Amnesty International says a gross lack of transparency and accountability has been highlighted in the New Zealand Defence Force. The organisation is questioning what constitutes a cover-up when the NZDF repeatedly made ‘incorrect and misleading statements’ in relation to Operation Burnham.
Attorney-General David Parker has today released the findings of the Government inquiry held into Operation Burnham and related events in Afghanistan in 2010. The inquiry finds ‘significant shortcomings’ with the NZDF responses to civilian causalities.
Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand Executive Director Meg de Ronde says the findings are disturbing.
“Although the report found no cover-up, it does raise the question what constitutes a cover-up? This is an especially important question given the negligence and gross lack of transparency shown by NZDF. The inquiry shows SAS personnel assaulted a prisoner, it shows the operation likely caused the death of a young girl and injured a number of civilians. It shows our defence force did pass a prisoner on who was then tortured.”
“These actions breach our duty to prevent torture. These are absolute, non-negotiable human rights; the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and the right to life itself. The actions taken by the defence force raise serious human rights issues and fail New Zealand’s values of fairness and care.”
De Ronde says the findings show NZDF gave incorrect information to Ministers and the public about the allegations of civilian casualties over a number of years.
“Leadership in NZDF must be held accountable. The inquiry gives some robust recommendations. What the inquiry doesn’t do is offer a remedy which is pivotal to justice for those harmed. We want to see people taking responsibility for their actions, and we want to see them held accountable. The blatant disregard of due process, the lack of transparency, and lack of accountability here is unacceptable.”
She adds the inquiry follows tireless campaigning where some human rights defenders were disparaged.
“It’s excellent the inquiry occurred but it took an overwhelming amount of pressure from civil society for it to happen in the first place. The findings show how crucial civil society is.”