Dutch government sends refugees to Afghan war


Dutch demonstration against sending refugees back to the Afghan war, photo by Defence for Children

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Family deported to Afghanistan, human rights organizations furious

A family with four minor children has been deported to Afghanistan today. Ten children’s and human rights organizations, including Defence for Children and Amnesty International, tried unsuccessfully to prevent the deportation. According to those organizations, Afghanistan is unsafe. …

According to the children’s rights organization Defence for Children, Afghanistan is too dangerous for the children. “Attacks and violence occur every day”, said Martine Goeman, lawyer at Defence for Children, in the NOS Radio 1 Journal. “Civilians are being killed. This is a vulnerable family. We are very concerned about this.” …

Last September, then State Secretary Harbers replied to parliamentary questions that 120 families with minor children were on the list to be deported. …

“We have concluded that Afghanistan is too unsafe“, said Emile Affolter, spokesperson for Amnesty. According to the Global Peace Index, Afghanistan is the most dangerous country in the world, last year that was still Syria. “And the violence is only increasing,” says Affolter. …

Human rights organizations point out that the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway are the only countries in Europe that deport families to Afghanistan. Also, the granting percentages for residence applications for Afghans are much higher in other countries. In Italy, for example, it is 98 percent, in France 67 percent, while in the Netherlands it is 35 percent.

The Afghan Minister of Migration this spring asked the Dutch government to stop deporting asylum seekers to his country. “The public domain is unsafe”, Minister Balkhi told Nieuwsuur. “For example, someone was deported from Sweden who died in a bomb attack. This can happen to anyone else who is deported.”

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Dutch soldiers transfer Afghan prisoners to torturers


This November 2013 video says about itself:

Afghan army torture prisoner as US forces look on

Investigative reporter Matthieu Aikins has uncovered video from Afghanistan showing Afghan National Army members repeatedly whipping a prisoner as US forces look on.

He obtained the video whilst working on an investigation into alleged US war crimes for Rolling Stone magazine. US forces have frequently been accused of turning a blind eye to their Afghan colleagues torturing their prisoners during interrogation.

Here are links to the Matthieu Aikins reports for Rolling Stone:

The A-team killings: here.

Torture video: here.

Democracy Now Interview with Aikins: here.

Vice documentary – “This is What Winning Looks Like”: here.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

‘Prisoners of Dutch military mission tortured by Afghanistan’s secret service

Prisoners who were transferred to the Afghan security service during the Dutch military mission in Uruzgan have been tortured and extorted. That happened despite promises from the then minister Ben Bot that the treatment of the prisoners would be closely monitored, Trouw daily writes.

The newspaper reports on research by the Dutch journalists’ collective Lighthouse Reports. That states that a prisoner tracking system has hardly worked, despite Bot’s promises.

Minister Bot’s promise came after concerned questions from the House of Representatives. The Afghan security service NDS had an extremely bad reputation. It was therefore agreed that the prisoners would be monitored. The International Red Cross and the local AIHRC organization were supposed to get access to the prisoners and Dutch diplomats were supposed to visit the prisoners regularly.

Prisoner tracking system

Lighthouse Reports states that the prisoner tracking system barely functioned. Not only were there not enough people to visit the prisoners, the Red Cross and the AIHRC did not always have access to the prisoners.

There are only 69 reports of prison visits, which are sometimes very short. That means there are no reports on a majority of the approximately 230 people who were transferred to the NDS. A total of 574 people were captured by Dutch soldiers.

Threats

In those 69 reports there is nothing about abuse, but according to Lighthouse Reports that did happen. Together with an Afghan research organisation, the collective tracked down various people who were transferred from the Dutch army to the NDS.

One of those prisoners is M., who was tortured because shortly after the transfer by the Netherlands he was unable to pay an amount of one thousand euros to the NDS.

M. asked his brother to sell their land and bring the proceeds the next day, but when the brother did not come, M. was ill-treated again. That also happened when the brother turned up the day after, but with too little money. Eventually, M. was released, with the announcement that he would be killed if he told someone about the torture and the money.

