Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Engaging Extremists Key to Peace

By webadmin on 01:59 pm Jan 29, 2013

Category Archive

Sumanto Al Qurtuby

For many people, the Rev. Paulus Hartono, a Mennonite church minister in Solo, Central Java, might be seen as a “deranged Christian.” While most people in this country, especially Christians and other religious minorities, tend to avoid hard-line Muslims, this pastor approached — and then befriended — members of Hizbullah (“Party of God,” a Solo-based Islamist paramilitary group not related to Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah).

The basis of what is now a solid friendship, it should be noted, is not to foster violence but rather to transform destructive conflict into productive peace. For years, the pastor and Mennonite communities in Central Java have worked together with this group, members of Nahdlatul Ulama, non-Mennonite Christians and other elements of local society for humanitarian services, post-disaster relief, interreligious dialogue and peacemaking activities.

Mennonites are Christians in the Anabaptist peace church tradition, which has membership of more than 1.3 million worldwide. Based on the 2006 census of the Mennonite World Conference, there are 72,624 Mennonites in Indonesia, making it the world’s sixth-largest Mennonite concentration.

Compared with other militia groups such as Laskar Jihad, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), and Laskar Mujahidin, Hizbullah is less-known by scholars and the Indonesian public in general. Notwithstanding the lack of academic and media coverage, however, Hizbullah had indeed contributed to numerous intolerant actions and anti-Christian campaigns in Solo and neighboring areas. During the Christian-Muslim upheavals in Poso and Ambon, this group also deployed hundreds of its members to these conflict zones to assist their Muslim brethren, joining forces with other Muslim hardliners to battle against Christian fighters.

Paulus Hartono, a director of Mennonite Diaconial Services, which is an agency of Muria Christian Church, first approached Hizbullah about a decade ago to offer a hand in mediating disputes over the group’s radio station (known Hiz FM). When the pastor first came to Hizbullah’s headquarters, the commander refused to speak with him, telling him only: “You are a Christian and infidel, and therefore it is halal [legitimate] for us [Muslims] to murder you.”

Despite the rude response, the pastor did not give up. He returned again and again to Hizbullah’s office to drink tea, chat and offer help. Paulus, who co-founded the Forum for Peace Across Religions and Groups (FPLAG), believes that at the most basic level militia members are no different from anyone else; they are, above all, human beings who share the same brains and hearts, minds and feelings, hates and loves. After frequent meetings and talks, the commander finally agreed with Hartono’s bid to make a new radio station, knowing that the pastor had both skills and resources. Now, the commanding officer is happy because Hizbullah has its own radio station to spread Islamic dakwah (propagation).

“Before building peace,” the pastor told me, “one needs to build trust first, and establishing trust among ‘enemies’ is unlike flipping our hand palms.” The pastor may be right: the failure of the completion of peace accords in some societies across the globe is probably rooted in deep distrust among the conflicting parties.

Unlike most other areas in Indonesia, Solo is quite unique. Up to now, Solo has preserved courtly traditions inherited from the Islamic Mataram kingdom, which was established in the 17th century. As the home of the Islamic Mataram Empire and later the Surakarta Court (Keraton Surakarta Hadiningrat), Solo has rich Javanese cultural and mystical traditions. Since the founding of this kingdom, Solo has served as a melting pot of diverse ethnicities, social groupings, cultures and religions, which drive the region to both intercommunity pacification and infrequent clashes between ethno-religious groups.

Besides serving as a rich cultural center, Solo, unfortunately, is also notorious as a “home ground” of Islamist and terrorist groups. In this area, Abu Bakar Bashir, a conservative-militant Muslim leader of Hadhrami-Arab descent and the “Supreme Leader” of Jemaah Islamiyah, which the US government has dubbed as Southeast Asia’s axis of global terrorism, built a pesantren (Islamic boarding school) as a center for seeding Wahhabi-Salafi-linked puritanical forms of Islamic teachings. Most if not all members of Hizbullah are affiliated with this pesantren. It is thus not startling why religious views of this group are bigoted and anti-Christian.

