Sunday, February 18, 2007

David Hicks should be brought home and Howard and Ruddock should step down

It is totally unacceptable that John Howard supports the continued illegal incarceration in legal limbo of David Hicks by the Bush government of the United States.

John Howard, Philip Ruddock, Alexander Downer and Peter Costello have all made public comments about their opinions on David Hicks' guilt - and that this justifies him being held without trial. The US ambassador to Australia and the US Military have also made recent allegations about Hick's actions, but they have only just laid dubious charges against him after over five years detention. If there is a compelling case against Hicks, surely he would have been charged, tried and convicted 3 years ago.

Philip Ruddock commented recently that he has "no influence over a foreign jurisdiction" so he can't ask the Bush government to release Hicks. He is wrong on both counts - Guantanamo Bay is not a foreign jurisdiction - it is outside of International law. It is a lawless prison run by the CIA and US interrogators who use CIA techniques of subjugation and degradation. The Bush government is holding him there precisely because they can do what they want and ignore international laws such a the Geneva Convention. Ruddock and Howard can of course ask the Bush Government to release Hicks - they are just choosing not to.

Like any Australian, David Hicks has basic human rights to be given a fair trial, not to be detained excessively without charge and not to be tortured. Philip Ruddock recently stated that evidence obtained from him "under coercion" will be admissable. This is unacceptable. I don't think there is a valid distinction between torture and coercion. Hicks appears to have been tortured while detained.

Malcolm Fraser and Jeff Kennett have spoken out against Hicks' detention, and Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty has repeated his call for David Hicks to be tried as quickly as possible. Retired Victorian judge Stephen Charles, QC has joined the attack against the US and Australian governments' treatment of David Hicks, stating he will likely "be charged and tried under procedures amounting to a kangaroo court of the most noxious kind".

David Hicks' ongoing detention is a gross breach of human rights and a complete failure of due legal process. John Howard and Philip Ruddock should both step down from office for dereliction of duty, and David Hicks should be repatriated immediately. Once David Hicks is in Australia, due legal process should then be followed.

As precedents, the United State tried one of their own citizens John Walker Lindh as an "enemy combatant" years ago, and the British asked for and got all their detainees released.

It looks like the prospect of an election this year and rising political pressure will see John Howard take action on this, rather than because it is simply the right and humane thing to do.

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