Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Press Release from the Law Council of Australia

3 April 2007

Heaven Help Those Left in Guantanamo Bay

David Hicks’ guilty plea and sentencing deal have done nothing to legitimise the process to which he was subjected, the Law Council said today.

Law Council President Tim Bugg said, “David Hicks’ detention for nearly five and a half years without access to rights we regard as essential for all suspected criminals, whether petty or monstrous, had nothing to do with justice and everything to do with politics.”

“From the very beginning Mr Hicks was a pawn in a political game played ruthlessly for advantage in both the US and Australia. The Howard Government’s complicity in his detention in a legal black hole beyond the reach of anything resembling an impartial or independent judicial system marks a low point in Australian political life.”

Mr Bugg said the Australian Government’s early determination to demonise Mr Hicks saw him initially imprisoned without access to a lawyer or charges for the first two years of his detention.

“Two adverse US Supreme Court decisions and numerous other forced changes to the military commission process didn’t shake the Government’s confidence in the process. Only when opinion polls made it clear that Australians thought he was getting unjust treatment did any imperative emerge to fix the issue,” Mr Bugg said.

“The US Government’s determination to save face, avoid accountability and secure impunity for its officials is matched for self-interest only by the Australian Government’s enthusiastic acceptance of the plea deal.”

The plea deal itself says that the five years and four months Mr Hicks spent in detention count for nothing. “Those who accept this, as the Australian Government obviously does, accept that the US Executive should have judicially unsupervised powers to detain indefinitely without charge anyone, arrested anywhere. They blindly accept this power is necessitated by a rhetorical war, with no defined battlefield and no obvious end or beginning, in which the enemy is whoever the US Executive says it is,” Mr Bugg said.

“Mr Hicks’ nightmare is nearly over because it became politically imperative for it to end. Heaven help those in Guantanamo Bay without someone to stand up for their rights. The US and Australian governments clearly won’t be coming to their aid,” Mr Bugg concluded.

Media Contact: Elenore Eriksson

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