16 Apr 2015

PM refuses to discuss GCSB allegations

7:07 pm on 16 April 2015

Prime Minister John Key is refusing to discuss new allegations New Zealand spies have been assisting Bangladesh's draconian security agencies.

John Key after pre-budget speech to Business New Zealand.

John Key after pre-budget speech to Business New Zealand. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Journalist Nicky Hager said it was almost certain the the Government Communications and Security Bureau had helped security forces in Bangladesh torture people.

Mr Hager said documents released by the American whistleblower Edward Snowden showed the GCSB had spied on Bangladesh since 2002.

He claimed the GCSB had shared the intelligence it gathered on groups within the country with Bangladeshi security forces which he said were known for their human rights abuses.

"There is almost no doubt that the information we have been giving them for almost 12 years now will have been used for torture possibly for extra judicial killings and general terrorising of Bangladesh people."

But as with the previous allegations against the Government's foreign spy agency the Prime Minister would not discuss them.

Author Nicky Hager says it's the era of dirty tricks.

Author Nicky Hager says it's the era of dirty tricks. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

"We don't comment on the activities of GCSB, the only thing I can say is that I am comfortable on all the advice I've been given on GCSB that they act lawfully.

"They're a foreign intelligence agency, they gather information for reasons of national interest to New Zealand and that's about all I'm prepared to say."

The Green Party said allegations New Zealand spies were assisting Bangladesh's security agencies were shocking.

The Green's co-leader Russel Norman said Bangladesh's security forces torture and kill the Government's political opponents and our spies appeared to be helping them.

"John Key justifies the activities of the GCSB that it's there to help the good guys, and yet clearly here it is actually helping the bad guys.

"I think most New Zealanders would be shocked by these revelations."

And Amnesty International said that if the allegations were true, the New Zealand Government could be contributing to grave human rights abuses.

Its New Zealand executive director Grant Bayldon said there was a long list of abuses committed by Bangladeshi security forces.

"There's many examples of people who are believed to have been tortured to death even in Bangladesh, the widespread use of forced disappearances in Bangladesh...the climate of fear that's been created where human rights workers, journalists are attacked and threatened in Bangladesh.

"We have many examples of bloggers and facebook users being imprisoned for the posts that they've made online," Mr Bayldon said.

He fears the GCSBs shared intelligence could have disastrous and long-lasting consequences in Bangladesh.

"There's an extremely high risk that surveillance handed over to the Bangldeshi security forces by the New Zealand Government could result in human rights abuses - very grave human rights abuses.

"We need to be aware that data and information hangs around for a long time. And who knows what would happen in future in Bangladesh, in terms of future governments getting hold of any information that the New Zealand Government has supplied."

Acting Director of the GCSB Una Jagose said the spy agency does not comment on what it does or doesn't do.

She said everything the GCSB does was explicitly authorised and subject to independent oversight.

GCSB Acting Director Una Jagose

Una Jagose Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs