Monday, November 01, 2010

COMMENT: Why David Hicks matters ...

I've just started reading David Hicks' memoirs. I'm upto the part where he travels to Pakistan and spends time with the Tabligh Jamaat, an international Muslim missionary effort founded in India during the early 1940's. So many young Muslims have been with the TJ at some stage or other, myself included.

Hicks has gove to Pakistan after spending some time with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) who were fighting with the support of the United States and its NATO alies. Some fruitloops like to claim that the KLA was ome kind of al-Qaeda outfit. That's a bit like saying that the Vatican is a product of the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church.

Cynthia Banham reminds us in a column for the Sydney Morning Herald of why Hicks' memoirs are important. Here are some excerpts.

... Hicks's memoirs are an important development for our democracy.
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Why? The Howard and Rudd governments failed to investigate his allegations of abuse, mistreatment and torture while in US custody. Consequently, this is likely to be our only insight into what happened to him.

I haven't yet read Leigh Sales' book about Hicks so I can't confirm or deny this. Then again, I think Sales' book was published when Hicks was still at the gulag.

As a liberal democracy, the manner in which our government treats Australian citizens, or permits them to be treated by foreign states, in a time of war or national security crisis - or any time - should concern us.

It should concern us unless we are carried away by the hysteria of those who want us to ignore legal obligations and act on our emotions.

But Hicks pleaded guilty in a court, did he not? Certainly that was John Howard's line before two shoes were thrown in his direction in an ABC studio. And what kind of court was it?

... Hicks never got a day in a court to consider his claims - a properly constituted court, which followed accepted rule-of-law procedures ... He was tried by a farcical military commission that the British refused to let its own citizens be subjected to, and that President Barack Obama has denounced as flawed.

The Skaf brothers, Ivan Milat and Martin Bryant had their days before a properly constituted court. Was Hicks ever found to have raped or murdered anyone?

Do yourself a favour and go out and read this book. It's written in such simple language that even Tim Blair might understand it.

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

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