Truth – A NZ War Casualty

A child’s coffin outside Parliament last week — commemorating the life of three-year-old Fatima who died during NZ’s ‘Operation Burnham’ in Afghanistan.

NZ Defence Force still being frugal with the truth

By Mandy Hager

Almost under the radar last week, the New Zealand Defence Force finally admitted that, despite their press-circus at the time, they had lied about the position of the raids revealed in Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hager’s book Hit and Run.  

This only came as the result of economist Sam Warburton’s pursuit of an OIA request. He talks about the process and the results of the disclosure here: https://www.pundit.co.nz/content/how-we-found-the-nzdf-was-wrong-on-hit-run

Yet, despite this latest evidence that the NZDF went into spin-mode rather than being open and transparent about its actions in Afghanistan, they still refuse again to address the issues raised in the book, instead trying to slide away from having to tell the truth.

On March 13th a delegation of human rights and disarmament groups delivered a petition with just under 4,000 signatures and “Briefing to the Attorney-General” to Parliament, where they were welcomed by Green MP Chloe Swarbrick.

Given the NZDF’s continual muddying of the waters, I thought it might be useful for people to read the press statement that accompanied this action. I, for one, find the NZDF’s ongoing stonewalling on this issue very concerning:

Hit & Run Inquiry Campaign

(Media release 13 March 2018)

A delegation of human rights and disarmament groups will deliver a petition and “Briefing to the Attorney-General” to Parliament at 12:30pm today 13 March.

The petition calls for a full and independent inquiry and the briefing provides detailed requests on the type of inquiry that should be held and its terms of reference. The Attorney-General David Parker is due to make decisions about the inquiry shortly.

The petition handover will be in the form of a little coffin commemorating the young life of the three-year-old Fatima who was killed as a result of Operation Burnham on 22 August 2010.

Photo showing location of ‘Operation Burnham’ in 2010

Spokesperson Dr Carl Bradley said the groups welcome the government’s moves towards an inquiry but that it was essential that the inquiry is broad, rigorous and independent.

“Everyone knows that government inquiries can be weak or strong, depending on the type of inquiry, its powers and the terms of reference,” Dr Bradley said. “The only way the government can meet its obligations to the New Zealand public and under international law is to have the strong type.”

“We suspect that the government is under great pressure from the Defence Force not to have an inquiry at all. But if we want a defence force with integrity, there needs to be a full, open and independent inquiry when things go wrong.”

“The inquiry should look specifically at allegations regarding ‘Operation Burnham’ on 22 August 2010 in Afghanistan’s Baghlan Province in which it is alleged several civilians were killed, and the January 2011 detention of Qari Miraj and his alleged beating and transfer to the National Directorate of Security, who are known to practice torture. Given the severity of the allegations and the United Nation’s attention to them, we believe a Public Inquiry is most appropriate.”

“New Zealand’s reputation as a good international citizen is not to be treated lightly – it must be earned repeatedly. The allegations against our Defence Force reflect poorly on New Zealand and its people. If New Zealand soldiers killed and hurt innocent civilians, we need to stand-up and hold ourselves to account and learn the lessons so that such events are never again repeated”.

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Mandy Hager adds this comment from a briefing to 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 writing now to 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.’

And KIN plans to publish details of the briefing tomorrow.

 

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