This man complained about Afghans being tortured and killed. Now, he feels vindicated.


He says he’s seen bullet holes in bloody shirts and first aid kits strewn where bodies had laid and attempted to be revived.

But when he forwarded complaints on behalf of local Afghans about the alleged conduct of Australian soldiers in Uruzghan province to Australian Defence Force legal officers, he found the claims were often dismissed.

For Abdul Ghafar Stanikzai, the damning findings of the Brereton report into Australian special forces in Afghanistan, released on Thursday, is now vindication almost a decade in the making.

“The Australian government is accepting that something was wrong and we need to fix that,” Mr Stanikzai told SBS News from his home in Adelaide.

“That’s the biggest thing and I feel much happier and much proud (sic) that I was part of these things.”

For five years, Mr Stanikzai was the provincial manager of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission where he says he’d often have locals in the province’s capital Tarin Kowt rush to him for help.

Their loved ones had been beaten, tortured, detained or found dead – appearing killed – without any explanation, they would tell him. Sometimes, their livelihoods were damaged during operations. They wanted answers.

It was the job of Mr Stanikzai to pass on the complaints to the Australian legal officers. Most of the time, the response was simple: “the matter is closed” or “no further action is required”, he was told

When he shared the response back with the locals, the frustration grew.

“They were saying ‘No, he was innocent, he was working on his farm’,” Mr Stanikzai says.

The Brereton inquiry acknowledges that complaints from locals were sometimes ignored by Australian officers.

The report, released on Thursday, admits there was a tendency to “discount local national complaints as insurgent propaganda or motivated by a desire for compensation”.

“This presumption was inconsistent with the counter-insurgency effort, and resulted in a predisposition on the part of quick assessment officers to disbelieve complaints,” it added.

Mr Stanikzai says he feels relieved that the report has been released but also surprised.

“Why they did not accept those complaints [at the time]?” he said. 

“It’s nearly 10 years ago … [they] simply refused … but now they are accepting, so it’s mean that there was something wrong on that level in the Australian chain of command.”

Mr Stanikzai says he saw many positive gains for Afghans made by the Australian Defence Force in Tarin Kowt, including the establishment of a court system that remains in place to this day.

 

Mr Stanikzai attending an event as provincial manager of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission

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But one of the most shocking incidents Mr Stanikzai says he saw, will stay with him forever. 

“The situation was horrible and scary,” Mr Stanikzai says of the time he was asked to survey a scene by a grieving family, only hours after an incident they believed was deliberate had taken place. 

“It was shocking and it was so disappointing.” 

“The expectation was high that there should be more than an investigation,” he says, but he immediately knew he wouldn’t be able to do much. 

For the families of the alleged victims and complainants, Mr Stanikzai says the Brereton report is significant 

“This report will mean a lot to them,” he said.

Mr Stanikzai arrived as a refugee in Australia in 2014, shortly after his time at the Commission ended, after his life was threatened by militants who believed he was working for the Australian government.



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Indian Woman Tortured in ‘Toilet Jail’ for Over a Year by Husband



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The northern state of Haryana is among the worst three in India when it comes to crimes against women, per National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. The state’s crime rate against women was 108.5 (per 100,000 people) in 2019. Assam and Rajasthan are also on the list.

In a harrowing example of brutality against women, a 35-year-old Indian housewife was locked inside a toilet for more than a year and a half before she was rescued by Haryana police on Wednesday. While the woman’s husband claimed that she was “mentally unstable”, her rescuers denied the charge. 

Naresh, the woman’s husband, alleged that his wife showed no improvement despite several visits to the doctor, which prompted him to take the extreme measure. He claimed that the woman wouldn’t listen to his instructions.

Surender Dahiya, head of the Sanoli police station, said a case has been registered against the accused under Sections 498A (domestic violence) and 342 of the Indian Penal Code. The couple has been married for the last 17 years and shares three children.

“We found her locked inside the toilet. During the investigation, it was found that she had been forced to live in inhuman conditions for the past one and a half years. She was not even provided proper food and drinking water”, Women Protection and Child Marriage Prohibition Officer Rajni Gupta, who led the rescue effort in the village of Rishipur, informed the media.





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Hong Kong: Asylum for ‘tortured’ consulate worker could give hope to other activists | World News


A former worker at the UK’s consulate in Hong Kong has told Sky News that Britain’s decision to grant him asylum could set a precedent for others who fear Chinese persecution.

Hong Kong-born Simon Cheng, 29, said the Home Office recently approved his asylum request after he was forced to flee the territory last year following more than two weeks in Chinese detention.