After establishing trust — and acquaintance — with Hizbullah leaders, there came the big moment that transformed the relationship between the pastor and the commander: the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. In response to this tragedy, as Mennonite scholar David Shenk wrote, the pastor invited the commander and members of this group to come to Aceh, the area hardest hit, aiming at working with a Christian team in the post-tsunami reconstruction. The project was supported by the Mennonite Central Committee, a North American relief and development agency. Remarkably, the Hizbullah leaders accepted the call, and then joined the team. For months this unique group of volunteers worked together to rebuild broken houses and public facilities. They also ate together and slept together in tents.

Aceh didn’t mark the end of this interfaith relief effort. When huge earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, which claimed thousands of lives and destroyed tens of thousands of homes, hit Yogyakarta and parts of Central Java, they worked together again, assisting thousands of people and preparing sites to rebuild 100 Christian and Muslim homes. Not only that, they also collaborated to rebuild damaged mosques and churches.

After years of collaboration and friendship, one day the commander suddenly sobbed. His tears dropped down moistening his cheeks. In front of Rev. Paulus Hartono, he said, or, perhaps more precisely, confessed: “When I reflect on what we have talked and done to you and Christians, and then I see and witness what you and Christians have reciprocated [with love and compassion], my heart has melted within me. Now, I have realized and discovered that you Christians are good infidels.”

Their work for peace and humanity continues to this day.

This short story is a reminder that engaging extremists can be a fruitful way to boost interethnic or religious peace and integration. The peace-building pioneer John Paul Lederach reminds us: “One cannot build a bridge starting from the middle.” This statement is a strong critique to those working for peace and dialogue who focus on strengthening moderates while neglecting extremists.

It is time to change our lens.

Sumanto Al Qurtuby, a deputy chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama’s North American branch and a research fellow at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, can be contacted at squrtuby@gmail.com.

Source from http://thejakartaglobe.beritasatu.com/archive/engaging-extremists-key-to-peace/?fb_action_ids=10153842136018532&fb_action_types=og.likes

The Madness of Endless War Killing for Peace Winslow Myers CounterPunch October 14, 2014

Since 9-11-01, the United States, by any objective assessment a globe-girdling military empire, has been sucked into an ongoing global civil war between brutal extremists (often fighting among themselves) and those, including us, they perceive as their mortal enemies. We are rightfully outraged by cruel beheadings videotaped for Internet distribution. The beheaders and suicide bombers are equally outraged by our extensive military presence in their ancestral homelands and drone attacks upon weddings.
Meanwhile, though the government of our mighty empire can read our emails and tap our telephones, the worldwide nonviolent movement to bring about positive change somehow flies completely under its supposedly all-seeing radar screens. The peoples of the earth are overwhelmingly against war, and they want their fair share of the earth’s resources and the possibilities of democratic governance…………
Our media narrows discourse and fans the flames by only allowing U.S. citizens to see through the narrow lens of exceptionalism, polarization and violence. Fear mongers, legion in our culture, insist that adherents of ISIS are hardly human. But we should keep their humanity in our hearts even as we abhor their acts, just as we ought to abhor our own descent into torture and extra-judicial killings. People do not do what those ISIS fighters do without having been rendered desperate and callous by some painful sense of injustice………..
The possibility that we are already fighting a third world war, having forgotten the lesson of how little anybody wanted or expected to get into the first one, suggests the need to call upon the spirit of figures like King and Dag Hammarskjold, that world ambassador for peace……….
Winslow Myers is the author of ‘Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide.’ He serves on the Advisory Board of the War Preventive Initiative, is a member of the Rotarian Action Group for Peace, and writes for Peacevoice.
Read more http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/14/the-madness-of-endless-war/

Sunday, October 26, 2014

It is becoming much easier to go to war.

John Menadue Pearls and Irritations October 20, 2014
We used to think that the gravest decision any government could make was to take its country to war. Not any more. Going to war for us has now become almost common place. We commit to war after war – Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan – but we are unwilling to contemplate the disaster which each of those wars has brought not only to Australians but to millions of other people. But rather than face up to our mistakes we hide behind the valour of service personnel who have made sacrifices.
Each of our military adventures in recent decades started with strong political support but they all turned into disasters.
Our current involvement in war in Iraq and Syria is now so commonplace that the parliament does not even discuss it.
As Henry Reynolds put it ‘
The threshold Australian governments need to cross in order to send forces overseas is perilously low. Because there has never been an assessment of why Australia has been so often involved in war, young people must get the impression that war is a natural and inescapable part of national life. It is what we do and we are good at it. We ‘punch above our weight’. War is treated as though it provides the venue and the occasion for Australian heroism and martial virtuosity. While there is much talk of dying, or more commonly of sacrifice, there is little mention of killing and never any assessment of the carnage visited on distant countries in our name.’
In modern Australia the sword has become mightier than the pen………
Read more http://johnmenadue.com/blog/?p=2572

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A stunning answer to the cynics…..a reflection on his recent visit Colm Regan

Dr Colm Regan is Coordinator of 80:20 Educating and Acting for a Better World in Dublin, and lecturer in human rights at the University of Malta. He is in Australia as a guest of the Edmund Rice Centre and visited Hong Kong last week.
It is genuinely humbling to walk from the ferry terminal towards Admiralty to the epicentre of the Umbrella Movement’s occupation site in Hong Kong. Amidst the upmarket hotels, limousines, banks and giant billboards glorifying global overconsumption are literally thousands and thousands of posters, post-its and slogans demanding, in stark contrast, democracy, equality, care and tolerance. As you walk along the normally frenetic overpasses (now ‘occupied’ and therefore closed to traffic), there are storyboard posters apologising for the ‘inconvenience’ to others caused by this particular struggle for democracy. There are elaborately constructed barriers carefully structured to prevent easy dismantling. You then begin to encounter students reading or working on laptops at ‘study centres’ built across the motorway divide (with signs requesting you to ‘protect the students, do not photograph faces’) and hundreds of sleeping bodies recovering from confrontations with police the previous night.
There are numerous ‘first aid stations’ – ‘we have masks, cleansing liquid (for tear gas), bandages, water, food etc. – ‘take what you need, do not waste’; small clusters of discussion groups; piles of water bottles; tents plus sleeping bags and mats. And then you notice how spotlessly clean the area is - none of the mess and debris normally associated with ‘youth events’ or political confrontations (these protesters clean up regularly and even sort the recyclables!). Above all, there is a slightly eerie calm not normally associated with a site of confrontation between an immensely powerful state and a youth lead popular movement. As befits an ‘Umbrella Uprising’ (the movement’s own term), there are umbrellas everywhere (epitomised by the Umbrella Man, an artpiece created by ‘Milk’) decorated with messages, values and slogans.
And then you see the thousands and literally thousands of ‘post its’ covering the ‘Lennon’ (as in John) wall and steps expressing messages of solidarity and support from all over the world including, most importantly, from mainland China (a worry for Beijing). Above the wall, banners declaring ‘My parents are crying for me, I am crying for the future’ and ‘You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one’. The pedestrian walkway overhead the motorway is mostly reserved for designated press areas (this uprising is immensely media savvy) – cameras, satellite dishes, mixers and generators.
Welcome to a distinctively twenty-first century protest movement with its feet and approach firmly in the ‘now’ but with roots and inspiration in previous times and places. While this is a uniquely ‘Chinese’ uprising, many of its implications and lessons are truly global. The making of this uprising, the detail and meticulousness of its planning and the style of its delivery offer much to others. But, its true significance and legacy may well be its over-arching ‘youthfulness’ – the uprising is inspired and led by very young Chinese ‘activists’ of a new generation. In this, it is hugely inspiring and hopeful and it offers a stunning rebuke to universal cynics on the role of young people. For those at the epicentre of the uprising, it bears all the hallmarks of a transformative process and whatever the immediate outcome (for ‘storm clouds’ are now gathering almost three weeks in – implied threats from Beijing, opposition from self-interested business and media elites in Hong Kong and divisions within the population at large), the longer-term impact is likely to be immense.
The Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong did not emerge overnight; it has been brewing for many years, certainly since British colonialism formally withdrew in July 1997. The Uprising has been nurtured in the universities, colleges and school; influenced and informed by workshops, seminars, lectures, teachers and student leaders and given the ‘space’ and opportunity to emerge by the unique position of Hong Kong within China (officially ‘one country, two systems’). As such the uprising is intensely Chinese and yet distinctively international and herein lies one of its great strengths and, simultaneously one of its potential weaknesses. Beijing is acutely aware that the world is watching (the realtime use of mobile phones and laptops by the protestors has ensured this) and a repeat of the Tiananmen Square response is not on the cards.
The protest movement is now firmly led by activist group ‘Scholarism’ (an alliance against ‘moral and national’ education) founded in 2011 by a group of secondary students who have remained active since (‘mainland’ Chinese now living in Hong Kong have commented on the high level of political awareness and debate there amongst students generally). The current occupy actions have been sparked by Scholarism’s insistence that civic nomination rather than party nomination mark the 2017 election of a Chief Executive. As of now, it is unclear what the outcome will be for the protest movement in a cat and mouse series of manoeuvres with the police, Beijing and the local administration but storm clouds are gathering. There is ominous talk of ‘foreign influence’, ‘threats to order and public safety’, ‘disruption’ and the threat that ‘violence’ might emerge. Local opposition is growing, especially from business interests who argue that the ‘business’ of Hong Kong must not be interrupted. And the appearance of support actions in mainland China (very limited) will not go unheeded as the police begin to systematically move against the protesters.
Whatever the outcome, a number of significant dimensions of this occupy action are worth highlighting. Events in Hong Kong have once again demonstrated the growing importance of social media and the power and immediacy of communication. The occupy actions have illustrated the immense preparedness of the movement and the fact that this is not a single event agenda; all does not hang on what happens in Admiralty (or elsewhere where support actions have emerged – these have highlighted the capacity of the agenda to spread organically). The protest will live on to fight another day. The movement has also been active in ensuring a very high degree of public education around its objectives, motivation and respect for peaceful means. Protesters have been remarkably polite, ‘protective’ of the environment which they occupy (it is spotless) and of each other. Their activists manual urges avoiding physical confrontation wherever possible (and is evident in the ‘face offs’ with the police); it also urges protesters to avoid developing ‘hatred in your heart’.
What is most striking about these events is the youthfulness of the protesters, their audacity and their courage, their calmness and discipline, their firm determination and their solidarity towards each other. Above all, the events are characterised by a ‘raging naivety and optimism’ – a fierce belief that change is not only possible, it is urgently needed. Ultimately, that optimism represents real hope coupled with political leadership in a world where the dominant politics have come to signify cynicism and fundamental dishonesty. And, the agenda has once again reminded us of the power and importance of youth in generating change, especially in ‘dark corners’ of the world. This is confirmed by Emily Lau, a local legislator who argues that ‘It’s very invigorating to have such a spontaneous, peaceful movement full of young people… Once people have been shown their power they will know how to use it again and again’.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Ebola – as seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old from Sierra Leone/ Followed by Australia's Response to the crisis

As the virus shows no sign of halting its relentless march, Bintu Sannoh describes its devastating impact on her community
Bintu Sannoh The Observer October 12, 2014 Jump to comments (146)

