Our Common Cause: The truth about David Hicks

September 7, 2005

David Hicks was captured in Kandahar in the closing days of the war between the Taliban government of Afghanistan and the Northern Alliance insurgency supported by the US. The Taliban government, for which David Hicks was fighting, fell.

At the time of his capture by Northern Alliance troops, Hicks was under arms as a foreign volunteer for a sovereign government. While the US excuse for invading Afghanistan was that the Taliban was giving refuge to al Qaeda, this in itself does not make Hicks an al Qaeda fighter.

Hicks also fought for the Kosova Liberation Army, in times when the KLA was defending the Kosovar people, mainly Muslims, against ethnic cleansing by the militarily dominant Serbian forces. Wasn't the KLA on "our" side at the time?

Hicks is now confronting a US "military commission" — a "court" in which the military is the plaintiff, jailer, evidence gatherer, prosecutor, judge and jury all at the same time.

In a military commission, torture is an accepted method of extracting "confessions", there is no right to cross-examine witnesses, there is no presumption of innocence, and the standard of proof is not "beyond reasonable doubt".

The commission's panel members include some officers who were directly involved in the war in Afghanistan and transported prisoners to Guantanamo Bay, and some who have expressed their view that detainees are terrorists. Everything is organised to deny the accused the right to defend themselves effectively, and ensure a conviction.

It is absolutely clear that under these conditions David Hicks won't get a fair trial.

Many Australian lawyers, including former High Court judge Mary Gaudron, former NSW Supreme Court judge John Dowd, Cameron Murphy from the NSW Council of Civil Liberties and John North from the Law Council of Australia, believe that Hicks' trial will not be fair. Businessperson Dick Smith and former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Mamdouh Habib agree with them.

Even three of the hand-picked US military prosecutors have withdrawn from the commission process, arguing that it is unethical and rigged to secure convictions.

There are only two lawyers in Australia who argue that the military commissions are fair. They are PM John Howard and Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, renowned crawlers to the White House and the Pentagon.

Howard and Ruddock say that the complaints about the commission process have been investigated and addressed. But who investigated them? The Pentagon — one of the institutions against which the allegations were made.

If our government defended all Australian citizens like it did Douglas Wood, David Hicks would be with his family in South Australia today. Instead, he is suffering the worst imaginable conditions in Guantanamo Bay, awaiting a trial set up to find him guilty.

It's been almost four years since David Hicks was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. It is past time for him to be returned to Australia. If, as Howard and Ruddock claim, there is enough proof to charge and prosecute David Hicks for many crimes, then let him be charged and tried under the Australian legal system.

Mamdouh Habib is back in Australia and, despite his constant harassment by ASIO, the federal police and others, he has not been charged with anything. His imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay was clearly unjustified.

* We demand the repatriation of David Hicks, and other Australian citizens held by the US: Ahmed Aziz Rafiq, Talaal Adrii and Mohamed Abbass.

* We demand the repeal of all of the so-called anti-terrorist laws in Australia, state and federal.

* We demand the closure of Guantanamo Bay and similar prison camps around the world, and the freedom of all their prisoners.

We must not let Howard and Ruddock sacrifice David Hicks to the dictates of George Bush. If they do, they will be selling us all out again, as they did by launching the war on Iraq.

Raul Bassi

[Raul Bassi is a member of the Socialist Alliance and the Canterbury-Bankstown Peace Group.]

From Green Left Weekly, September 7, 2005.
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