THE LAW Council of Australia has spoken out against the effect of the Federal Government’s inaction over the fate of Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks, who has been forced to look to Britain for a lifeline after more than four years in detention.
Hicks’ application for British citizenship looked successful last month with a High Court ruling in London that the British Government had no power to stop the Australian from being given a British passport. But there is still a question mark over the fate of Hicks, and the British Government has appealed against the High Court decision.
The Government says an application from Hicks for British citizenship can be rejected because of the allegations against him. Hicks’ legal team is now pushing for him to be released under an agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom that no British citizen go through the US military commission process.
The British Home Office initially denied Hicks citizenship on the grounds that he was accused of committing acts that were “were prejudicial to the British Government”.
But the Law Council of Australia said it is a travesty that inaction by the Australian Government has forced this result. Before Christmas, Law Council president John North said “it is clear that, as [Hicks] prepares to spend his fourth Christmas behind bars, our Government has well and truly washed its hands of one of its own citizens”.
“An Australian who has spent so long in legal limbo should not have to plead to another nation’s government for help. Yet this is what Hicks has been forced to do. It is a sad indictment on our leaders,” said North.
“The Federal Government and the Opposition have been extremely outspoken on a number of Australians held in detention around the world. But when it comes to David Hicks, it seems it is easier to turn their backs and look the other way,” said North.
Hicks’ Australian lawyer David McLeod said he would ask for an appeals court hearing this month, but added that he may have to wait until the middle of the year. “Obviously negotiations would continue with the UK Government to see if there was some sort of way through that was satisfactory to both Hicks and the UK Government, but at this stage it appears as though David’s going to have another fight on his hands,” North told ABC News Online.