May 11, 2006

Statement to Parliament regarding David Hicks

Members Statement – David Hicks

11 May 2006

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (9.30 am)—The announcement today that the Howard government has reached agreement with the Bush administration for a prisoner transfer process if David Hicks is tried and convicted by the US military commission is an almost insignificant concession that goes nowhere near the need to address the principles here at stake. This small concession comes with further astonishing conditions. After spending 4½ years in Guantanamo Bay, if convicted, David Hicks would re-serve those years—that is, time he has already spent incarcerated would not be deducted from his sentence.

This is the deal the Howard government has cut with the US for an Australian citizen. It compares with British actions. Overnight, British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has described Guantanamo Bay as a symbol of injustice. He stated that it undermines the United States’s position as a beacon of liberty, freedom and justice.

Some may think David Hicks is guilty; others may disagree. But, ultimately, what anybody thinks about David Hicks is irrelevant. His guilt or innocence is not for us to decide. It must be decided within the context of a fair and just trial, consistent with international law. Such trials are even afforded to dictators like Saddam Hussein and are the cornerstone of democratic societies, yet they are not afforded to prisoners of Guantanamo Bay, who face trial by military commission.

Britain, a key ally of the US in the war on terror, has successfully demanded the return of nine of its citizens from Guantanamo Bay, saying the military commissions do not uphold basic standards of international law. This has led to David Hicks applying and now being eligible for British citizenship. Other countries including Spain, Russia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have secured the release of their nationals. Highly respected legal figures such as Lex Lasry, QC, have said there is ‘an unacceptably high risk that there will be a miscarriage of justice’ if David Hicks is tried at Guantanamo Bay. In February this year, a UN report found that the US has failed to comply with international human rights and law of war obligations by detaining indefinitely and without charge hundreds of men in Guantanamo Bay. These facts are appalling.

In speaking against the anti-terror legislation in November last year, I said that Australia’s response to the terror threat must be consistent with our democratic values and freedoms. This is as true for David Hicks as it is for any person accused of terrorism inside Australia. Civil liberties and democratic rights cannot be sacrificed in order to protect freedom, for in doing so we tear down and undermine what we claim to uphold. Justice is only done when it is afforded to all, even to those who seem least deserving. Of the estimated 500 or so prisoners still held in Guantanamo Bay, only 10 have been charged. Mistreatment, cruelty and other serious allegations of human rights abuses against prisoners have seeped out since the camp was set up. This is not justice. I applaud David Hicks’s parents for their resolve, and I also applaud David Hicks’s lawyer, Major Michael Mori. (Time expired)