Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Doug Melville and Duncan Beard (Thursday, comments) misunderstand the legitimate detention of David Hicks under the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC) based on The Hague and Geneva Conventions. Whether Hicks’ separate criminal trial before a US military commission was legal, fair or otherwise, his fundamental status as a captured belligerent under LOAC forms the absolute base of how international humanitarian law applies to his predicament. Hicks did not qualify for recognition as a prisoner-of-war under the Third Geneva Convention (by even the most flexible interpretation) but he was also not just an unarmed civilian bystander protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention. However, he was and remains covered by Common Article 3 of all four Geneva Conventions and Article 75 of Additional Protocol 1. Indeed, in the June 2006 Hamdan test case the US Supreme Court struck down separate criminal trial by military commissions for some detainees (including Hicks) primarily because they violated the Geneva Conventions. The Court also noted that it did not challenge the longstanding international right of the US Government to detain captured enemy belligerents (of all types) until hostilities in Afghanistan ceased. Moreover, only two per cent of the detainees are also facing criminal trial but all are detained to prevent them resuming hostilities. David Hicks is either covered by the Geneva Conventions and wider LOAC or he is not. If he is so covered, the tough individual responsibility parts (such as detention until hostilities cease or release on parole is possible) apply as much as the more favourable personal protection ones.

John Goldbaum writes: Re.”The Shoulder Index” (Thursday, item 12). “David Hicks has said he wasn’t tortured. David Hicks has said he was not dealt with illegally.” John Howard’s shoulder could have rested easily. Neither statement contradicts Hicks’ prior claims of mistreatment and abuse. It is not illegal in the US to use coercive interrogation techniques which fall short of causing end-stage organ damage. It is not called torture in America. By the way, David Hicks didn’t say he wasn’t tortured. All he stated in his plea agreement was: “I have never been illegally treated by any person or persons while in the custody and control of the US.” That’s the truth. Sad, isn’t it?

Terence Kidd writes: I continue to read with amazement how so many people get their knickers in a twist over David Hicks. There is no doubt that Hicks was not a terrorist but he did by his acts support some dodgy organisations. He was caught supporting the wrong side and was imprisoned. I have no doubt he was also interrogated while he was detained, and that should have been the end of it. Any interrogation worthy of the name should have established very early on that he was no more than a foot soldier and not worthy of further imprisonment. Yet here, I believe is where the waters became muddied. The Howard Government were faced with simply having him released back to Australia where no laws existed to charge him, or control what he did, plus his example was needed to justify the war on terror. What a conundrum for the Attorney-General to solve. Solution? Leave him in Guatanamo Bay. Hicks’ wrong decisions, heaped upon by government wrong decisions resulting in umpteen blogs about a silly young man who could not find enough “adventure” at home. He will be back in Oz soon, will be able to say what he likes about what he did, will no doubt exaggerate to some extent to make the story more lurid, and will make a motza from the media frenzy. Enough already, let’s all move on.

Adam Lyons writes: Helen Barnes (Thursday, comments) disagrees with Peter Faris and asks “Why does Crikey continue to publish this man?” Does Helen want to only read comments that she supports? Unlike all other media organisations, Crikey will publish many points of view. That is what makes Crikey worth the money. Like Helen, I too, find it difficult to see how a QC can take the stance that Peter Faris takes. I ask Peter two questions. a) Do you think you could have successfully defended Hicks? b) Would you have accepted the plea bargain if you thought the cards were stacked against him?

Leith Daniel writes: I finally get it. Crikey isn’t trying to appear balanced by having “Left-wing” commentators offset by the illogical, bitter rantings of Christian Kerr and Peter Faris. Crikey wants to encourage “Left” thinking by providing “Right-wing” commentators so unworthy of respect and entirely lacking in sense that no one will ever agree with their arguments. Surely.

Nicholas Montgomery writes: Re. “Job done, Mugabe will melt away … eventually” (Thursday, item 19). Last week Guy Rundle was sitting around and pontificating about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the “smart politician” with great PR skills. Now he is making the case that white farmers are, even now, responsible for Mugabe’s terror. Sorry Guy, such a Marxist argument revolving around “black liberation” has long been exposed a fraud by: Mugabe’s shameless attacks on black squatters and the poor, brutal suppression of black opposition members, and corrupt economic policies that favor “the party” over ordinary black citizens. Mugabe’s rotten. We should sternly acknowledge that and follow the South African formula: sanctions, boycotts, protests and support of Zimbabweans black or white.

