Indonesian police and military have reportedly attacked the West Papua Committee (KNPB) office in Timika and arrested seven people, including three teenagers. Image: Timika KNPB
By Budiarti Utami Putri in Jakarta
Human rights organisation Amnesty International Indonesia has demanded President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo fulfil his promises to resolve the alleged human rights violations in Papua.
Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said Jokowi had earlier pledged to settle the shooting incidents involving civilians in Paniai, Papua.
“We underline one promise, one commitment delivered by President Joko Widodo following the Paniai incident that the President wants the case to be settled to prevent further incident in the future,” said Usman in a plenary meeting with the House of Representative (DPR)’s Legal Commission in the Parliament Complex, Senayan, Jakarta, last week.
Usman said that there was an alleged excessive mobilisation of power and weapons from the security apparatus in Papua.
Between January 2010 and February 2018, Amnesty International Indonesia had recorded 69 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings in Papua.
The most dominant perpetrator was the National Police (Polri) officers (34 cases), followed by the Indonesia Armed Forces (TNI) (23 cases), joint officers of TNI and Polri (11 cases) and Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) in one case.
Custom resolution Usman said a total of 25 cases were not investigated, 26 cases were studied without a conclusive result, and 8 cases were dealh with through custom.
“Usually, it is about certain compensations for the victim’s family,” Usman said.
Usman said this was proof that the government lacked independent, effective, and impartial mechanisms to cope with civilians’ complaints concerning human rights violation performed by the security personnel.
The former coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) urged the government to create measures to resolve the human rights violation in Papua and demanded the government admit the incident and draft procedures for security officers in a bid to prevent violence in the region.
“President Jokowi expects Papua to be a peaceful land,” Usman said.
Meanwhile, the House’s Legal Commission deputy speaker Trimedya Panjaitan pledged to follow up the findings issued by Amnesty International Indonesia to the National Police Chief Tito Karnavian in the upcoming session next week.
“We will ask the police chief in the next meeting on September 24,” Trimedya said.
Timika attack, arrests Meanwhile, Indonesian police and military attacked the West Papua Committee (KNPB) office in Timika at the weekend and arrested seven people, including three teenagers, alleged an unverified social media posting.
The arrested people were named as:
Jack Yakonias Womsiwor (39) Nus Asso (46) Urbanus Kossay (18) Herich Mandobar (18) Pais Nasia (23) Vincent Gobay (19) Titus Yelemaken (46)
This Tempo article is shared through the Asia-Pacific Solidarity Network (APSN).
Alongside his social media coverage of the protests, Dr Shahidul Alam apparently angered the authorities and the ruling party after he gave a TV interview with Al Jazeera when criticised the government. Image: Global Voices
Late on the night of August 5, 2018, award-winning Bangladeshi photographer and activist Dr Shahidul Alam was forcibly abducted from his house in Dhanmondi, Dhaka, by 20 men in plainclothes, sparking protests from media freedom and human rights groups.
Alam is the founder of both the Drik Picture Library and the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute and a vocal journalist on issues related to rule of law and the public interest.
It was soon confirmed that a team of the Detective Branch (DB) of police had detained Shahidul from his residence, with the intention of interrogating him over his Facebook posts about ongoing student protests in the capital, Dhaka.
Secondary school students of different educational institutions in the Bangladesh capital have taken to the streets since July 29 demanding improved road safety and rule enforcement, after two of their classmates were killed due to reckless driving by public bus. The students are also demanding justice for the victims.
Excessive police force Shahidul Alam has been covering the ongoing student protests in Bangladesh in his Facebook and Twitter accounts and discussing the protests on Facebook Live.
More than one hundred students were injured over the weekend as the police resorted to excessive force, including firing rubber bullets and tear gas at thousands of peaceful student protesters.
Angered authorities Alongside his social media coverage of the protests, Alam apparently angered the authorities and the ruling party after he gave a TV interview on Sunday evening with Al Jazeera where he talked about the recent situation in Bangladesh and criticised the government.
I think what we need to do is to look at what has been happening in the streets today. The police specifically asked for help from these armed goons to combat unarmed students demanding safe roads.
I mean how ridiculous is that? Today, I was in the streets, there were people with machetes in their hands chasing unarmed students. And the police are standing by watching it happen.
In some cases, they were actually helping them…
According to the latest reports, the police have received a seven-day remand to question Shahidul Alam in connection with an ICT Act case filed on August 6, 2018. He was taken to the court barefoot and barely able to walk.
