For more than five long and horrendous years, David Hicks was locked up in the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where he was subject to countless inhumane forms of torture.
Hicks was captured by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in December 2001 and was transferred to Camp X Ray at Guantanamo Bay in January 2002.
It was not until December 2003 that he saw a military lawyer.
Two-and-a-half years after his capture, he was charged with conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy. Regardless of this, there were never any allegations that Hicks killed or specifically harmed anyone.
Hicks faced a trial before a military commission that was created and used as a tool for Pentagon officials to prosecute high-profile detainees. It had no independence from the US Department of Defense.
However, before the trial, the US Supreme Court found that the military commission system was unlawful and highly flawed. The Bush administration replaced it with the Military Commissions Act, which was supported by Australia’s then-prime minister John Howard.
Although just as legally flawed as the first military commission, it was implemented to charge and try Hicks. In April 2007, Hicks returned to Australia and served nine months at Adelaide's Yatala jail after being convicted for “providing material support for terrorism”.
Three years after Hicks’ release, the issues of protecting human rights and the fair rule of law have not been forgotten.
The Justice Campaign was recently launched in support of “human rights, transparency and fairness for David Hicks”. It acts as a step towards ensuring that all Australians receive fair treatment within the legal system.
The Justice Campaign website says: “We believe that the Australian government should abide by its international legal obligations and thoroughly investigate allegations of torture made by its citizens, particularly if they are in any way complicit in their ongoing or prolonged detention.
“In addition, we believe that the Australian government should do all it can to remove Australian citizens from situations that amount to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and not legitimise any agreements or confessions obtained under torture.”
The website includes an open letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, which asks her to formally recognise that the 2006 military commissions system was unfair and ensure an independent investigation into Hicks’ torture and illegal conviction takes place.
Hicks’ wife, Aloysia told Green Left Weekly: “The Justice Campaign came about because the Australian government has failed to adhere to its international human rights obligations and seek an independent and thorough investigation into claims of torture made by David Hicks.
“[Attorney general] Robert McClelland called for an investigation in 2003, now he is in a position to make it happen.”
She also said: “The Australian government is also in a position to do exactly as President [Barack] Obama did — recognise that the 2006 military commissions act is unfair and state that it failed to establish a ‘legitimate legal framework’. David Hicks should not be left with the stigma attached to an unlawful conviction.”
Alongside this, McClelland has asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide on whether to seize the profits made on David Hicks’ book,
When Hicks’ book was published, the opposition asked McClelland to investigate whether the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act applied to it, because Hicks was deemed by the second Military Commission at Guantanamo to have aided a terrorist organisation.
Part 2-5 of the Proceeds of Crime Act may be invoked where a person has committed an indictable offence against either Australian or foreign law, and the court is satisfied that the person has derived literary proceeds in relation to the offence.
Hicks may also be stripped of his royalties according to the agreement made between Hicks and the US government, where he had agreed to “assign to the government of Australia any profits or proceeds which I may be entitled to receive in connection with any publication or dissemination of information relating to the illegal conduct alleged in the charge sheet”.
However, the investigations into “proceeds of crime” should really be aimed at figures such as Howard and former British PM Tony Blair, both of who released memoirs in 2010.
The two former Prime Ministers are the real terrorists. They are the war criminals with blood on their hands and it is about time they were held responsible for their actions.
The Justice Campaign is an essential step towards gaining an independent and transparent investigation into David Hicks’ case, alongside making sure that no Australian citizen be subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or an unfair system unsupported by the rule of law and principles of fairness.