Friday, August 12, 2005

An Abandoned Citizen

None other than the prestigious Law Council of Australia has come out to condemn John Howard’s federal government for failing to ensure that one of Australia’s citizens will receive a fair trial under the US Military system. The person at the centre of this unusual blast at the PM is the alleged terror suspect David Hicks.

Hicks has been held in Guantanamo Bay since the US invaded Afghanistan and rounded up a number of Taliban members. Hicks is among several hundreds of other accused terrorists held at the US Navy detention centre in Cuba, most without any charge at all.

As blogged previously, Hicks was just a romantic adventurer who sought a role for himself by joining the Talibans to fight against the pro-communist Northern Alliance warlords of Afghanistan. If we recall events, the Talibans were on the side of the USA, while the Northen Alliance was allied to the USSR who invaded and occupied Afghanistan. Hence Hicks had been on the side of the West if one needs to be pedantic about such issues, so one wonders how he could ever be said to have committed a crime against the USA?

The 9/11 incident happened, and Osama bin Laden was accused of being the perpetrator. Osama was resident in Afghanistan with his Taliban host. The Talibans were not involved in the 9/11 attacks.

The Talibans rejected the US demand that they handed over Osama to them, unless the Americans could show proof that the Saudi was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Of course the Americans couldn’t - incidentally, it was only much later that the "proof" was "found". The rest is history.

Even within that context, I wonder how David Hicks who joined the Talibans became a terrorist suspect? He didn’t fight against the USA or Australia. In fact, Australia’s Attorney General has admitted that Hicks cannot be charged in Australia for he has not committed any crime against the nation.

In an open letter to Prime Minister John Howard, the Law Council of Australia, speaking on behalf of the nation's law societies and bar associations, damned the government for allowing Hicks to be tried by the US Military kangaroo court.

Council president John North said "It is an outrage that the Australian government will not help protect an Australian citizen's basic rights, such as the ability to receive fair trial. The government maintains that Mr Hicks will receive a fair hearing by a military commission despite mounting criticism of the process by Australian legal experts, a defence force QC, members of the US military and others. The Australian government's inaction over David Hicks can no longer be ignored or accepted."

North said the Australian treatment of its citizens jailed overseas have been inconsistent, possibly alluding to the government’s extraordinary help for Schapelle Corby who has been jailed by the Indonesians for drug smuggling. The arrest of Schapelle Corby created a stir among Australian public, undoubtedly instigated by the Australian media, until there was such a frenzy that led to crazy behaviour by some extremists. The Australian government, also quick to spot a dangerous political situation if they didn't hop in to show support for Corby, rushed to Corby’s aid by providing financial and legal aid, with virtually a blank cheque. By contrast, Hicks appears to be a stepson.

The Australian government kept chanting the same mantra that they are satisfied with the guarantees in the US military commission orders, which would make it a fair and transparent trial - all these despite American military officers, including three of its prosecutors, stating that Hicks trial would be rigged to result in a conviction.

The Australian government is of course very careful not to offend big Taiko in Washington, and very smartly toes the American line as far as possible, even at the expense of one of its citizens.

Tough, David Hicks, you’re just collateral damage in a strategic game.

Related post:
Kangaroo Court No 2 – the case of David Hicks

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