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NZ Soldier Commits Suicide in Afghanistan

Posted by te2ataria on April 3, 2012

He may have pulled the trigger, but it was New Zealand PM who killed him

The authorities have described the death as being “a non-combat incident,” adding that no one else was involved in soldier’s death.

“The death was not the result of a combat operation and does not appear to involve the actions of another party,” NZ Defence Minister said.

“We are saddened by this loss and, on behalf of the entire New Zealand Defence Force, I extend my deepest sympathies to the family, colleagues and friends of the soldier,” Defence Force Chief of Sodomy General Rhys Jones said.

The soldier is the fifth [reported] New Zealand military personnel to die in the Afghanistan’s war of occupation.

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2 Responses to “NZ Soldier Commits Suicide in Afghanistan”

  1. Rob said

  2. fruitcake said

    Soldier’s family: The battle continues
    by Tony Wall

    The family of a soldier who killed himself in Afghanistan and Labour’s defence spokesman Phil Goff say they will continue to fight for transparency around the case, after Crown Law refused to order a coroner’s inquest into the death.

    Corporal Douglas Hughes took his life at forward patrol base Romero in Bamiyan province in April last year, just hours after declaring his feelings for a male subordinate.

    Hughes’ mother, Venus Poa, wrote to the solicitor-general more than six months ago seeking an overturning of coroner Gordon Matenga’s decision not to open an inquest, but received a letter last week saying an inquest was “not in the overall interests of justice”.

    Matenga had suppressed a military Court of Inquiry report into the death in March, but after taking legal advice, the Sunday Star-Times revealed its findings.

    The inquiry found:

    After Hughes declared his feelings for the soldier, his sergeant ordered a meeting between the pair and himself, which went on for several hours and became increasingly volatile.

    At one point, the sergeant frisked Hughes for a weapon, but found none.

    Hughes had become increasingly distressed about rumour and speculation about his sexuality, and at one point told colleagues he had considered killing himself.

    Senior officers knew about Hughes’ suicidal thoughts but did not believe he was at serious risk.

    Training for the “Crib 19” deployment was reduced from five weeks to three because of the NZDF’s involvement in the Rugby World Cup. Various training outcomes such as stress management and identification were not achieved.

    A nursing officer who later spoke to Hughes about his problems had been involved in a rushed, hour-long presentation on critical incident stress management on the flight to Afghanistan.

    The Court of Inquiry made a series of recommendations, including that the Defence Force review its policy around homosexual men and women to ensure “maximum support” was available to them.

    Crown Law said last week nothing provided by Hughes’ family constituted new evidence under the Coroners Act or would have materially altered the Court of Inquiry’s outcomes. Nor was there an example of irregularity or insufficient independence.

    Poa had wanted to call witnesses, including the soldiers who were with her son in the hours leading up to his death, to quiz them about what happened and why more wasn’t done to help him. She also wanted to call family members who had received distressing messages from Hughes in the weeks before he died.

    Poa said she could not comment on her next move. “But I’m not stopping there.”

    Goff said the most disappointing aspect was that Matenga’s suppression order remained in place, and Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman had “hidden behind it” to avoid discussing the case.

    “My concern is the ultimate effect of the coroner’s decision was to stop public debate and government accountability about what was in the Court of Inquiry decisions. The coroner has effectively given cover to the Government to say nothing, and perhaps do nothing.”

    Goff said he would write to the chief coroner asking him to review Matenga’s decision.

    “I would have thought first and foremost you look to the feelings of the relatives and obviously the coroner didn’t bother about that because he took an action which was against the wishes of the family – which was to suppress the Court of Inquiry.”

    A spokesperson for Coleman confirmed that the coroner’s suppression order remained in place and “it is our understanding that we are legally bound by that position”.

    The Chief of Defence had confirmed that all the recommendations of the Court of Inquiry had been implemented.

    – © Fairfax NZ News

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