The Kenema community faces an uncertain future. Photograph: Josta Hopps/Street Child
Ebola is not a pleasing name to me. In fact, I hate even to hear the word – it has destroyed my family and education. Life was hard but OK: I live with my aunt and many family members in a big compound; we have always been poor but there was happiness. But now we are terrified. Too many people, friends and families, have died and are still dying. And the number of orphans increases on a daily basis.
When Ebola first arrived in my country, we weren’t too worried. Then came ‘sensitisation’ – all the community groups and NGOs running around talking about Ebola. But many refused to believe in the danger and even tried to make politics out of it. We had a riot in Kenema, under the banner of ‘Ebola is not real’. Some said the government does not care about Ebola because the government is from the north and the virus is in the east (home of the opposition party). Others said it was because doctors wanted your blood. There were so many stories and no one took Ebola too seriously.
Then, in early August, the situation changed. The government banned all movements in and out of Kenema and Kailahun districts. This hurt everyone, not just those with Ebola, as almost everything came to a standstill. We were trapped – and still are. My aunt, who used to go to the trade fair to buy local goods at low prices, could no longer travel. We had less money at home – like everyone apart from the rich people who Aunty said made money because of high prices.
Things got much worse still when Ebola came into our community. There was a pharmacist who got ill but said he was suffering from a septic ulcer, so he never went to the hospital. We believed him because he was a medical man and maybe because we didn’t know any better. Many people came in contact with him during his illness. When he died, his corpse was washed and prepared for burial by people in the community, as is our custom…………
Ebola crisis appeal: www.street-child.co.uk
Read more http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/11/bintu-sannoh-ebola-sierra-leone-eyewitness

Ebola crisis: Australia won’t send doctors into harm’s way, says Abbott
International health organisations have criticised Australia’s ‘underwhelming’ response to the outbreak in west Africa
Michael Safi theguardian.com October 12, 2014

Sophia Doe sits with her grandchildren while watching the arrival of an Ebola team to take away the body of her daughter, Mekie Nagbe, in Monrovia, Liberia. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images
The Australian government will not send doctors or nurses to west Africa to help contain the Ebola crisis until it is certain ‘all of the risks are being properly managed’, the prime minister, Tony Abbott, has said.
Figures released on Saturday by the World Health Organisation show that more than 4,000 people have died in the Ebola epidemic that broke out in west Africa in March, out of a total of 8,399 registered cases. The death toll includes 233 health workers.
International health organisations such as Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) have criticised the Abbott government’s ‘underwhelming’ response to the outbreak, which has included cash grants to MSF, the World Health Organisation and British front line efforts in Sierra Leone – but no Australian medical personnel.
Save the Children has called on the government to follow the lead of the Obama administration and send troops to help manage the response to the epidemic, which has claimed over 2,300 lives in Liberia alone.
But Abbott said on Sunday that the latest death toll would not change the government’s view on sending Australian health workers……….
Abbott said he ‘admired the selfless humanitarianism’ of the dozens of Australian doctors and nurses currently working in west Africa with non-government organisations. But there was ‘a world of difference’ between that and ‘ordering Australian personnel to go into a situation without the kind of risk minimisation strategies that any responsible Australian government would have to put it place’……….
Read more http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/12/ebola-crisis-australia-wont-send-doctors-into-harms-way-abbott

Monday, October 6, 2014

Is NZ violating the SIS Act over US drone strikes?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014, 5:36 pm
Article: Bob Rigg
Is NZ violating the SIS Act over US drone strikes?

by Bob Rigg
July 15, 2014

After decades of lively public debate, New Zealand abolished the death penalty for murder in 1961. It is not widely known that the death penalty for treason remained on the statute books until it was also abolished in 1989.

From then on no one could be legally sentenced to death or executed in accordance with New Zealand law, for any reason. Until the death penalty was abolished, all persons charged with capital offences were entitled to defend themselves through legal process.

In mid-April of this year the Australian newspaper revealed that five people including one Australian citizen and one man with dual Australian-New Zealand citizenship had been killed by a US Predator drone strike on 19 November 2013. It is noteworthy that neither the Australian nor the New Zealand government fronted up voluntarily with this story.

