Hicks conviction illegal: US govt

It’s now official! The US government admits Guantanamo inmate of six years, David Hicks, was not legally convicted, and therefore was illegally held in an Australian jail also.

Hicks conviction illegal: US govt

The US government has formally acknowledged that David Hicks’ conviction for “material support for terrorism” was illegal.

Hicks pleaded guilty to the charge to get out of Guantanamo Bay, where he had been held for more than five years, and tortured, he says.

The formal admission by the US government comes in a brief dated 16 January 2015, written by Brigadier General Mark Martins. It comes in a case where Hicks has appealed his conviction, claiming that the law used to convict him was passed after the events for which he was detained, and could not be used retrospectively.

According to the US public interest journalism site, ProPublica, the latest US admission is a “striking retreat for the American government”.

“The Bush administration initially described Hicks as among the ‘worst of the worst’, the label used for the men held in Guantanamo. And in 2007, when Hicks was still in Guantanamo, the American ambassador in Australia, Robert D. McCallum Jr., described the Guantanamo detainees as ‘ruthless fanatics who would kill Australians and Americans without blinking an eye.’ “

But of more interest now is what the current Australian Coalition government will do to compensate Hicks for locking him up for seven months when he was flown back to Australia after pleading guilty to a non-crime in America.

The Australian government was told at the time that the charge Hicks had pleaded guilty was not a crime; it was also told that the military commission regime was not a proper legal process. Yes still the Howard Coalition government locked Hicks up in Yatala prison in Adelaide.

Photo: Howard and Ruddock in 2004 – The Age
Photo: Howard and Ruddock in 2004 – The Age

Some people think Hicks, the first person to go through the farcical military commission hearing process, was given made-to-order, fast-tracked “justice” at the behest of Prime Minister John Howard and Attorney-General Phllip Ruddock, who wanted him out of Guantanamo to defuse protests before a federal election in Australia.

There is no doubt Hicks is entitled to compensation from the Australian government: he was locked up on a trumped-up, non-charge which the Howard-Ruddock axis chose to accept as legal, when they were publicly advised it was not. He should also be entitled to compensation from the American government.

All those who argued the essential illegality of the Hicks detention, charging and jailing are now totally vindicated. It has taken more than a decade, but justice has at last poked its head above the parapet.

  Bill Rowlings, CEO, Civil Liberties Australia

 Read the excellent ProPublica rundown on the Hicks case, by Raymond Bonner and click for the full US brief to the court

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