to source materials will raise the issue out of the realm of one-sided, unchallengeable claims and selective evidence.”
For further reading on this issue see: