THE LATEST US Government proposal to conduct annual internal reviews for Guantanamo Bay detainees, including Australians David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, will do nothing to improve their unjust treatment, according to the Law Council of Australia.
Law Council president Bob Gotterson QC said the announcement by the US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld did little but provide the US Government with “another tool to extend the indefinite detention of the Australians”.
The US Department of Defense announced that an administrative review panel would assess each detainee’s case annually in order to determine “if that detainee continues to pose a threat to the Unites States”. The detainee’s government will also have the opportunity to submit information on the detainee’s behalf, according to the department.
The panel’s recommendations will be considered and the final decision on whether a prisoner should be released may be decided by Rumsfeld.
Detainees are not “a legal black hole” and “there is an enormous amount of time spent scrutinising each individual case through various agencies of the government to help us determine who these people are”, an article on the department’s website explained.
The Law Council said Rumsfeld’s justification for ongoing detention — that they’re “not common criminals, they’re enemy combatants and terrorists who are being detained for acts of war against our country” — was not acceptable.
“What Mr Rumsfeld forgets is that none of the claims against Hicks and Habib have ever been substantiated by an independent body. Instead, they are being held on the advice of the same intelligence and military agencies which advised the American and Australian governments that stockpiles of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ existed in Iraq,” Gotterson said.
Australians have been “shocked and outraged” at the acts of terrorism which had cost innocent people their lives, Gotterson said. But, he added, they should also be alarmed at the prospect of “justice being pre-empted by politicians who seem intent on playing the role of prosecutor, judge and jury”.
Gotterson called on the Australian Government to look beyond its own political interest in dealing with this matter. He said that they should work towards securing the basic legal rights “which all Australian citizens are entitled to, irrespective of where they are detained and in what circumstances”.