Jan 212007

“The conclusions of the British parliamentary committee that you don’t have the most basic standards applying at Guantanamo Bay adds weight to our view about the fact that David Hicks has been there for too long and ought now to be released.” – Kelvin Thompson, Opposition Legal Affairs spokesman

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock was in transit but a spokesman said: “We’ve been assured the facilities at Guantanamo Bay are modelled on maximum security prisons in the United States”.

Sydney Morning Herald.

Ruddock’s spokesperson needs to undertake a little research before opening their flapper:

‘In some jurisdictions, supermax prisoners can acquire increased privileges and amenities-e.g. more telephone calls, access to radio or a television, the ability to walk to the shower without handcuffs or shackles-as an incentive and reward for appropriate behaviour. But the privileges usually only reflect a tinkering at the edges of the basic model of confinement and do not significantly ameliorate the conditions. Moreover, these “privileges” are taken away as punishment for even minor infractions.’

‘Once an inmate is in a supermax, there is usually some sort of periodic review to determine if there is a need for continued segregation or, in facilities with progressive incentive levels, whether an inmate should be moved up or down. Unfortunately, the reviews are often perfunctory, concluding with reiterations of stale justifications. Staff rarely have adequate familiarity with or background information about inmates to make considered judgements — and there are insufficient institutional incentives for them to give sufficient weight to the inmates’ right to be free of unnecessary restrictions.’ 

Human Rights Watch ‘Out-of-Sight’ Briefing Paper on US Supermax Prison conditions, 2000

Bannerman wonders when David Hicks was last permitted to make a telephone call when he wanted to, listen to radio or watch television, walk to the showers unshackled. He also wonders what review process has ever been undertaken over the past five years to determine Hicks’ need to be held in almost continual solitary confinement.

Clearly, even though what we hear about through the media is often third hand, Guantanamo Bay does not meet even the Human Rights Watch assessment of US Supermax prison conditions. David Hicks must be released and repatriated to Australia without delay. Failure by the Howard government to see to this requirement with despatch condemns it for all time as failed guardians of Australian civil rights.

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