New Zealand target of US drone strike was “collateral damage”
The Australian broke the news, reporting that only three of the five men killed had been primary targets. A “senior [Australian] counter-terrorism source” had contacted Australian officials after the strike, indicating that the Australian and New Zealand victims had been “collateral damage”.

While Australian ministers immediately retreated behind a firewall of confidentiality, John Key denied any direct responsibility for the killing by claiming that he had not shared intelligence with the Americans in the critical phase.

John Key claims that, although he was not consulted, the strike was “legitimate”
John Key was being economical with the truth when he described the killing of New Zealander Daryl Jones, or bin John, as “legitimate … given that three of the people killed were well-known al-Qaeda operatives”. He was diverting attention from the fact that, according to the Australian’s sources, the New Zealander and the Australian were not primary targets. They just happened to be “collateral damage”.

President Obama disclosed years ago that he personally signs off on kill lists for US drone strikes. This means that he must have personally authorized drone strikes only on the three primary targets in this case. Even though US drone strikes commonly cause collateral damage, Obama would certainly not have provided carte blanche to kill Daryl Jones or anyone else who just happened to be around at the time.

The Five Eyes intelligence network to which New Zealand belongs is an exceptional and unusual arrangement whereby five governments have agreed to share enormous quantities of intelligence concerning security matters of common interest.

Blind in Five Eyes
In recent times it has become apparent that much of this intelligence is of dubious legality. By virtue of its membership of the Five Eyes network New Zealand’s government can access and use this dubious intelligence, and may well also be using some of the questionable intelligence-gathering techniques made public by the indiscretions of Edward Snowden.

Moreover, if New Zealand may not legally spy on its own citizens, other Five Eyes partners may spy on the same citizens and then share information about them with New Zealand intelligence agencies.

Trust is at the heart of intelligence-sharing between these five governments, although it has to be said that trust between them and their citizens has been in short supply, at the latest since Edward Snowden’s recent revelations about US intelligence excesses.

In the meantime the US continues to inflame Germany by being caught out spying. All that Germany wants is for Five Eyes to become Six Eyes, including Germany. But the US refuses; while it can rule the roost over the network’s current members, the redoubtable Angela Merkel would work for enhanced transparency and accountability, something which the famous five want to avoid at all costs.

The Obama administration has been under unrelenting US public pressure to disclose much more of what its massively funded intelligence agencies are up to, especially in relation to the killing of US citizens. Debate has focused on Obama’s decision to killAnwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen alleged to be, in Obama’s words, “al Qaeda's most active operational affiliate" in Yemen. The accuracy of the information on which the decision to kill was based is still being hotly debated. About two weeks after al-Awlaki was killed, his young 16 year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was carbonised by a drone strike while he was outside with a friend. All that remained was his distinctive mop of hair. Obama was unhappy, while senior representatives of the intelligence establishment mired themselves in contradiction and confusion.

Although the US public has known since 2010 of the existence of a high level legal opinion justifying drone strikes on US citizens without due process of law, the Obama administration has not wavered in its resolve to keep this opinion a secret.

In a major blow to what little remains of Obama’s liberal credentials, a US federal appeals court has just ruled that this heavily redacted opinion must be published.

One of its key provisions states that the target’s activities must pose “a continued and imminent threat of violence or death to Americans” and, just as importantly, that a “capture operation would be infeasible”.

This Obama policy which has been in force since 2010 shows that the three men targeted while in the company of Jones must have been deemed to pose “a continued and imminent threat of violence or death to Americans” (author’s emphasis).

In declaring that Jones’s extrajudicial drone killing was “justified”, was the Prime Minister relying on legal advice, or was he making up the law as he went along? If he was relying on legal advice, the New Zealand public is entitled to see and debate this.

While consistently depriving the US public of useful information about US intelligence policy and practices, Obama has been reluctantly forced into public pledges of personal commitment to greater transparency. For example, in an online interview sponsored by Google, he even said: "What I think is absolutely true is it's not sufficient for citizens to just take my word for it that we're doing the right thing." This is precisely what New Zealand’s Prime Minister expects of the New Zealand public.