Cold cell

Also A., then 18 years old, was tortured after the transfer. Sometimes he didn’t get food for days. “If I did get food, it was so filthy that I had to puke.” He was locked up in a cold cell and kept awake. Moreover, his guards threatened with transfer to the US Americans and Guantánamo Bay.

A.’s father eventually managed to scrape together nearly three thousand euros, so that his son was released after a year and a half. Prisoners who could not raise money were sometimes killed, say both M. and A.

Witness

Dutch soldiers have also witnessed the abuse, according to conversations that journalists from Lighthouse Reports had with a number of them. One of them talks about the transfer of a prisoner who was thrown by an Afghan into the loading box of a pickup truck. The prisoner’s head bounced and immediately started bleeding.

Later the veteran asked his senior officer what would happen to the prisoners. To which his supervisor said: “If you are very quiet and you wait a little longer, then you will hear it automatically.”

The Netherlands left Uruzgan in 2010, after which Australia took over the mission. That decided a year later to temporarily stop the transfer of prisoners to the NDS and again in 2013, following an investigation into reports of torture in the NDS prison in Tarin Kowt.

Australian journalism on war crimes, spying: criminal?


This 4 June 2019 video says about itself:

ABC’s Sydney headquarters raided by Australian federal police

AFP officers have raided the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Ultimo headquarters over reporting from 2017 looking into the clandestine operations of Australian special forces in Afghanistan. ABC news presenter Joe O’Brien was live on air as the AFP entered the building.

‘There’s a raid happening right here at the ABC … just 100 metres or so that way’, he said to camera while pointing over his shoulder. The ABC warrant names the broadcaster’s national reporting team reporters Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, as well as ABC news boss Gaven Morris.

The raid on the national broadcaster comes less than 24 hours after the AFP served News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst a warrant to search her Canberra home, phone and computer, 14 months after she published a story over a top-secret proposal to expand the nation’s domestic surveillance agency’s capabilities.

After the Trump administration in the USA attacked press freedom which had uncovered war crimes in the USA, and the Macron administration in France attacked press freedom in order to cover up French governmental complicity in Saudi war crimes in Yemen

By Oscar Grenfell in Australia:

Australian Federal Police raid journalists over exposures of government spying, war crimes

5 June 2019

Over the past 24 hours, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) has carried out two raids targeting separate media organisations, for their publication of articles exposing government spying plans and war crimes committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, AFP officers raided the home of Sunday Telegraph political editor Annika Smethurst in the Australian Capital Territory over an article she wrote in April 2018, revealing a secret government proposal to enable the Australian Signals Directorate to conduct domestic spying operations.

After 11 a.m. today, AFP officers entered the Sydney building of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) with a search warrant, referencing 2017 reports detailing the involvement of Australian troops in extrajudicial killings and other violations of international law in Afghanistan.

The raids are a major assault on freedom of the press. They are a dramatic escalation of a protracted campaign by the Liberal-National Coalition, the Labor Party opposition, and the entire political establishment, to criminalise the exposure of government crimes on the pretext of protecting “national security.”

The police warrant for the search of Smethurst’s house allowed them to examine her computers and mobile phones. An AFP statement said that the raid was part of “an investigation into the alleged unauthorised disclosure of national security information” and “alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret.”

The investigation is reportedly over an April 2018 article by Smethurst, revealing that the Coalition government was moving to enable the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), the country’s main electronic eavesdropping agency, to carry out domestic spying operations, including against Australian citizens.

The ASD is legally barred from spying on Australian targets. Under existing legislation, it can only provide “technical advice” to the AFP and the domestic spy agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

Already, in 2013, however, US government documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed that the ASD collaborated with the US National Security Agency to conduct mass surveillance operations, likely including against Australian citizens.

The government’s proposed changes in 2018 would have formalised these spying operations, giving the ASD the power to access bank accounts, text messages, emails and other electronic communications. Smethurst’s report indicated that it was seeking to expand warrantless surveillance, allowing ASD snooping with ministerial permission rather than a court order.

The proposal came just months after the Coalition government, with the support of the Labor opposition, established a new Home Affairs Ministry overseeing the operations of ASIO, the AFP and the Australian Border Force. This was aimed at creating a body, modelled on the US Department of Homeland Affairs, to integrate the operations of the security agencies to enable further attacks on democratic rights.

When the 2018 revelations were made public they were dismissed by Coalition Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton as “nonsense”. Smethurst’s story, however, was immediately referred to the AFP for investigation.

News Corp Australia, the Murdoch-owned company which publishes the Sunday Telegraph responded to the raid yesterday by branding it “outrageous and heavy-handed”.

Defenders of civil liberties warned of the far-reaching implications of the raid.

Greg Barns, spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, stated: “Scrutiny of government agencies by the media is critical to a democracy, and it is very concerning that these security agencies seem to want to avoid any examination.”

Digital Rights Watch described the raids as a “gross abuse of national security powers”.

The government has doubled-down. Asked if he was concerned about journalist’s homes being raided, Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared: “It never troubles me that our laws are being upheld.”

Morrison’s comments came amid indications that the raid on Smethurst is part of a broader crackdown on the press after the government was reinstalled in a federal election last month.

2GB presenter and Sky News commentator Ben Fordham yesterday revealed that after he aired a story about up to six refugee boats having recently travelled towards Australia, he was contacted by senior officials from the Home Affairs department.

They stated that they would be “investigating” the disclosure and asked Fordham to give up his source. Under Australia’s draconian border protection regime, refugee boat arrivals are subject to national security secrecy laws, even if those on board perish, or if they are intercepted by Australian Border Force or naval officers.

The approach to Fordham, who said yesterday he was concerned he could also be targeted with a raid, was followed by this morning’s attempt to search the ABC building.

While reports are scanty, the warrant reportedly names ABC investigative journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, along with director of news, Gaven Morris. AFP officers are seeking to obtain thousands of emails, files, passwords and written documents from April 2016 and July 2017. They are reportedly investigating the 2017 publication of “The Afghan Files”, which exposed the killing of unarmed civilians by Australian troops, the desecration of corpses and other war crimes covered up by military command.

The two raids are part of a broader campaign against government whistleblowers. The government, with the support of Labor, is prosecuting a former intelligence officer, dubbed Witness K, and his lawyer Bernard Collaery, for exposing an Australian espionage operation against the tiny state of East Timor.

David McBride, a former Australian military lawyer, also faces the prospect of a lengthy jail sentence if he is convicted over the alleged leak of documents to journalists containing evidence of war crimes committed in Afghanistan by Australia’s Special Forces.

Successive Labor and Coalition governments have expanded laws which abolish any whistleblower protections, even if leaks expose illegal actions.

The raid against Smethurst, however, raises the prospect of prosecutions of journalists and media organisations for publishing leaked material, in a direct attack on freedom of the press.

This was signalled by the phrasing of the warrant, which reportedly stated that the raid was partly in relation to the “alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret, which is an extremely serious matter that has the potential to undermine Australia’s national security.”

The phrasing corresponds to Espionage and Foreign Interference legislation passed last year by the Coalition, with the full support of Labor. The new laws make it a criminal offense to “deal with” information that “harms” “national security”. “Deal with” is defined to cover a long list of activities: “collect”, “possess”, “make a record of”, “copy”, “alter”, “conceal”, “communicate”, “publish” and “make available”.

Journalists have a limited defence, if they “reasonably believe” the information they published was in the public interest. However, this proviso is entirely undefined and subject to interpretation, meaning that journalists and media organisations could still face prosecution.

The AFP raids are part of a deepening assault on the democratic rights of the population, which is aimed at suppressing growing opposition to militarism, war, social inequality and the escalating expansion of police powers. In both cases, journalists who have revealed evidence of crimes by the government and military are raided and implicitly threatened with criminal prosecution.

This is part of a broader drive by governments around the world to abolish freedom of the press and other fundamental civil liberties. The sharpest expression is the attempt by the US administration of President Donald Trump to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for his role in exposing US war crimes and diplomatic intrigues.

