Bishop says Govt must ensure justice for Hicks
Following the resumption of military commission hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Broome's Bishop Christopher Saunders - who chairs the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) - has called on the Australian Government to secure real justice for Australian citizen David Hicks.
The Pentagon yesterday announced that Hicks will become the first Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried by the controversial military commissions since they were stopped last year by legal challenges.
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said he believed Hicks would receive a fair trial despite other countries, including Afghanistan and the UK, demanding their citizens be returned because of major concerns about the process.
"For more than three-and-a-half years David Hicks has been held by the US authorities - for most of this time without being charged," said Bishop Saunders. "One year was a problem, two years a grave concern. But over three years being held in these conditions is appalling and should set alarm bells ringing for all Australians who value their basic human rights."
"Only recently David Hicks was charged by US authorities with conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy. And it is unlikely that subsequent changes to the military commissions that would make them function more like a traditional judge and jury will ensure a fair trial.
Bishop Saunders pointed out that legal experts in Australia and overseas have criticised the military commission process. He alluded to the fact that the Law Council of Australia has said the proposed changes to the military commissions amount to 'tinkering around the edges', and that the standard of justice remains inferior to that afforded before a non-military court.
"Australians believe that all citizens are entitled to their day in court and the protection of the rule of law should they be accused of an offence," Bishop Saunders said. "We believe this right must be guaranteed, regardless of the nature of the charges against an individual. David Hicks should have access to the ordinary processes of justice if he has done anything wrong."
"The detention of David has gone on for too long. I call on the Australian Government to use its best endeavours to end the detention of David Hicks. It should do this by either seeking a proper trial before a non-military court or returning him to Australia", Bishop Saunders concluded.
Government must ensure justice for Hicks (Australian Catholic Social Justice Council 21/9/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Australian Social Justice Council
Military Trial of David Hicks Shaping Up To Be a True Travesty of Justice (Law Council of Australia 21/9/05)
Fair Go For David
Hicks and Habib focus of bishop's Human Rights Day message (CathNews 10/12/04)
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)
Australian bishop calls for restorative justice for prisoners (Independent Catholic News 21/9/05)
22 Sep 2005