The killing of US citizens by US drones has been a hot issue in the US for some years now. US intelligence would not normally authorize the execution of a citizen of a trusted Five Eyes partner without first seeking approval for that. If the US unilaterally killed a citizen of another Five Eyes partner without prior consultation, and later discovered that the government in question saw this as unjustified, this could damage working relationships.

The New Zealand public is known to be concerned about Snowden’s revelations, and also about foreign policy. However, unlike President Obama, John Key can safely assume that New Zealand’s media, academics, and non governmental organisations will generally be as quiescent and ineffectual as ever where foreign policy and intelligence matters are concerned, while Parliament will continue to assume that foreign policy is a non-issue for the Kiwi voter.

John Key not consulted about Daryl Jones because Jones was not targeted
However, if it is true that Daryl Jones was not one of the three targeted victims, and was indeed a case of collateral damage, John Key would most probably not have been consulted.

Instead, he would have been advised of the killing after the event, and would have had to decide whether to cover for Obama, or whether to go public by asking a few penetrating questions of a foreign government which had killed a New Zealand citizen without any semblance of due process. Given John Key’s intimate relationship with the US administration, he chose to declare that the extrajudicial killing of a New Zealand citizen by US armed forces was justified. He did not want to embarrass his presidential golfing partner.

This may also partly explain why the New Zealand and Australian governments did not of their own accord inform their publics of the extrajudicial killing of their two citizens. They were privately unhappy about what had happened, but did not want to share this with their publics. Above all, they wanted at all costs to avoid embarrassing their key foreign policy ally.

Accountability and drone strikes – the international dimension
The Prime Minister must be aware of the fierce debate on this question in Obama’s US, but will also have been briefed on the increasingly acrimonious debate in the UN. In 2013 the UN General Assembly responded to a Pakistani initiative by referring the question of drone strikes to the UN Human Rights Council. Amongst other things, Pakistan was concerned about the fact that US drone strikes were killing significant numbers of innocent Pakistani civilians.

In the US armed forces innocent civilians killed by US drones are commonly dehumanized as “bugsplat”. For them New Zealand’s Daryl Jones was just another case of bugsplat. And seemingly for New Zealand’s Prime Minister as well.

The US was angered when a special report by a UN rapporteur recommended that alleged cases of collateral damage from drone strikes should be formally enquired into and publicly reported on. Enhanced accountability and transparency were key watchwords. The US announced that, when the UN Human Rights Council reconvenes, it will not participate in discussion of this issue. France and the United Kingdom obligingly fell into line. The forthcoming November meeting of the UN Human Rights Council will witness a showdown, with the US and its powerful allies trying to undercut support for Pakistan’s initiative, which they want to see laid to rest in the enormous graveyard of failed UN resolutions. New Zealand is not a member of the UN Human Rights Council, but will have to confront this issue sooner or later.

Accountability is lacking
The laws underpinning New Zealand’s two principal intelligence agencies assign to a minister, normally the Prime Minister, control of all their functions. While the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) produce annual reports and report to a parliamentary committee and the Leader of the Opposition, real information about what these two organisations and their Five Eyes partners are up to is as scarce as hen’s teeth.

The only person not an employee of these two organisations who is legally required to be briefed on their activities is the Prime Minister, who occasionally publicly admits that even he is not fully informed about all aspects of their work.

One precondition for New Zealand’s Five Eyes membership must have been a formal and secret undertaking to exclude everyone other than the Prime Minister from any real understanding of what that intelligence network is up to. As far as Five Eyes and other international intelligence networks are concerned, the elected Prime Minister of New Zealand is accountable solely to his intelligence partners, and not to the New Zealand public. This makes a mockery of the democratic principles of transparency and accountability, and is inconsistent with the legal requirement for the SIS to act “in a manner that facilitates effective democratic oversight”.

The New Zealand public is entitled to be fully informed about the legal foundation for the relationship between the New Zealand government and the Five Eyes network to which it belongs, including an assessment of its consistency with the Security Intelligence Service Act.