He appears to have been beaten while in custody.
Exiled journalist Tasneem Khalil tweeted:
The police have not yet mentioned why he was detained but referred to the case which accuses him under section 57 of the ICT Act of “abusing” an electronic platform in order to spread “lies” among the population and with the intent to “invalidate and question” the government on the international stage, damage law and order, spread “fear and terror”.
‘Father of the nation’ President Rodrigo Duterte defends his order against loiterers. Image: Malacañang
By Pia Ranada in Manila
President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has cited the power of the state to act as parents of persons needing protection as a defence of his order against “tambays” (loiterers).
“Of course, I can accost you. Under the power of parens patriae, you are the father of the nation. I can always give an advice for people like minors,” he said yesterday during a summit in Davao City on the southern island of Mindanao.
Parens patriae, which is Latin for “parent of the nation,” refers to the power of the state to act as the parent of a person when their actual parents or guardians are neglectful or abusive.
Duterte also said he had read the recent Social Weather Stations survey that found that fear of robberies, unsafe streets, and drug addicts had risen in Mindanao, his home island.
No order to ‘arrest’ Twice in his speech, he insisted that he did not tell police to “arrest” loiterers.
“I never said arrest them, napakaga gago (such fools) … Why don’t you just listen, i-rewind mo yung sinabi ko (rewind what I said),” he said.
The exact words of Duterte’s order on June 14 are: “My directive is ‘pag mag-istambay-istambay sabihin niyo, ‘Umuwi kayo. ‘Pag ‘di kayo umuwi, ihatid ko kayo don sa opisina ni ano don, Pasig’. Ako na ang bahala, ilagay mo lang diyan. Talian mo ‘yung kamay pati bin–ihulog mo diyan sa ano.”
(My directive is if there is someone who stands by, tell them, ‘Go home. If you don’t go home, I will bring you to the office of – there in Pasig.’ Leave it up to me. Just put them there. Tie their hands together even the – drop them at –)
Duterte’s exact words referring to loiterers in a September 2017 speech were: “Tignan ‘nyo may maglakad pa ba na – eh ngayon, sabi ko sa pulis, ‘Pikapin mo.’” (See if there’s anyone walking around – now, I told the police, ‘Pick them up.’)
The Philippine National Police, however, appeared to interpret the President’s words as an order to take loiterers allegedly violating local laws to prisons and detaining them.
The President is known for his stream-of-consciousness style of speaking in which he often does not complete sentences or does not elaborate on confusing, sometimes contradictory messaging.
Loitering ‘not a crime’ Duterte admitted in his Friday speech that loitering “is not a crime” but that he can arrest persons for drinking in public.
“If you are drinking diyan sa alley, ‘yang mga (in the alley, in the) squatters area, if you are there making a sala (living room) out of the roads there, ‘tang-ina, huhulihin talaga (son of a bitch, you will get caught),” he said.
After Duterte’s order, there was a reported case of a group of friends detained by police who were told the only reason for the action was Duterte’s verbal command.
Argoncillo, the 22-year-old alleged “tambay” who was killed in jail had been arrested for supposedly causing “alarm and scandal”.
Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Thompson and Clark has been doing the dirty work of the state
There is something rotten going on in a number of New Zealand government departments and agencies. That’s the first conclusion from the scandal revealing security and intelligence agency Thompson and Clark is widely used by the public service. Hopefully the ever-widening investigation by the State Services Commission will shine some light on this, but the public could be forgiven for thinking that the murkiness will remain.
Government department involvement with private spies
The story of Thompson and Clark’s dodgy involvement with government has been unfolding over the last few months. The latest surprising chapter involves the Security Intelligence Service (SIS), which it turns out has been helping the private business get surveillance contracts with other government departments, as well as providing them with access to networks and information. For the best coverage of this, see the Herald’s Government probe: The SIS and Thompson and Clark emails that sparked an investigation.
According to the blogging watchdog No Right Turn, “this is basically a case of cosy corruption, mates helping mates, and at the heart of an agency (the SIS) we trust to be above such things” – see: Cosy corruption.
This article also reveals some possible breaches of the Official Information Act by DoC, done in order to try to protect the intelligence source used by Thompson and Clark. And Thompson and Clark director Gavin Clark is found to have responded in an email that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s crackdown on his agency was a “witch hunt” and “ill-informed”.
Tracy Watkins has written about the history of Thompson and Clark’s extensive involvement with government departments, saying “New Zealand’s leading security, corporate intelligence and protection agency… appears to have a long reach into the public service” – see: Private investigator says he will cooperate with Government inquiry. And she also points to other departments using Thompson and Clark against political activists, including Solid Energy, Mfat, and MBIE.
