Wednesday, April 30, 2008

CRIKEY: They should hang their heads over the Hicks farce ...

Even after David Hicks was released from Guantanamo Bay in a hasty fashion, allegedly conservative cultural warriors like Gerard Henderson and Andrew Bolt kept telling us: Don't have sympathy for this man. He's pleaded guilty so he must be a nasty terrorist!

Now, they should hang their heads in shame. All daily broadsheets are reporting former Guantanamo chief prosecutor US Air Force Colonel Mo Davis' claims that the entire military tribunal process has been a farce. According to Davis, evidence was obtained through prisoner abuse (i.e. torture), and the trials were subject to direct political influence.

Indeed, The Oz reports Davis as saying

... politicians had forced him to prosecute Hicks ... if it had been his choice, Hicks would not have been charged because the case against him was not serious enough.
In other words, Hicks should have been released without having to enter any plea.

Yet former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer kept insisting to us that Hicks would be afforded a fair trial. Indeed, the Howard government were pushing for the Hicks trial to be brought forward.

Essentially, they were pushing for an Australian citizen to be pushed through a kangaroo court system subject to political influence and where evidence was obtained using torture. Clearly the former government didn't regard the fate of an Australian citizen to be of any great importance.

Luckily for the Commonwealth, Hicks continues to instruct his legal team that he doesn't wish to litigate and just wants to get on with his life. Hicks' father says that Hicks is "not ready for anything yet". We can only hope that Hicks will reveal to us the true horror of the Guantanamo experience in a future book.

But just because there aren't any more Aussies at Guantanamo doesn't mean that we should stop making a fuss. Crikey has already reported the tragic case of an al-Jazeera journalist who continues to languish there. Canadian Omar Khadr, a child soldier when taken into US custody in Afghanistan, continues to be ignored by Canada's conservative government.

And the Alex Gibney film Taxi To The Dark Side which tells the story of an Afghan taxi driver beaten to death in US custody, asks some tough questions about the use of torture in the war against terrorism.

As more Australians lose their lives in this war, our government also needs to start asking some tough questions. If Western nations like Australia don't speak out about human rights abuses of our allies, what moral basis will we have to criticise other countries (such as China and Saudi Arabia) for their human rights abuses?

The time has come for the United States to close its Guantanamo Bay prisons and to end extraordinary rendition. Australia is among America's closest allies. We are perfectly positioned to impress upon our ally the self-defeating nature of fighting terror with torture.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

No comments: