03 June 2006

Lawyers speak up for Hicks

Today's Australian prints a an open letter to the Prime Minister from John Dowd of the International Commission of Jurists Australian section. The letter, the names of its 76 signatories and an ICJ report David Hicks and Guantanamo Bay by Peter Vickery QC can be found here.

Apart from not stating a specific remedy, eg getting Hicks out of Guantanamo as soon as possible, the letter is very forthright :

As Australian lawyers, we wish to bring it to your attention that the imprisonment of David Hicks at Guantanamo Bay and his proposed trial by a US Military Commission are illegal under international law.

Whether or not Hicks is guilty or innocent is not the issue. The illegality lies in the process of indefinite detention and unfair trial by military commission, a process which expressly has no application to any US citizen.

Notwithstanding contrary positions adopted by the US, the protections of international humanitarian and human rights law, as reflected in the Geneva Convention and the Civil and Political Rights Covenant, remain applicable to Hicks. Both the US and Australia are parties to these treaties and are bound by them. However, Australia has failed to comply with its obligations and fulfill its responsibilities under international law and has been complicit in the conduct of the US.

The imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay and the unfair trial of Hicks by military commission are an affront to international legal standards, indeed all civilised legal standards. President George W. Bush has claimed the unilateral authority to try people nominated by him as suspected terrorists in a system which is wholly outside the traditional civilian and military judicial systems. He seeks to conduct such trials before people who are his chosen subordinates. The military commissions deny the basic rights to an independent and impartial trial and the procedures do not exclude evidence obtained by coercion, including the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.


If Australia fails to join the UK in condemning these violations, it not only fails in its duty to one of its citizens, it also plays a part in undermining international legal order. This is not in our own interests, nor is it in the interests of our strategic partner. It is therefore imperative that Australia encourages the US to respect the principles of the rule of law and the protection of the bedrock freedoms which are enshrined in the major international law treaties.

The menace of terrorism is real. However, to meet the danger, the world needs not only a military solution but renewed and sustained commitment to the rule of law and to fundamental principles of human dignity and respect for human rights. This is the shared heritage of a civilised world. Unless we are vigilant, terrorism may achieve the destruction of these values. We should not give it such a victory.
John Dowd QC
President, International Commission of Jurists Australian Section

The PM has already backed down once this week (over the proposed Snowy privatisation) so it's probably asking too much for a man of his political acumen to shift his ground again so soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for drawing attention to this injustice.