Unfortunately, although there’s now a State Services Commission investigation into the whole affair, the various government departments and their ministers are still not being up front with the public about what’s happened with Thompson and Clark. Basically, neither senior officials or ministers are willing to talk about what has gone on – see Zac Fleming’s MPI refuses to explain Thompson and Clark decisions.
The upshot is that, given what has gone on, New Zealanders now have good reason to question the ethics and integrity of the public service. Certainly, the deputy chair of the Privacy Foundation New Zealand, Gehan Gunasekara, believes there’s a possibility that “New Zealand’s clean transparent image will be tarnished” – see Newshub’s Private spying by Government departments ‘concerning’ – Privacy Foundation. He says that “it’s also concerning that it took an OIA [Official Information Act] request to bring some of these things to light”.
Patrick Gower has driven this story more than anyone else and he has written an excellent explanation on Why the Thompson & Clark investigation matters. In general, Gower thinks the whole arrangement brings the public service’s integrity into question, and he worries that Thompson and Clark’s “tentacles” are everywhere.
Here’s Gower’s main explanation for why this scandal matters: “It matters because ordinary Kiwis were snooped and spied on by private investigators. It matters because the taxpayer paid for this private snooping and spying. It matters because the SIS spy service helped facilitate this kind of work. It matters because this appears to be systemic throughout Government. It matters because this is all based on creating a climate of fear that people make money from.”
The operations of Thompson and Clark also raise big questions about democratic freedoms. Environmentalist Frances Mountier has had direct experience of dealing with this agency, being part of an anti-mining group that was targeted by the corporate spies: “The whole point of this group was seemingly to work to undermine political protest, to disrupt community organising, to dampen the effectiveness of democratic change, to control the media narrative and to make people who are using their freedom of speech speechless” – see: Why have Thompson & Clark been allowed to keep spying on us, in your name?
Chris Trotter has drawn parallels with the US’ famous Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, which pioneered ways to help businesses and government authorities deal with unions and leftwing politicians – see: New Zealand’s Very Own Pinkertons.
Trotter says groups such as Pinkertons and Thompson and Clark do the dirty work in the shadows that helps reinforce the status quo, protecting private property: “when the official organs of law enforcement and national security find themselves lacking the human and material resources – not to mention the legal authority – required to carry out ‘the work’, being able to contract the private sector to assist the public sector in fulfilling its core function of keeping the country safe for private wealth-creators – is extraordinarily helpful”.
Finally, Thompson and Clark used to utilise the research of former Act Party Vice-President Trevor Louden, who maintained a website that detailed the backgrounds of New Zealand leftists and dissidents, and for an update on Louden’s new US political life, see Branko Marcetic’s profile: The Man Behind KeyWiki.
Dozens of youth and students hold a candlelit protest in front of the Diponegoro University campus, Semarang, in 2013 over the human rights abuses that occurred in Wasior and Wamena in 2001. Image: PY/WPAN
By Karina M. Tehusijarana in Jakarta
Indonesia’s Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) has urged President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to take concrete steps to resolve alleged gross human rights violations in Wasior, Papua, marking the 17th anniversary of the incident this week.
“Kontras regrets and criticices the lack of action of President Jokowi’s administration in dealing with and resolving human rights abuses in Papua,” said Kontras commissioner Yati Andriyani.
The incident, which took place on June 13, 2001, was triggered when five members of the National Police’s Mobile Brigade (Brimob) and one civilian were killed after a dispute between residents and timber company PT Vatika Papuana Perkasa.
During a search for the perpetrators, Brimob members allegedly committed gross human rights violations in the form of murder, torture and abduction.
A National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) investigation into the incident found that at least four people were killed, 39 wounded from torture, five abducted and one sexually abused.
The case was submitted to the Attorney-General’s Office for prosecution in 2004 but has seen little progress since then.
During his campaign for president in 2014, Jokowi had promised to resolve past human rights violations, including the Wasior incident.
“Instead of fulfilling that promise, Attorney-General H.M. Prasetyo said on June 1 this year that gross human rights abuses were difficult to resolve through judicial processes,” Yati said.
Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Can the Human Rights Commission be fixed?
Concerns about bigotry and harassment in New Zealand are ongoing, or even rising. Yet the primary state agency that deals with these issues – the Human Rights Commission – has been discredited and is in turmoil. The latest ministerial report is incredibly damning, illustrating that the Commission is not living the values it wants everyone else to live by.
