The legal profession should continue to be dismayed at Australia’s inaction over the plight of Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks.
For more than four-and-a-half years, the now 31-year-old has languished in detention, in what his lawyers and family have described as harsh and often inhumane conditions.
Despite pleas from organisations such as the Law Council of Australia for Mr Hicks’ case to be resolved expeditiously and fairly, the Federal Government has continued to bury its head in the sand over the issue.
So ineffective has his own Government been, Mr Hicks has in recent months been forced to turn to Britain for assistance in resolving his lawful status.
In May, the British Court of Appeal ruled that Mr Hicks was entitled to have British citizenship. Once citizenship formalities have been resolved the way should be paved for him to invite the British Government to follow its own precedent and make representations to the US for his release.
It’s an absolute travesty that Mr Hicks has been forced to take this route simply because the Australian Government has seemingly washed its hands of his fate.
What is worse, though, is that fact that Australian authorities are doing nothing to step in and help facilitate the citizenship process. Given Mr Hicks has spent so long in detention, this seems the least that the Australian Government can do.
The Law Council recently met with UK Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith, urging the British Government to move swiftly to process Mr Hicks’ citizenship and possible shot at freedom.
This avenue out of Guantanamo Bay was also discussed when the Law Council recently met Mr Hicks’ military appointed lawyer, Major Michael Mori, at its Secretariat in Canberra.
The Law Council has no view of Mr Hicks’ innocence or guilt of any offence. That is not the issue.
The issue is the length of time he has been forced to spend in legal limbo. After spending so long behind the razor wire in Cuba, it is simply not possible for Mr Hicks to receive a fair trial, even in a properly constituted court, let alone a deeply flawed military commission
In November, it will be five years since this “misguided kid” from Adelaide was captured in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance. Five years is an awfully long time to sit behind bars not knowing your fate and without the protection of law.
The Law Council has said in the past that “justice delayed is justice denied”. No human being should be denied justice. The Australian Government needs to be reminded of that.
Law Council of Australia
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