18 July 2006

Speaking Ethically No. 5

By Rod Benson

July 2006

Australian citizen David Hicks has been in indefinite detention by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay for almost five years without trial – half of this time without charge.

Most agree he has made major errors of judgment, and some argue he gets what he deserves. Yet Hicks’s short-lived dalliance with the Taliban does not absolve the U.S. government and its allies from their responsibility to uphold the rule of law, and to respect people’s basic human dignity and human rights.

Two significant publications last month highlight the erosion of these principles and shed light on what is happening at Guantanamo Bay. The first is a report by Peter Vickery QC to the Victorian section of the International Commission of Jurists. It notes that indefinite detention and unfair trial by Military Commission has no application to U.S. citizens and breaches international law, and alleges Australian complicity in this conduct. The report suggests that terrorism is inadvertently corrupting the West’s foundational values.

The second publication, an article by Alfred McCoy in the June issue of The Monthly, describes the torture and other human rights abuses applied by the U.S. military and the CIA to David Hicks. It is shocking reading. McCoy says that Australians can “break with Canberra’s policy and press their government to honour its [human rights] commitments,” or commend the government in placating a powerful ally.

To do the latter would diminish our moral authority as a nation. To do nothing is cowardly and un-Christian. The issue is not whether Hicks is guilty. The issue is barbarism and lawlessness on the part of so-called “civilized” nations in response to terrorism.

The President of the Baptist Union of Australia, Dr Ross Clifford, wrote to the Prime Minister on 7 June, urging his government to expedite legal and political matters to ensure a fair trial for Hicks. This is a matter on which all Australian Christians should also have an informed view worth expressing to their federal members of Parliament.

More information:

· “David Hicks FAQ,” http://www.ag.gov.au/agd/WWW/ministerruddockhome.nsf/Page/RWP7546CD03855E60ABCA2570640080F973
· “ICJ (Vic) Report on David Hicks and Guantanamo Bay,” www.icj-aust.org.au
· “The outcast of Camp Echo,” The Monthly, June 2006, http://www.themonthly.com.au
· Information on Federal Members of Parliament: http://www.aph.gov.au/whoswho/index.htm

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