For its supporters, the Human Rights Commission (HRC), plays an important role in fostering inclusion, understanding and harmony, by campaigning publicly against sexism, racism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination. But to its critics, it’s proved itself not up to the task of protecting human rights and, in the eyes of some, become a “politically correct” activist state agency, that goes beyond its proper purpose by policing free speech.
So, how can the Commission be reformed? Or should it be scrapped?
The whole scandal was somewhat of a paradox – not simply because a human rights agency might be expected to be the last place that sexual harassment should be occurring – but particularly because the agency was entirely remiss in the way they dealt with the intern’s complaint.
As reported in the article, the intern claimed that the HRC did not have her interests as their main concern: “I felt it wasn’t so much about me any more, it was about protecting the organisation, and them hitting all the right points that they had to hit legally. Ultimately I felt it came down to making sure they could move on as an organisation.”
Writing at the time, Alison Mau was shocked: “you’d think of all places the HRC would have a gold-standard way of investigating in a fair, balanced, independent and transparent manner” – see: After Human Rights Commission harassment scandal, how can victims trust the process? She also hoped that the scandal would “not reflect on the work that the HRC does for New Zealanders in the wider sense. It would be a shame if confidence in its public role took a knock.”
Then in May, Harrison Christian followed up with more detail on what had occurred in the HRC, how his own investigation was carried out, and he drew attention to the uncooperative and murky role of its managers in the scandal – see: Analysis: The road to the truth about the Human Rights Commission. The CEO, Cynthia Brophy, comes out of this account poorly.
The extent of the problem with the Human Rights Commission
Given the controversy, a ministerial inquiry was commissioned by Minister of Justice, Andrew Little, which produced a damning report by retired judge Coral Shaw. This is covered in RNZ’s HRC report: ‘Deep divide’ between staff and managers. The report details bullying and dysfunctional leadership in the agency.
Then, on Friday, two of the Human Rights Commissioners, Susan Devoy and Jackie Blue, announced their departure. Devoy wrote an “exclusive guest essay” about this for The Spinoff website (a media outlet that receives sponsorship from the HRC) – see: How the Human Rights Commission can rebuild trust.
While worth reading, you won’t find much in the way of interesting reflections – or much real contrition – from Devoy. Instead this is a PR piece is about the achievements of herself and colleagues, how they have been “speaking truth to power”, and how she feels “vindicated”. She also “calls on those who failed staff in relation to sexual harassment allegations to do the right thing and step aside.” Apart from this, there is very little in her essay about how the HRC can be reformed.
Can the HRC be reformed?
The ministerial report was very clear that the latest problems at the HRC were about more than just the personnel, with former commissioners reporting that the dysfunction had been present for “many years”, and under previous commissioners.
There are signs that with the departure of some of the problematic managers, it might now be “business as usual” at the Commission. Andrew Little even said on Friday: “So it’s time to look further afield and see if we can get some new blood”, suggesting he may not accept the need for bigger reform.
Andrew Little and his government clearly also need to look at the appointment processes for new commissioners. This is explained very well by former commissioner Peter Hosking in his article, Drop the politics from human rights. He asks why the government doesn’t consult with the opposition over the new appointments.
For a long time now, the commissioner appointment process has been party political, with the government of the day making the decision, sometimes even ignoring officials’ advice. Hosking says that the process should be bipartisan, pointing out that the United Nations has previously recommended this to New Zealand, and the ministerial review makes a good suggestion in this regard: “the Judge recommending consideration be given to whether the commissioners should be officers of Parliament, similar to the Ombudsman, Auditor-General and Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.”
Other suggestions for reform come from David Farrar, who has written one of the most interesting commentaries on the ministerial review – see: The Human Rights Commission review. He says the extent of the problem is made clear in the review: “Government reviews are normally diplomatically worded. This review is damning in the language used such as toxic, unprofessional etc. Andrew Little has his work cut out for him with the HRC. The status quo is clearly untenable.”
Here’s Farrar’s main point about the need for a structural change in the organisation: “I think the issue may be structure as much as people. Most organisation have part-time governors who sit strategy and policy and full-time staff who do the work. The HRC has full-time Commissioners who lead the work program but also collectively are meant to govern the organisation. There is also a CEO and a Chief Commissioner. So very blurred accountability in my opinion… I prefer the traditional models with a clear line between governance and management. Effectively the HRC has multiple bosses as each Commissioner has control over their area, plus a Chief Commission and a CEO.”
