Date: 2009-08-02 18:03:00
new zealand accused of war crimes

In the New Zealand news today, there is an article titled Kiwi troops in 'war crimes' row:

New Zealand stands accused of "war crimes" for handing over prisoners who were mistreated by the American military during George W Bush's so-called war against terror in Afghanistan.
International legal experts say New Zealand broke the Geneva Convention and laws against torture when, from 2002, [New Zealand's] elite SAS troops transferred 50-70 prisoners to the Americans at the Kandahar detention centre in southern Afghanistan.

Now I'm hardly an expert on international law, nor was I even aware that the Geneva Conventions actually consisted of four distinct treaties and three protocols. However, Article 12 of the Third Geneva Convention seems pretty clear:

Prisoners of war may only be transferred by the Detaining Power to a Power which is a party to the Convention and after the Detaining Power has satisfied itself of the willingness and ability of such transferee Power to apply the Convention. When prisoners of war are transferred under such circumstances, responsibility for the application of the Convention rests on the Power accepting them while they are in its custody.

This article means that if you have captured prisoners of war, you must uphold the Geneva Convention and treat them respectfully according to the Convention. Furthermore, you may not transfer them to another power who you know is not willing to uphold the Convention. For example, handing over prisoners of war to another pwer that tortures prisoners, is nearly as bad as simply torturing them yourself.

If the prisoners detained by the SAS were transferred to the United States at a time when it was generally known that the United States used torture against its prisoners of war, then New Zealand must accept the accusations of the violation of international law (and its consequences). However, I'm not sure that the instances of United States torture were in fact generally known until after the Abu Ghraib events (2004). On this point, the international courts must decide.

These sort of accusations, however, appear to be missing the elephant in the room. The United States now has a fairly well documented portfolio of abusive treatment toward prisoners of war (whether you care to call them "enemy combatants" or any other name). I don't know what the source of these accusations are against New Zealand, but one can only hope that a similar level of scrutiny will also be applied to the United States. It may take decades to resolve, but such abuses cannot remain unpunished.

[info]billwalker897 : Corrections
This author states he is not an expert in international law. This is obvious from his comments.

The Geneva Convention only applies to nations which have signed the accords including those nations who would, during a war, be the prisoners of war. In short, both the nation who commits a war crime AND the nation to whom the war crime is committed must be signatories of the convention in order for the war crime provisions cited to have effect.

The terrorists have never signed the Geneva Convention and if the author had done a bit more research into them he would have found the accords specifically exclude pirates and terrorists from convention protection. It should be obvious why this was done.

Therefore New Zealand nor any other nation can be charged with war crimes in dealing with terrorists and to be blunt any torture they may suffer is far less than they deserve for the torture they have inflicted on others. To accuse any nation of "war" crimes when they are simply acting to protect their citizens against international criminals is ridiculous on its face.
[info]mskala : Re: Corrections
The terrorists have never signed the Geneva Convention and if the author had done a bit more research into them he would have found the accords specifically exclude pirates and terrorists from convention protection. It should be obvious why this was done.

The relevant convention is here. It contains no mention of "pirates" or "terrorists." It says (in article 2) that signatory nations continue to be bound by it "in their mutual relations" even when one of the parties involved isn't a signatory; it's not obvious that that means prisoners from non-signatory nations have to be treated the same as prisoners from signatory nations, but the basic principles on which the Conventions are founded, and the extensive lists of people other than regular soldiers but still covered, in articles 3 and 4, suggest that "They're not real soldiers, they're terrorists!" may be a completely specious argument.

A little thought should, indeed, make it obvious why this was done.

I think most of your claims are simply false, but if you really have "done a bit more research" I'd be happy to see the basis for your claims.
[info]mskala : Re: Corrections
Recognizing that not everything that should be obvious necessarily is: one important issue here is that morality is not tit for tat. We don't refrain from torture only because, and only when, we're dealing with other people who refrain from torture. We refrain from torture unilaterally, without reference to whether anybody else does so, just because torture is wrong. It's wrong for reasons bigger than "because we agreed not to do it"; it's not a bargaining chip to be exchanged for concessions from someone else.
[info]goulo : Re: Corrections
You seem unaware that many if not most of the people imprisoned and tortured by the US in recent years are not "terrorists and pirates" anyway, but random people swept up during street demonstrations, or snitched upon by neighbors with a grudge against them, or random people turned in by bounty hunters, etc.

Also: If they really are so guilty, why has the US been unable to argue a successful legal cases against them?

Also: Torture doesn't work; prisoners will say whatever you want them to say. And it damages the US's reputation and credibility in addition to putting US POWs in danger.

And yeah, what mskala said about the morality of it.
Greg Hewgill <>