Dec 062006

David Hicks’ legal team has been granted an urgent hearing in the Federal Court, in a bid to have him released and returned home to Australia by Christmas. The hearing, in which Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer are to be sued for failing in their duty of care to protect the interests of an Australian citizen abroad.

David Hicks has been imprisoned by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the past five years. For most of that time, he has been kept in solitary confinement and subjected to the most degrading and abusive of tortures, according to those who knew him and have since been released. David Hicks has not and cannot be charged with any crime under Australian law and has not and cannot be charged under any American law. He has not been brought to trial at any time in the past five years, and with the US Supreme Court judgement earlier this year declaring the military commission process illegal, he may not face any amended form of commission for another two years.

The Australian government has denied Hicks his basic human rights and his citizenship rights by birth, in not ensuring his repatriation to Australia. Britain, among other countries, has ensured that their citizens receive the due of their citizenship, yet the Howard government seems quite comfortable in permitting a foreign power to determine the fate of an Australian citizen, without so much as a raised question. Time, however, seems to be running out for the Howardian cabal. Rumblings over the lengthening Hicks issue are growing louder in the backbenches of the government. The weak-kneed responses from the front end of the cabal are becoming more and more ludicrous. Your Bannerman is absolutely aghast at the audacity of Phillip Ruddock in this retort to the Hicks legal team hearing.

“But I don’t hear very much advocacy about others who are detained at Guantanamo Bay, including one Canadian. So the point I would make is that people have their rights and entitlements and proceedings can be brought here and can be brought in the United States and sometimes those matters are beyond the control of governments.”

No recognition of an Australian citizen’s rights as a citizen. Blather about other nation’s citizens rights, by inference, followed by the usual Ruddock dose of double-talk which means absolutely nothing. This is the calibre of this government and the people who make it up. No care, and most definitely no responsibility.

The Bannerman welcomes this effort by his legal team to have him released from the clutches of a foreign power, and repatriated to his home nation with despatch. The Bannerman welcomes any and all efforts to have the Howard government held to account for its ignorant, arrogant and careless treatment of an Australian citizen, who has not committed any crime under national or international law. That David Hicks was taken by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, and sold to the United States military as an Al Qaeda fighter. That accusation has not been proven, outside of Hicks claiming that he trained with Al Qaeda. Whether or not he was actually fighting with them, remains an unknown. We all know about unknowns, don’t we. At worst, David Hicks is a Prisoner of War, and deserves to be repatriated as such under the Geneva Conventions. 

David Hicks has become the last opportunity for the Bush administration, and it’s coalition partners, to prove that it’s not merely anti-muslim in its so-called war on terror. He is a pawn in a convoluted game of political backgammon. He’s on the bar, having been knocked off the board continually time after time over the last five years. Perhaps this time, with a tad of fair play and a heaping helping of justice, he’ll get back onto the board and be heading home.

As a point of interest on this issue, this Saturday, 9th December, has been designated a National Day of Action in support of bringing David Hicks home. If you’re of a similar mind to the Bannerman, you’re strongly urged to attend and support the efforts to rescue him, before he loses what’s left of his sanity.

In the meantime, the Howard government would be well served to pay attention to the words of Geoffrey Robertson QC.

“There must come a point at which Australian law officers who willfully authorise or approve an unfair and irregular trial of an Australian citizen become complicit in a grave breach of international law”

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