The author also recommends:

Australia’s new secrecy laws block exposure of government crimes [14 July 2018]

Australia’s foreign interference laws threaten whistleblowers and media freedom [9 July 2019]

Australian police chief links media raids to US-led “Five Eyes” spy network: here.

“Is there going to be a future for journalism?” Australian media workers denounce police raids: here.

Two prominent criminal trials of whistleblowers, whose leaks exposed war crimes and illegal operations by the country’s US-linked military and intelligence services, are likely to be largely conducted behind closed doors after the Australian government issued “national security information” certificates: here.

The global war on journalism: here.

Pentagon covers up Afghan war


This 4 May 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

U.S. Military Cutting Off Information About Afghanistan

Things are going so badly in Afghanistan that the U.S. military has stopped releasing information about the region. Cenk Uygur, Brett Erlich, and Jayar Jackson hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.

“Amid a battlefield stalemate in Afghanistan, the U.S. military has stopped releasing information often cited to measure progress in America’s longest war, calling it of little value in fighting the Taliban insurgency.

The move fits a trend of less information being released about the war in recent years, often at the insistence of the Afghan government, which had previously stopped the U.S. military from disclosing the number of Afghans killed in battle as well as overall attrition within the Afghan army.

The latest clampdown also aligns with President Donald Trump’s complaint that the U.S. gives away too much war information …”

Read more here.

2020 LONG SHOTS EXPOSE DEMOCRATS’ FOREIGN POLICY TENSION During Wednesday’s debate, a tussle between Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) about the U.S. role in Afghanistan highlighted hard truths for the party as it vies to win voters’ trust. [HuffPost]

Stop US wars, Afghan-American refugee woman implores


This 28 March 2019 video by United States Congresswoman and Democratic party presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard says about itself:

Why an Afghan American is Crying for Our Future

If you share only one thing about Tulsi with your friends and family, make it this video. Over six minutes, this raw and emotional exchange encapsulates the reason she is running for president.

The video shows an Afghan American woman, distressed by the United States war on her native country and the Trump-Saudi war on Yemen.

Some films from the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival—Part 2. Kabul, City in the Wind, Midnight Traveler and What We Left Unfinished: The catastrophe of US intervention in Afghanistan: here.

Afghan war ‘hero’ prosecuted for anti-police violence


Marco Kroon, ANP photo

This photo shows Dutch army Major Marco Kroon and his many medals.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

The Public Prosecution Service will prosecute Marco Kroon for an incident with policemen on Carnival Sunday in Den Bosch. According to the Public Prosecution Service, the holder of the Military William Order has been guilty of indecent exposure, insult and manhandling.

Due to the seriousness of the allegations, the Ministry of Defense decided to suspend Kroon. That means that for the time being he may not do his work and may not wear a uniform, says a spokesperson.

Peeing in public, headbutt

The police saw Kroon pee in public on March 3 and spoke to him about it. He then treated three officers in various ways, unfairly and in a criminal way, says the Public Prosecution Service.

Kroon is said to have shown his genitals to one of the police officers and to have raised his middle finger to another policeman. When he was arrested, he is said to have headbutted a third cop. …

The Defense organization already announced last month that it would not reimburse Kroon’s costs of legal assistance this time. On previous occasions that Kroon came into contact with police, his employer did so.

Marco Kroon received the Military William Order in 2009, the highest bravery award in the country. The medal was awarded for his performance as platoon commander in Afghanistan.

Afterwards Kroon discredited himself several times. In 2011, eg, he was convicted of possessing [illegal] electric shock weapons. The Public Prosecution Service also opened an investigation last year when Kroon announced that he had murdered an Afghan in 2007 and had not reported that to the Defense organization. This did not lead to prosecution because the investigation did not result in confirmation or denial of Kroon’s account.

The incident in Den Bosch has no consequences for Kroon’s Willems-Orde award, says the spokesperson for the Defense department. That may be the case with a conviction of at least a year in prison or with a dishonourable discharge by the Ministry of Defense.