Maybe the HRC is simply too tarnished and broken to be reformed, and needs to be scrapped. That’s the view of Damien Grant, who draws a parallel with Britain’s News of World publication being shut down: “One the best things Rupert Murdoch did was shut the News of the World. As his son, James, explained at the time: ‘The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself’… The Commission, like News of the World, preaches one thing and practices another” – see: Shut it down – rights watchdog fails to practice what it preaches.
Damning the organisation, Grant quotes a staff member saying “There’s a culture of victimisation and secrecy, no one feels that they can speak the truth or be heard”, and he points to the ministerial report stating that “78 per cent of its staff did not believe their employer treated everyone fairly”.
Grant believes the HRC to be generally redundant, suggests that trade unions are better at dealing with harassment and discrimination: “The best organisation to challenge bullying and harassment in the workplace isn’t a dysfunctional government agency but unions. Asserting the rights of workers is exactly the sort of role a successful union would aspire to and, if effective, will gain new recruits as a result.”
Has the Commission also become victim of “mission creep”? According to John Drinnan, it has become increasingly activist, which is a problem for a state agency – see: Dysfunctional HRC targets hate and disharmony. Drinnan reports that AUT academic Paul Moon “sees as evidence of an ‘ideology’ developing at the Commission”, and criticises its lack of transparency.
Drinnan says the HRC continues to promote restrictions on free speech, and he points to a recent forum about online hate speech, in which there was a complete lack of ideological diversity: “None of the speakers are promoters for free speech.” Drinnan also reports Andrew Little as saying a review of human rights laws is coming up, and “It may well be that is the time to consider whether there has to be a beefing up over the coverage of hate speech”.
Finally, maybe some lessons can be learnt from the UK’s equally controversial version of our agency, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which was headed for ten years by Trevor Phillips. While running the EHRC, Phillips was a highly controversial public figure akin to some of New Zealand’s commissioners such as Susan Devoy. But he now says he’s had a “Road to Damascus” change of heart about the agency and now takes an entirely different approach to human rights issues and debate. You can listen to his 2015 interview with RNZ’s Katherine Ryan here: Straight conversations about racial and religious differences. And you can watch his recent British documentary: Has Political Correctness Gone Mad?
Headline: Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: The Hit & Run inquiry opens up a can of worms
Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: The Hit & Run inquiry opens up a can of worms
New Zealand’s military conduct in its longest running war ever – in Afghanistan – is finally getting an official government inquiry. This has the real potential to open up a can of worms. So far, the announcement of the Government’s inquiry into Operation Burnham has been met with a great diversity of reactions. Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson, and their supporters, have been “over the moon”, as Hager put it. But this doesn’t mean they don’t have concerns about the inquiry.
Validity of inquiry disputed
Not everyone is happy to see the New Zealand defence forces being made accountable for the SAS raid in Afghanistan. Newstalk ZB’s Tim Dower represents one strand of opinion in his argument that the military should never be criticised or investigated – see his column condemning the new inquiry: When it comes to military operations, I’m taking the word of our guys.
Dower makes the case that New Zealand soldiers were in Afghanistan to help the locals, and the chaotic nature of the conflict there meant “our guys were at a disadvantage from the get-go.” He goes so far as to say that, even if New Zealand troops killed Afghans in a botched raid, “I’d rather it was one of them – even a civilian – than one of ours.”
Newstalk ZB’s political editor Barry Soper says that “in reality this was a firefight and unfortunately some innocents lost their lives, which tragically happens in war zones” – see: Little doubt in what SAS inquiry will come up with. He expects the defence forces to be exonerated, on the simple basis that: “the allied forces were under fire and responded”.
Soper regards the inquiry as a “waste of money”, saying “surely the money would have been better spent on the mould and leaks at Middlemore Hospital.” This is a similar line to that being run by the National Party. It’s defence spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, has come out strongly against the inquiry, reiterating that when National was in office it carefully considered the evidence and was in no doubt an inquiry wasn’t needed. You can see his very good ten-minute interview with Breakfast TV’s Jack Tame here: Inquiry into deadly NZ-led Afghanistan raid labelled a waste of taxypers’ money by National.
The New Zealand Defence Forces bosses remain confident they will be cleared by the inquiry. The head of the defence force, Lieutenant General Tim Keating, has emailed his staff to say that the “conduct of the NZSAS ground forces was exemplary” and the evidence he has will clear “the soldiers of any wrongdoing”.