Peter Lloyd writes: How amusing and ironic that Barry Chipman’s latest volley (Thursday, comments) assumes that “these few critics” are the only opposition to his beloved pulp mill: he knows that at least 60% of Launceston and Tamar residents oppose the mill. And I’m happy to patiently reiterate that the pro-mill “protests” could be held in a shipping container, while anti-mill rallies attract many thousands. So perhaps we can have a bit less of this cr-p about who has the numbers, Baz, although mill advocates must be wondering what value they’re getting from their massive PR spend. Gunns telling the ASX that they expect no problems with the mill approval at the same time Paul Lennon is trying to convince us it’s all uncertain does have the effect of giving the game away. Chipman deliberately misses my point about pulp mill emissions when he says: “The assessment panel, including Dr Raverty, found that … (the pulp mill) has effectively eliminated dioxins”. I acknowledged in my last correspondence that Dr Raverty does not expect the emissions to be toxic: but the emission of hydrogen sulphide and methyl mercaptan will stink up the valley and the atmospheric conditions in the valley will not likely disperse the smells. Additionally, steam emissions will create dangerous road conditions at the same time as there will be a massive increase in the number of heavy vehicles movements. As always, Barry demands the viability of his little industry, even at the expense of everyone else’s. Mill advocates will use any tactic to prevent the truth getting out, and to vilify anyone speaking out. There are a few issues for you to get “up to date” on, Baz.

Sonja Davie writes: In response to Barry Chipman. Isn’t having Gunns in charge of managing Tasmania’s native forests a bit like having the fox in charge of the henhouse?

Vivien Rice writes: Re. “Politics and forestry in Tasmania: splitting the wood from the trees” (Thursday, item 3). My memory tells me it was Robin Gray’s credibility as a witness which was questioned by the Commissioner (not Paul Lennon’s as stated — although, in the light of recent events, this wouldn’t be surprising). Here’s my penny’s worth of extra spice to add to this incestuous “web of affiliation”. As you mentioned, Paul Lennon replaced Ken Wriedt as Labor MHA for Franklin in 1989. Ken Wriedt’s daughter, Paula Wriedt, is now Minister for Tourism, Arts and the Environment in Paul Lennon’s Cabinet.

Bill Lambert writes: Re. “Less light but still plenty of heat” (Thursday, item 22). Where does Michael Pascoe get his ideas from? There is no way the turbines slow down to cover a small dip in load! Our generation is at 50Hz which equates to a generator speed of 3000 rpm. What happens is the throttle steam flow is reduced (less coal burnt, directly proportional to reduced load) and less power is available at the turbine shaft. Less electricity is therefore generated by the generator. Suggest Mr Pascoe talks to an engineer before he sounds off in future.

Moira Smith writes: Matt Hardin (Thursday, comments) tries to estimate carbon dioxide production from a generic candle. The real point is that everything in a candle is of recent origin. When we burn fossil fuels we are consuming carbon sequestered hundreds of millions of years ago, that does not belong in our current atmosphere, and can profoundly affect the balance of gases and hence our climate.

Michael Byrne writes: Re. The responses to Charles Richardson’s crass comments concerning family life (Thursday, comments). One correspondent suggests anyone with a “religious bent” should declare it when commenting on Crikey matters. Just as one can work within a moral framework without being of a religious faith, people of faith can surely engage independently in rational civic debate. And we generally participate at the grass root issue level. As regards another correspondent, she enumerated 5-0 count of men to women offering critical comment; well that has changed to 5-1. Could that represent the gender ratio of Crikey readers? Anyhow, it is not as unrepresentative as the number of women parliamentarians who participate in conscience votes in support of the “sisterhood” issues that really do require higher, fuller thought than mere gender solidarity.

Cassandra writes: Re. Henry Thornton. Cassandra doesn’t like it when Henry refers to himself in the third person. Cassandra thinks it’s both pretentious and slightly creepy. Cassandra suggests that Henry “Gollum” Thornton cease being quite so precious in the way he uses his language!

Thursday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 10: “… will line the pockets of the group that constitutes the heart and sole of the National Party – irrigators.” Try “heart and soul”.

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