The majority of people around the world have probably never heard of David Hicks or if they ever knew the name have all bar forgotten who he was, the troubles he got himself into… and the abandonment of this Australian citizen by the politicians who were sworn to protect his rights.
I’m not one to claim David was perfect by any means. He was a badly educated somewhat mentally unstable loner who, for reasons of his own, decided to go to fight first with the ‘Kosovo Liberation Front’, then with the Taliban, and lastly with Al Qaeda.
That he ‘underwent training’ of some sort with each of these organisations seems acceptable enough in the story as told but what concerns us is his treatment after the 9/11 attacks on the USA and the offensive that unseated the Taliban power base in Afghanistan, and resulted in David’s unlawful detention and imprisonment by US troops.
There is no need for me to go into his case in detail, if you want to follow it up most can be found in his Wikipedia article. which covers his history, his supposed offences and the resultant drawn out machinations of the bureaucracy that kept him imprisoned for almost 8 years.
What incensed me at the time of his detention and torture by the USA is what *still* incenses me today… that is his almost total abandonment by the Liberal government of the day headed by John Howard. It’s clear from all articles that at the time David was detained he had committed no crime that would result in a trial in either the USA or Australia, yet instead of demanding he be repatriated, as Tony Blair did for UK prisoners, John Howard simply left David to rot.
Yes he eventually pleaded guilty of a crime and was convicted… but both offence and conviction was carried through by a military court procedure created specifically to try him. That his treatment was against both the terms and the spirit of the Geneva Convention is beyond doubt. That he felt he had no alternative other than plead guilty is also beyond doubt. Has he not done so he could well have remained imprisoned in solitary confinement for many more years.
Since being back in Australia he has served the remainder of his sentence and is now released but under a ‘Control Order’ restricting his freedoms significantly. Recently he was has appealed through the GetUp organisation for the Control Order to not be renewed by the Australian Federal Police. Luckily the Rudd government has more political nous than the Liberals they replaced and they have said when the Order expires on 21st December it will not be renewed.
UPDATE – AFP NOT TO RENEW ORDER. STATEMENT FROM DAVID HICKS:
“Today’s AFP decision is a great relief for my family and me. I owe the Australian people a lot. I want to thank all Australians for their support. The decision not to renew my control order will allow me for the first time to now move on with my life.Thank you.”
That David was an idiot is beyond question. That he might have fought for the Taliban is a distinct possibility though not proven. That he has been treated abysmally by the Governments of two friendly nations is beyond question. The abandonment of David Hicks to torture in the hell-hole of Guantanamo Bay is a blot on the face of Australian history.