How any government inquiry is set up obviously has a significant impact on what is revealed, and whether justice is served. That’s why so much attention was paid to the terms of reference provided to the inquiry. Supporters of Hager and Stephenson had worried that these terms of reference would be too narrow, or that not enough resources or independence would be supplied by the Government.
Such fears appear to have been unfounded. Both Hager and Stephenson have expressed their support for how the inquiry has been established. Stephenson has said, “It appears that the terms of reference are sufficiently broad to enable Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Sir Terence Arnold to ask the questions that I believe need to be asked”, and “I’m pleased that the issue of NZ involvement in transferring detainees to the Afghan secret police who are well known to torture detainees is going to be examined” – see Jo Moir and Henry Cooke’s Author Jon Stephenson pleased with inquiry, but queries Govt ‘muddying waters’.
This article also reports Stephenson’s belief that witnesses would be dealt with appropriately: “He said the fact that the inquiry could take evidence under oath in secret and protect the identity of witnesses would mean his sources would be comfortable – particularly the ones who were serving at the time.”
According to that article, the main issues that the terms of reference include are the following: “The allegations of civilian deaths. The allegation that NZDF knowingly transferred a man to a prison where he would be tortured. The allegation that soldiers returned to the valley to destroy homes on purpose.”
There is one further, less publicised, focus of the inquiry, that has the potential to be even more explosive than the Hit and Run allegations: an examination of whether New Zealand soldiers were involved in assassination missions on behalf of other countries. Here are the terms of reference relating to this: “7.9 Separate from the Operation, whether the rules of engagement, or any version of them authorised the pre-determined and offensive use of lethal force against specified individuals (other than in the course of direct battle) and if so, whether this was or should have been a[aren’t to (a) NZDF who approved the relevant version(s) and (b) responsible Ministers.”
Blogger No Right Turn has picked up on this, saying this “is a new and unpleasant issue, and highlights the dangers of letting foreigners decide when and in what circumstances NZ soldiers are allowed to kill” – see: Finally.
He adds: “we know that many of NZDF’s allies (including the USA, UK and Australia) are not moral countries and their moral values around military action and assassination are deeply at odds with those of the New Zealand public (and with international law). It’s not clear whether there’s any allegation that NZDF soldiers have been involved in assassinations, but if they have, then they may have committed crimes under New Zealand and international law, for which they will need to be prosecuted.”
Investigative journalists Eugene Bingham and Paula Penfold have worked on important stories about the 2012 Battle of Baghak, in which two New Zealand soldiers were killed in action. This controversy has been specifically excluded by the Government, which claims it has already been dealt with in an Army Court of Inquiry. Bingham and Penfold dispute this, and argue the inquiry needs to be considerably wider in scoop – see: Missing the target: The Government inquiry into Afghanistan raid.
The journalists give kudos to the Government for establishing the new inquiry, but say “the specific concern over civilian casualties in Operation Burnham represents only a fraction of the problems with culture and lack of accountability at the top of Defence, particularly regarding the decade-long deployment to Afghanistan. Those problems run very, very deep. A bold Government would have taken on these issues. Instead, it has wilfully turned a blind eye.”
They argue an inquiry needs to look broadly at the NZDF’s “lack of transparency and accountability. Of a culture of cover-up and obfuscation. And at the heart of it all are questions raised by families of fallen New Zealand soldiers in The Valley: why were we even in Afghanistan in the first place? What were we trying to achieve?”
Muddying the waters
In announcing the inquiry, the Attorney-General David Parker commented that he had been shown a US military video of the raid, and this “does not seem to me to corroborate some key aspects of the book Hit & Run”. Parker stated: “The footage suggests that there was a group of armed individuals in the village” and that this contradicted how Hager and Stephenson had portrayed the village as “non-threatening”. This is all best covered by Herald reporters Isaac Davidson, Lucy Bennett, Claire Trevett and David Fisher – see: Inquiry already prejudiced, say Hit & Run authors.
The first problem with Parker’s actions is that he has refused to give further details, and has not secured the footage for the inquiry. Jon Stephenson believes Parker has pre-empted the actual inquiry: “In my view he’s prejudiced the inquiry and he’s provided that information without any context at all and refused to answer questions about it. He’s just muddied the waters… He’s essentially making statements that are prejudicial… Surely the professional and appropriate thing to do was to allow the inquiry to determine the facts, having heard all the evidence and render a verdict, not pre-empt that.”
