Thursday, August 04, 2005

Kangaroo Court No 2 - the case of David Hicks

David Hicks is an Australian who had a difficult time adjusting to the normal ways of life. He trained himself to be tough, doing weird stuff like biting off the head of a chicken to eat it, and punishing himself as if he was a commando living off a harsh and hostile land. With such a personality and attitude, it’s no wonder he dashed off to Afghanistan to join the Talibans to fight for them against the Northern Alliances.

In short, Hicks is nothing more than a romantic adventurer who has been trying to discover a role in his life. He's not a terrorist. He went to Afghanistan to fight for a legitimate government, no matter how repugnant the Talibans have been. Terrorist experts have confirmed that, yet the US and Australian government have refused to accept this assessment of David Hicks.

Just as a quick refresher, during the USSR’s occupation of Afghanistan, the Americans and Talibans were pals, while the Soviets and Northern Alliance were allies.

Then 9/11 happened. The US blamed Osama bin Laden, who was living in Afghanistan. The Talibans were told to hand Osama over, but they asked the Americans for proof that he, Osama was complicit. Of course the US couldn’t because they have no such evidence. The majority of the attackers being Saudis only meant that there was a Saudi connection, but that connection might not have necessarily be Osama as there were many anti-US terrorist groups, some of whom have connections to the Saudi royalty.

But Bush needed a whipping boy, preferably one that won't embarrassed the Saudi royalty, to show the American public that he was successful in bringing to the criminals of 9/11 to justice. He pointed his fingers at Osama and he invaded Afghanistan to get that man. We all know what happened then.

A number of westerners were rounded up when the US troops and their allies caught the Talibans. David Hicks was the Australian prisoner. Hicks had remained in Guantanamo since he was taken there. He is about to go on trial before the US Military Commission. That’s where the shit starts to fly.

First of all, what was his crime? He joined the Talibans to fight the Northern Alliance, the very people the US had urged and supported the Talibans to fight against.. He wasn’t involved in 9/11. In fact, the Australian government has admitted David Hicks has not committed any crime against Australia.

Then his appointed military defence lawyer, a young US marine officer, Major Michael Mori, asserted Hicks won’t get a fair trial with the Commission. Mori said the system set up in such a way that Hicks won’t stand a chance. I salute Captain Mori for his courage in speaking out for surely that won’t be good for his career progression.

Then, to make the matters even worse, initially two military prosecutors, yes, MILITARY PROSECUTORS, not a defence lawyer like Captain Mori, said the same thing, about the system being rigged to get Hicks. These prosecutors, Captain John Carr and Major Robert Preston, have since then posted elsewhere. They have now been joined by a 3rd US military prosecutor Carrie Wolf who has also voiced her concerns about the rigged system. All 3 have refused to be associated with a process that was flawed and unfair. What does this tell us, when the prosecuting officers believe the system is unfair to the defendant?

Unfortunately for David Hicks, the Australian government has refused to challenge the US military or government to protect one of its citizens, despite the expressed concerns of the Australian Law Council, legal experts and even his own political party members. It has casually brushed aside the scandal of the prosecutors complaining about the rigged trial, claiming the US military stated that the prosecutors had personal issues with the Commission. By this insinuation the US military hopes to discredit the 3 prosecutors as either trouble makers or dissatisfied officers.

All THREE prosecutors having personal issues against the Commission? One, maybe – two, hmmm – but THREE? Balderdash.

Former Australian High Court judge Mary Gaudron agreed that the trial process in the United States is an abuse of the rule of law. She has this to say:

"He's [David Hicks] not being tried in any ordinary sense of the word. He is being subject to a military inquiry, the rules of which are anything but consistent with the notion of a fair trial in respect of a criminal offence.”

"If David Hicks committed a criminal offence anywhere in the world, then the rule of law requires that he be tried in a proper court composed of independent judges whereby his criminal guilt can be ascertained."

"It [the trial] follows a presidential decree which of course is the hallmark by which people are tried in some countries that we would regard as a dictatorship. "It's legal in the sense that there is a decree but it is an extra-legal, extra-judicial process.”

"Whether or not it is consistent with international law and norms is another question entirely."

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