In an interview with Sky News, the pro-democracy campaigner said he applauded a decision by Britain this week to offer millions of Hong Kong residents a path to UK citizenship if they hold the special status of British National Overseas (BNO).

However, Mr Cheng said his case might mean those who do not qualify, including anyone who was born after Britain handed control of the city back to China in 1997, might be able to claim political asylum instead.

Speaking in London, he said: “I guess I’m the first case as a Hong Kong citizen to be granted political asylum in the UK, so it could be a precedent for more Hong Kong people if they cannot be protected by the BNO scheme.”

While supportive of the citizenship offer, he said Boris Johnson’s government should also impose sanctions on China in response to the national security law, which the UK says is in breach of a bilateral treaty that guarantees Hong Kong’s one country, two systems principle.

Mr Cheng warned that his experience of China’s police and justice system during 15 days in detention on the Chinese mainland last August was a portent of what the people of his home city could expect.

“That is the worst ever,” he said of the new legislation.

Image:
He was granted political asylum

Pro-democracy protesters “can simply wave the flag or say something bad to the government and be detained and delivered back to mainland China,” he said.

Mr Cheng believes those Hong Kong residents standing up to what they see as Beijing’s encroaching rule should receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

But he warned that left unchecked, China could try to extend its influence further, possibly even leading to conflict over Taiwan or in the South China Sea.

“We give a warning signal to the world now,” he said. “The Hong Kong citizens now on the frontline, so in the future I do believe we are eligible to get the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Recalling his time in captivity, Mr Cheng said he had been returning to Hong Kong following a trip to mainland China when he was arrested on 8 August.

He believes he was stopped because he had taken part in a number of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, so perhaps his face had been recognised.

Mr Cheng describes being secured to a “tiger chair” in a cell, with a bar over his stomach and his hands cuffed together.

He alleged an interrogator began by asking him what crime he had committed, followed by what he thought about Hong Kong and whether the UK had anything to do with widespread pro-democracy protests.

“I never ever can imagine being interrogated with such questions,” Mr Cheng said.

The UK has expressed 'deep concern' over the new law
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Hong Kong police are seen firing tear gas at protesters

He was eventually told that he could either confess to seeing prostitutes – not regarded as a serious offence – or be handed over to other security personnel, where he could face more serious charges.

Mr Cheng said he opted for the former, even though he says this was not true.

He claims he was then transferred to another location where he was placed in solitary confinement for a week, only taken out to be driven allegedly to a separate site where he claims he was made to stand in stress positions and beaten.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office last month released a six-monthly report on Hong Kong.

In the foreword, Dominic Raab referred to Mr Cheng’s “mistreatment”, saying the UK was “shocked and appalled”.

“His treatment in Chinese detention, for more than two weeks, amounted to torture,” he said.

China’s ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, has said previously on Twitter that Mr Cheng was placed under 15-day “administrative detention” by police in Shenzhen.

“He confessed all offences. All his lawful rights and interests were guaranteed in accordance with the law.”

Mr Cheng was set free on 24 August but not before he claims he was forced to confess on camera to soliciting prostitutes, treason and sharing UK secrets with the Chinese authorities.

“I was trying to be cooperating, yeah let’s do it,” he said, explaining why he agreed to do the recording. “If I can’t get out after 15 days I will be done.”

He said the false confession on prostitution was released by state media along with CCTV footage showing him visiting a massage parlour – which he did but for an ordinary massage.

The other two “confession tapes” have yet to be made public, Mr Cheng said.

Upon his release he decided he had to leave his parents and siblings in Hong Kong because he did not feel safe.

Mr Cheng travelled with his girlfriend to Taiwan and then they moved to the UK.

The coronavirus pandemic means he has not been able to find work yet so is dedicating his time to supporting the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Even though he’s left the territory, Mr Cheng still says he thinks he is being monitored.

“I feel I’m being followed sometimes in the UK,” he said. “I do feel some suspicious people around me stare at me. I’m not sure because I cannot prove anything.”



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Fatal Cyclone crash just the latest tragedy in tortured saga of Canada’s military helicopters


It was called “the worst procurement in the history of Canada” by a former Conservative defence minister.

The Canadian Armed Forces’ journey from the Sea King helicopter to the Cyclone CH-148 was long and, in the words of another minister, “torturous.”

With the arrival of the new Cyclones in 2018, it appeared that long journey was over.

Then, a crash at the end of April cost the lives of two sailors and four airmen — once again fixing a spotlight on the twists, turns, false starts and compromises involved in getting new air force choppers on navy ships.

For more, watch the video above.

 



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