The must-read view on this is from Gordon Campbell, who sums up the situation like this: “at the outset of an independent government inquiry, the Attorney-General not only felt free to make unverifiable assertions about Hit & Run – but no guarantee can be given that even this august inquiry will be able to see the footage in question and draw definitive conclusions from it, either way. It seems amazing that NZDF is able to screen this footage for lobbying purposes with politicians whenever it suits NZDF to do so, while claiming that national security concerns prevent it from sharing the same information with either the public, the media, or – potentially – even with the $2 million inquiry set up to clarify the matters in dispute. As I suggested to Parker yesterday, we seem to be getting off on the wrong foot here” – see: On the Hit&Run inquiry.
It opens the government up to criticism that Parker was deliberately throwing a bone to the defence forces with his reference to the video footage. After all, the Government has reportedly been under strong pressure not to hold the inquiry.
Campbell’s column is also essential reading for anyone with concerns about what could go wrong with the inquiry. He points to a myriad of issues and dynamics that might allow authorities to effectively keep the lid on this particular can of worms.
Headline: OP-ED: Turkey’s Foreign Minister Details Its Resolve in the Conflict Against Terrorism and DAESH
Article by H.E. Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs published in Le Monde entitled “Turkey: The best ally for the security of Europe”, 20 March 2018
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an unofficial English translation of the original French text.
Nowadays, the hardest challenges European countries confront are fighting against terrorist organizations such as DAESH and the management of migration flows. Turkey continues to hold an essential role within the context of international efforts in overcoming these challenges.
It is Turkey, who has enabled the European Union (EU) to regulate the Syrian migration flow. Turkey has not only hosted three and a half million Syrian refugees, but also saved the lives of thousands of people by halting their risky attempts to get across the Aegean Sea in order to reach Western Europe.
Turkey is one of the first countries to recognize DAESH as a terrorist organization. Moreover, our country is a member of the International Coalition, established to counter DAESH.
Whereas some Western countries have not been able to control even the transiting of jihadists through their airports, Turkey has denied the entry of more than four thousand suspected travelers on her territory; deported almost six thousand terrorists; arrested more than ten thousand DAESH and Al-Qaida members; and exerted great efforts to ensure the security of her 911 kilometers long land border with Syria.
While other coalition members have not gone beyond a very symbolic presence on the field, only Turkey has fought with her land forces against DAESH alongside with the Free Syrian Army since 2016.
Operation “Euphrates Shield” is an exceptional -even unique- operation to serve as a model in this respect, which was directed by the Turkish Army and ensured the liberation of Jarabulus, Al-Bab and surrounding cities, as well as the peaceful return of hundreds of thousands of Syrians back home.
In that case, could we say that Turkey, against which the Europeans lean their back in terms of their security, is understood correctly? Could we say that our country’s actions are conveyed correctly and that they are appreciated? Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Anti-Turkey discourse prevalent in the West today, is a partial reflection of the increase in xenophobia and Islamophobia, which are fed by Western extremists’ instrumentalization of migrant flows. Furthermore, some unscrupulous politicians, with the goal of satisfying their voters, have tried to conceal their anti-Muslim and xenophobic messages, disguised as their “political truthfulness” in their opposition against Turkey’s EU accession.
This discourse also stems from those underestimating threats faced by Turkey in recent years, and blaming its leaders of becoming authoritarian, and violating individual rights in an unfounded way. However, which European country could have further respected these rights in the face of violent acts by terrorist organizations such as DAESH and PKK/PYD/YPG that have taken control of the frontier areas; the bloody coup attempt by Fethullah Gülen and his terrorist organization on 15 July 2016; the threats and challenges Turkey has faced, such as the economic and social burden of Syrian refugees at Turkish taxpayers’ expense? Actually, no country except for Turkey could have better dealt with such various challenges simultaneously.
Turkey, which is a founding member of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights. This Convention guarantees that individual rights of all citizens are respected by also the Turkish Justice as in other European countries. Accordingly, no one could allege that these rights are less respected in Turkey than in any other country in Europe.
Thanks to its determination, Turkey today manages to prevent terrorist organizations such as DAESH or PKK/PYD/YPG from taking any action on her territory. Advances recorded in the fight against FETO will soon allow the Turkish Government to lift the state of emergency. One can recall that it took seven hundred and nineteen days to end the state of emergency in France.
Today, Turkey enjoys a sound political stability and has the highest economic growth rate among European countries. Turkey, welcoming nearly forty million tourists each year, also continues to be one of the world’s safest tourist destinations.
