David Hicks is a deeply
unsympathetic man – but he has rights and freedoms. And rights and
freedoms are what we’re fighting for on the war on terror, even if John
Howard and Alexander Downer and Philip Ruddock don’t like talking about

Just as our government has forgotten freedom, favouring
frightening instead, they’ve tried to forget about David Hicks. He’s
been left to rot in that affront to the ideals they claim to defend,
Guantanamo Bay.

A British High Court judge has ruled that Hicks,
whose mother was born in the United Kingdom, is eligible for British

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is conducting
the war on terror with contempt for the concepts of justice and liberty
that have been his nation’s greatest gift to the world – but at least
his government has refused to recognise US military detention and acted
to remove nine of its citizens from Guantanamo.

Will the decision act as a rude reminder to our own politicians?

Former Liberal minister Danna Vale has broken ranks with the Government to defend Hicks’s rights, most notably in a feature for The Age last month.

while not being drawn on whether the latest move was an embarrassment
for the Australian government, Vale told Crikey today that the British
citizenship must be “encouraging for David.” She says she’s now “just
watching to see what the British government does next.”

It should be “a concern to all Australians” that Hicks will be spending his fifth Christmas in captivity, Vale told Crikey.

Our Prime Minister has refused to say
today whether Australia has made any representations to Britain on
Hicks’s bid to obtain British citizenship. At least Howard – and the
rest of us – have had a reminder of his plight.

Alan Ramsey
might be a curmudgeonly old f*rt, but he can sometimes be a
curmudgeonly old f*rt who flows with righteous prose. We are too
gutless to save one of our own, he wrote last weekend:

David Hicks, apparently, is now the only Westerner left
among Guantanamo Bay’s prisoners. This year, after George Bush decreed
a special US military commission – a system the Americans have not used
since World War II – would try any of the alleged terrorists, eight
countries insisted their nationals at Guantanamo Bay be sent home.

agreed. It repatriated 76 “detainees” to “the custody” of their home
governments in Britain, France, Spain, Sweden, Russia, Saudi Arabia,
Sudan and Afghanistan, according to published reports. Many were freed
on their return. Hicks, the sole “white man” remaining, was left behind
to rot.

John Howard’s Government has abandoned him to the
American military commission system to do with as it will. A month ago,
Hicks’s remarkable US military lawyer, Major Michael Mori – one of five
Americans in Hicks’s legal team – told the Herald’s Washington
correspondent, Michael Gawenda: “He didn’t complain the first time we
met [in December 2003, after Hicks had been at Camp Delta two years].
He just wanted to know why the Australian Government didn’t want him

“I couldn’t understand how Australia could abandon its own
citizen this way. Britain didn’t. Neither did any other European
country. We don’t do that. As an American, there is an expectation that
citizenship means something…”

Not only the Howard Government has
washed its hands of Hicks. Kim Beazley’s Labor Opposition has been just
as miserably spineless in seeking to avoid any political taint from
supporting Hicks…

Not everyone in Australia is, like the Howard
Government and the Beazley Labor Party, blind and deaf to Hicks’s plea
for just treatment and the political frenzy Howard and his ministers,
with Labor’s acquiescence, have whipped up with yet another round of
counterterrorism laws.

There has been no more consistent and clearer voice challenging the Government than that of the Liberals’ own Malcolm Fraser…

Washington’s Guantanamo Bay prison, Fraser wrote: “US authorities and
others have time and again denigrated those in Guantanamo Bay. We have
been told they are the worst of the worst, that they are terrible
people, that they do not deserve the normal protection of the law.
People who make such comments clearly do not understand or believe in
the rule of law. They have taken such views because they believe those
in Guantanamo Bay and others are not ‘people’ like ourselves.

“In a different day and a different time, but within the memory of many, we have heard those words before.”

Amen Alan. Amen Malcolm.

British Home Office may still be able to appeal the High Court’s
ruling. Hicks may still be our problem. But he will be a problem more
and more people around the world will be aware of. Will John Howard,
Alexander Downer and Philip Ruddock still be able to continue to ignore
his rights then?