One of the key messages emerging from the Wikileaks cables is the callousness of Western leaders towards human rights. It’s seen as an inconvenience. That’s why we treat them with appropriate contempt.
The Howard government urged the United States to force the collapse of the North Korean regime by denying it aid, despite advice that the country had a growing nuclear arsenal and could unleash an artillery barrage on South Korea’s capital at a moment’s notice.
”Let the whole place go to shit, that’s the best thing that could happen,” the foreign affairs minister, Alexander Downer, told the commander of US and United Nations forces in South Korea at a meeting in Canberra in 2005.
A leaked US embassy cable reports that Mr Downer told General Leon LaPorte that the outside world should sharply increase pressure on North Korea, suggesting that ”aid that could prop up [North Korea’s] failing infrastructure should be withheld to bring an end to the regime’s tyranny”.
The cable, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available exclusively to the Herald, says Mr Downer’s ”off-the-top of his head” remarks also derided New Zealand’s approach to the Korean problem.
”If US officials wanted to hear the ‘bleeding hearts’ view of ‘peace and love’ with respect to North Korea, Downer joked, they only had to visit his colleagues in New Zealand. Mr Downer said he personally agreed with George Bush that tyranny had to be ended,” the cable says.
The British government has been training a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organisations as a “government death squad”, leaked US embassy cables have revealed.
Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which has been held responsible for hundreds of extra-judicial killings in recent years and is said to routinely use torture, have received British training in “investigative interviewing techniques” and “rules of engagement”.
Details of the training were revealed in a number of cables, released by WikiLeaks, which address the counter-terrorism objectives of the US and UK governments in Bangladesh. One cable makes clear that the US would not offer any assistance other than human rights training to the RAB – and that it would be illegal under US law to do so – because its members commit gross human rights violations with impunity.
Since the RAB was established six years ago, it is estimated by some human rights activists to have been responsible for more than 1,000 extra-judicial killings, described euphemistically as “crossfire” deaths. In September last year the director general of the RAB said his men had killed 577 people in “crossfire”. In March this year he updated the figure, saying they had killed 622 people.
The RAB’s use of torture has also been exhaustively documented by human rights organisations. In addition, officers from the paramilitary force are alleged to have been involved in kidnap and extortion, and are frequently accused of taking large bribes in return for carrying out crossfire killings.
However, the cables reveal that both the British and the Americans, in their determination to strengthen counter-terrorism operations in Bangladesh, are in favour of bolstering the force, arguing that the “RAB enjoys a great deal of respect and admiration from a population scarred by decreasing law and order over the last decade”. In one cable, the US ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, expresses the view that the RAB is the “enforcement organisation best positioned to one day become a Bangladeshi version of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation”.