THE NEW charges laid against David Hicks last week do little to improve the flawed system that has been designed to try him, according to the Law Council of Australia (LCA).
In 2004 the US Government levelled three charges against Hicks: conspiracy, attempted murder by an unprivileged belligerent and aiding the enemy. Following the US Supreme Court’s ruling that the first military commission system was illegal, the allegation of attempted murder has remained in 2007, along with the new charge of “providing material support for terrorism”.
“No doubt, even though this new offence isn’t recognised under the law of war, and even though it is being applied to [Hicks] retrospectively, the Australian Government will be satisfied once again that the process is entirely fair and above board,” LCA president Tim Bugg said.
Prime Minister John Howard welcomed the charges, following reports of his request to the US that Hicks be charged by mid-February.
“I’m glad the charges are being laid and that the deadline I set has been met,” Howard said. “They are very serious charges and that is why we believe they should be dealt with as soon as possible.”
Opposition leader Kevin Rudd described the new military commission system as a “travesty of justice”.
“I have never been a defender of [Hicks]. I have been a consistent defender of [Hicks’] legal rights and his human rights,” Rudd said.
“This US military commission is itself a travesty of justice. I have said that before, I’ll keep saying it because it’s true.”
According to Bugg, “this whole sorry saga is the result of political expediency in both the US and Australia and justice has been the casualty”.
“The Australian Government’s acquiescence in this legal fiasco should be deeply disturbing to all Australians,” he said.