Feb 092007

"This suggestion that because detainees are there, that that is in itself evidence of terrorism, or their being a terrorist, simply puts the lie to any attempt to deal with them in a fair and open manner,"
David McLeod, lawyer for David Hicks


What defines a ’dangerous terrorist’? Someone’s say so? Is it necessary for said alleged terrorist to have killed someone? Fired a gun, carried a stanley knife, perhaps. Bannerman thinks that all of us could be classified as terrorists if the latter proviso comes into play.

So someone’s duly appointed authority uses words which that someone tells said authority to use. Words like ’terrorist’, ’combatant’, ’war’ and ’crime. Bannerman wishes to once again point out to the reader that such emotive descriptors are not representative of the circumstances which find David Hicks in his current situation. Hicks is not a terrorist simply because someone says so. Is he a combatant if, as his captors freely admit, he has in all likelihood never fired a gun at them either singly or as an aggressive collective? Was David Hicks captured during a duly recognised war as a prisoner of that alleged war, or was he kidnapped by Northern Alliances fighters in November 2001 as an easy means of extracting $1,000 from their American military masters? Lastly, and most importantly, what crime is David Hicks alleged to have committed?

Let’s review the most recent log of proposed charges.

  • providing material support for terrorism; and
  • attempted murder in violation of the law of war.

As Richard Ackland states so succinctly in todays SMH:

"How can anyone, with even modest legal training, think that the existence in domestic US legislation of a criminal charge called material support for terrorism, which is applied in civil courts, is the same thing as a war crime to be tried before military commissions?"

In short, no-one with even the merest modicum of legal training or knowledge would support, let alone propose any such relationship. The second floated charge – attempted murder in violation of the law of war – amounts to something of a thought crime. After all, hasn’t the US and it’s duly appointed authorities, already admitted that David Hicks has in all likelihood never fired a shot in anger during the engagement from which he was taken? Of course, we’ve seen over the past 5 years accusations of all manner of things which David Hicks is alleged to have been or done. None have ever been proven or even had rational credence to back them up.

Back that realisation with the distinct lack of exposure the Hicks issue has received from media sources until lately, the complete abandonment of an Australian citizen by his government and we wind up with general ignorance of the facts surrounding David Hicks. Even leading to apathy by many. The link is just one wildly Googled result. Many have researched the man and his activities leading up to his being in Afghanistan, yet no-one in any position to assist or even push for the realities to be uncovered formally – read the Howard government – has pursued the matter. Instead, a human being, more pointedly, an Australian citizen, is left to languish in a room exactly the same as the one above for 22 hours of every 24. He eats alone, He exercises alone, He lives under constantly lighted conditions. These conditions are in excess of maximum security conditions in this country, and even in the U.S., yet the Australian government is quite happy to ignore the fact that Hicks is being subjected to cruel and unusual treatment, in terms of the UN Convention Against Torture.

Bannerman considers that the time for action on the Hicks issue has well and truly passed. The rhetoric doesn’t convince anyone with a rational perspective on the issue, and is prepared to decide for themselves as to just what David Hicks is, what he has actually done, and just why he continues to be detained under false pretences. All the rhetorical words under the sun don’t escape from the fact that Hicks is a political pawn. Nothing more and certainly nothing less. Above all else, he is an Australian citizen who deserves the support and assistance of his government. That support is clearly not forthcoming for reasons of political expediency and some sadly misguided belief by John Howard that we – Australia – must never challenge the U.S. on any issue, lest they cancel some mythical defence insurance policy.

It’s time two things happened. David Hicks comes home, and John Howard exits office.

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