Turkey’s priority, as a country exerting every effort in finding a political solution in Syria, is to eliminate any terrorist presence on her border with this country, which also constitutes the border of Europe and NATO with the Middle East.
Operation “Olive Branch” conducted in Afrin against the PKK/PYD/YPG and their associate DAESH, will therefore continue until this goal is fully achieved. At all costs, Turkey will not allow this terrorist organization to occupy Syrian territory on her borderline and will do her best to demonstrate the gravity of their mistake to her allies who falsely think that using PKK/PYD/YPG terrorists as mercenaries in their so-called fight against DAESH is a good idea.
Our allies will realize that Turkey is, and will remain, their best ally for the security of Europe and the region.
Headline: UN human rights chief to send mission to investigate abuses in Papua
By Sheany in Jakarta
The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights plans to send a mission to Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua following reports of abuses against its indigenous population.
“I am also concerned about reports of excessive use of force by security forces, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions in Papua,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein told reporters during his three-day visit to Indonesia.
He added that the Indonesian government had extended an invitation to the UN to visit Papua — the country’s poorest region.
“I think it’s important for us to go and see ourselves what is happening there … and I hope we can do this as soon as possible,” Al-Hussein said.
Accounts of rights violations in Papua have prompted concerns from activists and the larger international community.
The government was earlier accused of restricting access for foreign correspondents to the region.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration has prioritised development in Papua through massive infrastructure projects aimed at boosting the province’s economic growth.
More recently, dozens of Papuans – mostly children – died from malnutrition-related diseases in the province’s Asmat district.
The health crisis has led to allegations that the government’s focus on development in the region does not serve the welfare of its population.
“They [the UN] can visit Papua. I told them that if they find faults, we will take action [to address them],” Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said after his meeting with Al-Hussein.
Three members of a Philippine fact-finding mission team have been shot by armed men in Negros Oriental, reports Karapatan.
The three were shot at 2.40pm yesterday at Barangay San Ramon, Bayawan, Negros Oriental.
Elisa Badayos of Karapatan Central Visayas and Elioterio Moises, a barangay tanod (community leader) and member of local peasant organisation Mantapi Ebwan Farmers Association, were pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital in Bayawan.
A 23-year-old female Kabataan party list member, who was also shot, remained in critical condition, said Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights).
The 30-member fact-fining mission team were in the area to investigate and verify reported human rights violations due to intensified military operations in the area.
“The attack on human rights defenders are becoming more rampant, more brutal, more fearless. The perpetrators know they will be dealt with impunity, as human rights have lost force and meaning especially under this regime,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
“Fact-finding missions are a mechanism for human rights organisations to confirm reports of abuses, and this incident has only proven how fascism works to outrightly kill those who dare to question.”
Rights defenders ‘crippled’ Palabay added that “the space for human rights defenders is fast shrinking, as the Duterte regime is finding more and more ways to cripple defenders on the ground who voice out the real situation experienced by marginalised communities victimised by militarisation.”
She cited the Negros Oriental Provincial Ordinance No. 5, s.2008, known as “An Ordinance Regulating Outreach Activities Through Medical and Fact-Finding Missions in the Countryside of Negros Oriental and for Other Purposes,” wherein non-government organisations and other cause-based organisations are prohibited to conduct any humanitarian mission in Negros Oriental without seeking permission from the governor, municipal government and municipal police.
Violators are sanctioned with six months of imprisonment and a fine of P5000 on participants on the said mission.
The fact-finding team arrived in the mission area in San Ramon, Bayawan at 11am. They were blocked and harassed by elements of the mayor’s private goons, Katapayan said.
Armed men asked about their whereabouts and the purpose of the mission. They were eventually allowed to pass.
About 2.30pm, Bayados, another member of the FFM team, and a member of a Cebu youth organisation decided to go to the police station to file a report regarding the earlier harassment incident.
Armed men open fire They were accompanied by Moises. While on their way to the police station, they were shot at by unnamed gunmen, suspected of being the same armed men who earlier blocked their entrance to the mission site.
The shooting led to the death of Moises and Badayos.
The 23-year-old KPL member is being taken to a hospital in Dumaguete after sustaining gunshot wounds on her shoulder.
Elisa Badayos is the wife of former union leader Jimmy Badayos.
“We condemn in the strongest terms this recent attack on human rights workers. Even as human rights workers conducting factfinding missions in Batangas, Negros, Mindanao and elsewhere are being subjected to attacks by state forces, we will never relent in struggling alongside with the Filipino people in contending against this murderous Duterte regime,” Palabay said.