Former Defence Force Chiefs must front up over torture allegations: Green Party

The Green Party is calling for the Defence Force Chiefs in place between 2010-2017 to front up and explain how dishonesty, process and policy failures within the Defence Force led to ‘a series of incorrect statements in briefings to ministers and public releases’ regarding alleged breaches of international torture prevention law in Afghanistan.

The independent report into allegations about Operation Burnham and Operation Yamaha, arising from the book Hit and Run, finds significant misrepresentations and shortcomings in policy, communication, and process within the Defence Force over a seven year period, which undermine democratic accountability of the Defence Force.

“Now that an independent inquiry has found that the Defence Force ‘did not reflect New Zealand’s values and the letter and spirit of international law on torture prevention’ and that members of the NZDF made false representations about these cases, those who were in charge need to front up,” said Green Party Defence spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman.

“Lt Gen Sir Jerry Mateparae, Lt Gen Rhys Jones, and Lt Gen Tim Keating were heads of the Defence Force over a seven year period during which ministers and the public were allegedly misled about the conduct of our armed forces in Afghanistan.

“The report is clear that the Defence Force handed over a prisoner to Afghan security forces, and there is strong evidence he was then tortured. The Defence Force did not investigate this or bring it to the attention of relevant ministers.

“The Defence Force told ministers that allegations of civilian casualties had been investigated and found to be ‘baseless’ or ‘unfounded’, and the independent inquiry has found that this was misleading. It turns out that a young girl was killed. This goes to the heart of civilian oversight of the military.

“This has exposed failures in the Defence Force’s organisational structure, systems, and culture, relating to its obligations to the ministers who are democratically elected and trusted to provide civilian oversight."

The Green Party welcomes the Government’s agreement to all the recommendations arising from the inquiry, particularly around urgent steps to improve the Defence Force’s internal processes and the creation of an independent Inspector-General of Defence.

“We’re proud to have worked as part of this Government to withdraw New Zealand’s troops from America’s war in Afghanistan.”

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