If you’re held indefinitely without trial in a foreign country, you’d expect your government to do all it can to get you out – or get you a fair trial. You have a right as a citizen.
Yes, I’m talking about David Hicks. The Australian government – the Liberals under John Howard – have been shocking in their treatment of this Australian. In the name of politics, they have left Hicks festering in Guantanamo when they have an absolute duty to see that justice is served on their people. They have made weak statements that they’re encouraging the US government to bring him to trial sooner rather than later. That’s all. And that military trial the US plans to inflict has an appalling standard of justice, which Howard knows and Bush knows.
Why does Howard ignore Hicks? Politics. Like Bush, Howard’s made a meal of terrorism scaremongering. Howard is also kowtowing to Bush because they’re politically likeminded, and Howard’s after a few pennies of trade reward.
(As shown by Amnesty International, this is just one egregious example of the dreadful slide in human rights in Australia under Howard’s watch.)
Of course it’s political. In similar circumstances, Howard’s government has done all it can to aid its citizens. An example is Wang Jianping, held in China for eight years. Despite Hicks' case being stronger (Wang was a Chinese national who had escaped from a Chinese prison, got Australian citizenship, then was locked up again when he returned to China), the Australian government had made repeated representations, and positively crowed about their efforts when he was released. But oh yeah, China’s the enemy and the US is our ally, ergo justice doesn’t apply to Australians equally.
In all probability the case against Hicks is quite weak. But as far as I’m concerned, he could be guilty as sin, but he deserves fair process. If we don’t give fair process to one person, everyone becomes at risk.
I had a friend who was quite happy about Howard’s anti-terrorism laws, and their impingement on due process. He wasn’t a terrorist, so it won’t affect him. But, I said, what if there was a scare relating to China, and he got caught up in the dragnet because he’s Chinese? Maybe because his name is substantially the same as a cousin (which it is) – or a stranger. He could be held in detention in Australia or the US for months – then told to bugger off, we didn’t really want you. This can now happen.
Amnesty has condemned the Howard government. But not all Australians stand with Howard’s mob on this.