Is New Zealand violating its own Security Intelligence Service Act?
The SIS Act specifies that the SIS shall act “in accordance with New Zealand law and all human rights standards recognised by New Zealand law, except to the extent that they are, in relation to national security, modified by an enactment”.

The death penalty has been erased from New Zealand’s statute books. New Zealand law and New Zealand human rights standards accordingly do not in any way empower the government to legitimise the killing of any New Zealand citizen, at home or abroad. They certainly do not authorise the Prime Minister to outsource power over the life and death of New Zealanders to unaccountable military or intelligence agencies of a foreign government, as happened in the case of Daryl Jones.

Jones was the victim of an extrajudicial drone strike carried out by US armed forces acting without prior authorisation from the New Zealand government.

Daryl Jones was a case of collateral damage. He was denied due process, which he was entitled to, in the language of the SIS Act, “in accordance with New Zealand law and all human rights standards recognised by New Zealand law”. And as New Zealand law and human rights standards no longer recognise the death penalty under any circumstances, the New Zealand government was acting illegally when it retroactively legitimised the extrajudicial execution of a New Zealand citizen.

In a recent response to a question in the House about Afghanistan John Key declined to rule out the possibility that New Zealanders other than Daryl Jones may have been killed on the basis of intelligence provided to foreign partners by New Zealand armed forces. The Prime Minister said, somewhat vaguely: “Our International Security Assistance Force partners have used that information, I suspect, and I cannot confirm exactly the results of that.”

Although the Prime Minister is legally defined as being in “control” of the SIS, he was unwilling or unable to require the SIS to account fully to him and the public on an issue of major public importance.

The SIS must be required to disclose whether New Zealand citizens other than Daryl Jones have been killed or wounded by New Zealand or allied armed forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen or elsewhere, by drones or by other military means.

The Prime Minister is not in control of New Zealand’s intelligence services. They control him, while they in turn are controlled by extremely powerful overseas intelligence agencies whose untransparent policies and practices are frequently concealed from their own governments.

John Key has reintroduced the death penalty to New Zealand, unilaterally, in secret, and in the absence of consultation with both Parliament and the New Zealand public.

For the time being at least, the US will continue to rely heavily on drones as its killer weapon of choice in the world’s Islamic hot spots. Unless New Zealand public opinion acts to deny New Zealand governments the power to legitimise the killing of New Zealand citizens by military allies, or even by New Zealand armed forces, New Zealand citizens who engage with Islam abroad will be an endangered species.


© Scoop Media

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Control Arms

Dear supporter,

A photo finish is always exciting – particularly when it involves changing the global arms trade.

On 25 September a further eight countries ratified the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), bringing the Race to 50 over the finish line. With over 50 governments having completed their ratification the Treaty is now set to enter into force and become binding international law on 24 December 2014, less than three months away.

Thank you to each and every one of you who took action. Your continuous support has ensured that the ATT will become international law and save lives.

To mark this accomplishment, Control Arms has launched an online gallery: 50 celebrating 50. The gallery features photos and quotes from 50 individuals from across civil society, government and the UN whose support was vital to the achievement of the ATT. This website is also available in French and Spanish!

Without a doubt, you have been an important part of this race. Now we want to share your story too.

Please take a moment to submit your own story and we’ll add you name alongside those of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Oscar-nominated actor Djimon Hounsou, former child solider Eric Niragira and many others.

Contributing to 50 Celebrating 50 will help us promote an important message to governments: that the ATT entering into force is a #chance2change the arms trade. We encourage everyone who has been a part of the campaign to add their voices.

At Control Arms, we know that changing the world doesn’t happen overnight. We are ready to continue to do our part to make sure that the Arms Trade Treaty is more than just words on paper.

Add your own story to remind the world to celebrate this milestone and show that we all are ready for the next challenge.

Thank you for your support,

Lorey Campese and the Control Arms Team