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Hicks and Habib focus of bishop's Human Rights Day message

Bishop Christopher Saunders of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) has issued a Human Rights Day call on the Federal Government to act now to secure justice for two Australians who have been detained for over three years in US interrogation facilities.

"On International Human Rights Day, we celebrate the rights that underpin our Australian way of life," said Bishop Saunders, ACSJC Chairman. "It is appropriate to consider the plight of two fellow Australians, Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks. For years, they have been denied fundamental rights afforded under international law.

"Reputable international organisations like Amnesty and the Red Cross have repeatedly raised concerns about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay - suggesting it has been tantamount to torture. And in recent times, US Courts have made rulings that put in doubt the lawfulness of their continuing detention and the ability of the military tribunals to ensure a fair hearing."

Bishop Saunders admitted that many Australians would be wondering about the guilt or innocence of David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib in relation to possible terrorist offences.

"We must remember, however, that it is the Australian way to settle questions of guilt or innocence in a court of law that ensures all the proper protections of the rule of law, including the presumption of innocence," he insisted.

Bishop Saunders said the detention of Hicks and Habib has "gone on for too long".

"We call on the Australian Government to negotiate with the US an end to the detention and to ensure the Australians have immediate access to the ordinary process of justice in a non-military court."

Bishop Saunders commended the efforts of lawyers such as Stephen Kenny and Steven Hopper who continue to act on behalf of the two Australians and to raise these vital legal and human rights issues in national debate.

He has been concerned about the fate of Hicks and Habib for some time. In November 2003, Bishop Saunders wrote to Attorney-General Philip Ruddock calling on the Government to do more to secure natural justice for the two Australians.

Don't forget Hicks and Habib on Human Rights Day (Australian Catholic Social Justice Council 10/12/04)

Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Fair Go for David

Council urges Govt to insist on human rights at Guantanamo Bay (CathNews 10/12/03)
Bishop says Govt can do more for Hicks and Habib (13/11/03)
Press Council backs church official on unfair "traitor" headline (CathNews 14/11/03)

10 Dec 2004