For the first time since his son David Hicks was first imprisoned, Terry Hicks is set to meet Attorney-General Philip Ruddock face to face this week. After almost five years, David Hicks remains imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay despite the fact that he is yet to go to trial.

Charges against Hicks of attempted murder, aiding the enemy and conspiracy were struck out in June when the US Supreme Court ruled the commission unlawful. Shadow Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has said that it’s a critical time for the Howard Government to act. “Charges have not yet been laid under the new military commission process and the US has made clear they would like to return as many people as they can to other countries.” 

A growing number of federal parliamentarians are concerned about the delays in the Hicks case and the government is looking increasingly isolated. Crikey has created a working list to see who, at a glance, wants Hicks home and who doesn’t.

Bring Hicks home:

The Law Council of Australia: A new law passed by the US Congress will not provide a fair trial for David Hicks and guarantees another drawn-out appeal to the US Supreme Court, according to Tim Bugg, President of the Law Council of Australia.

All State Attorneys General: recently signed the Freemantle Declaration, which “affirms and upholds the basis of law which we rely” on. The declaration upholds the right for a fair trial, the prohibition of detention without trial, the prohibition of torture and the prohibition of the death penalty.

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley: Beazley said last week that it’s time for Prime Minister John Howard to demand US President George W Bush bring terror suspect David Hicks to trial or send him home.

The Democrats: Last week a motion from Australian Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja, calling for Hicks to be brought back to Australia, was defeated 33-31. The Democrats’ motion noted that Hicks was yet to be charged under the new act and that its provisions meant he would not have a fair trial.

Lawyers and former judges: A former federal solicitor general, Gavan Griffith QC, and former judge, Alistair Nicholson, are among a group of lawyers who said a replacement military commission didn’t meet with the Geneva conventions and the war crimes provision of Australian law. “It really is a joke in terms of the idea of a fair trial,” Mr Nicholson said.

Greens Senator Bob Brown: In August 2005, the Greens’ Bob Brown proposed in the Senate: “That the Senate calls on the Government of the United States of America to immediately return Australian citizen Mr David Hicks to Australia.” The motion was defeated fifty-three votes to eight, with Labor joining the Coalition to vote the proposal down. Fifteen senators, mostly Labor, did not vote.

Former PM Malcolm Fraser: “Why is it that the Australian Government continues to imply in effect, whatever its words, that David Hicks does not deserve basic justice?” Fraser wrote in The Age in October. “Australia should be most concerned at this total desertion and the total betrayal of the basic civil rights of David Hicks.”

Liberal MP Danna Vale: Liberal backbencher Danna Vale, declared her support for Hicks being brought home late last year… Vale told ABC Radio: “This fellow does not seem to be able to access any justice at all. I’m concerned he will die there [in Guantanamo Bay] …And if he does die there, what have I done, as an MP, to speak up for his case? He has already done four years, and four years in the most inhumane conditions.”

Bono, lead singer of U2: U2 used the opening concert of their Australian tour to campaign for the terrorist suspect David Hicks to be released from Guantanamo Bay.

Leave him in Guantanamo:

Prime Minister John Howard: The PM told Southern Cross Broadcasting last week, “I am not happy about the time that is being taken but people should understand that if he is brought back to Australia he can’t be tried for these offences because they were not offences under Australian law at the time they are alleged to have taken place.”

Health Minister Tony Abbott: Mr Abbott responded to last week’s Senate motion by urging his Government colleagues to remember Mr Hicks was captured with Taliban forces in Afghanistan five years ago. “I accept that he’s been there for a long time, but I think that we’ve got to remember that this bloke was plainly up to no good and for that reason I think people are entitled to be concerned about just simply letting him go,” Mr Abbott has said.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock: Ruddock boycotted last week’s meeting between the state Attorneys General and Major Michael Mori, explaining that his attendance would be “inappropriate”. Mr Ruddock declined an invitation to attend as the issue was no business of his state counterparts, his spokesman said.“The fact is … the whole matter of David Hicks is a matter between the Commonwealth and the United States,” he said.

On the fence (calling for a fair trial but not demanding that Hicks be brought home):

Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce: Backing away from his earlier comments that Hicks should be brought home, “…I do believe it’s time he comes back to Australia,” Joyce then put forward a motion calling on the US to bring Hicks to trial quickly. The motion said Hicks was yet to be charged under the US Military Commission Act. Senator Joyce said he was concerned that Hicks was being denied natural justice, but he fell short of demanding that Hicks be brought home. The Senate passed the motion and called on the government to continue pressing the United States to deal with Australian Guantanamo Bay prisoner David Hicks “expeditiously and fairly”.

Church leaders: Australia’s two most senior church leaders condemned the treatment of David Hicks in October and called on the Federal Government to ensure he is given a fair trial as quickly as possible. Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen said Hicks’ detention at Guantanamo Bay for 4½ years without trial was an abuse of human rights. Catholic Archbishop of Sydney George Pell said: “I have long been disturbed by some aspects of David Hicks’ situation. From all accounts we owe him no special favours at all, but he has a right to be brought to trial more quickly than has happened and now as quickly as possible.”

The public: More than 90% of Australians believe Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks deserves a fair trial without delay, according to an October Newspoll surveycommissioned by the group GetUp. And they believe he won’t get that fair trial in the US-run detention centre in Cuba, the survey revealed. The findings showed more than nine out of 10 (91%) of Australians believe Hicks, who has been in detention at Guantanamo Bay for almost five years without trial, should receive a fair trial. 

Peter Fray

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