Attorney-General Philip Ruddock is prepared to pass retrospective legislation if lawyers for David Hicks and his family find a way around the proceeds of crime law, which would otherwise prohibit David Hicks, or members of his family profiting from selling Mr Hicks story.
It should surprise no one that this particular Attorney-General would be prepared to make illegal what is currently legal, even though the notion of retrospective law is offensive to most who believe in the rule of law. After all, Philip Ruddock’s record as a minister in the Howard government has been one of trashing human rights and curtailing legal rights.
Mr Ruddock says that David Hicks has been convicted of serious criminal offences and therefore under the proceeds of crime laws he is not able to receive one red cent from selling his story to the media, or by turning it into a book. And, what’s more David Hicks’ father, Terry, will also be prohibited from making a buck if he writes a book about his son’s experience.
Of course, Mr Ruddock is living in a world of fantasy if he thinks that the Hicks case is like any other that the proceeds of crime law generally covers – i.e. your common garden variety drug trafficker who gets convicted overseas and seeks to sell their story.
Firstly, Mr Hicks was dealt with by a process which, even on the most conservative view imaginable, was simply a kangaroo court – the military commissions established by the Bush Administration to deal with Guantanamo Bay detainees – in which the possibility of proving your innocence was as likely as the Howard government showing genuine compassion towards desperate asylum seekers.
Secondly, the offence to which Mr Hicks pleaded guilty as part of his plea bargain, is itself a retrospective law. The charge of providing material support for terrorism is, as a joint opinion from Australia’s leading international lawyers issued by the Law Council of Australia in March this year concluded, without a doubt, a retrospective law. And even Prime Minister Howard has said that he finds the notion of retrospective criminal laws offensive.
Secondly, it is in the public’s interest that those who have been detained at Guantanamo Bay be able to let the world hear their version of the conditions in which they were imprisoned.
Remember, Guantanamo Bay is no ordinary jail. It has been controversial from its beginning and while the Bush Administration and the Howard government consistently tell the world that prisoners are treated humanely there, the reality it would appear is vastly different.
Governments must be held accountable for the way they treat detainees, and why shouldn’t the community hear David Hicks’ side of the story in this regard?
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David Hicks should not be allowed to profit from glorifying terrorism, but he should be allowed to make money from telling his version of life in Guantanamo Bay and the tortuous legal process that kept him there for so long.