David Hicks an Australian who was detained in Guantanamo Bay as a terrorist, recently Hicks said ‘he was pleased the authorities seemed to have concluded that his conviction at Guantanamo was ‘unfair’ and ‘obtained through duress’, he went on to say ‘I feel like this acknowledges Guantanamo Bay and everything is illegal.’ The question here is are David Hicks assumptions correct and does the government believe that his ‘Human Rights’ were violated in Guantanamo Bay and also under Australia’s current legal and political system, would those same Human Rights issues be adequately provided for?
David Hicks made a personal choice to embrace the Islamic faith, which lead him to Afghanistan where he chose to take up arms and train in the Taliban and Al Qaeda training camps. In December, 2001, David Hicks was captured by the Northern Alliance, who were searching for foreign nationals believed to have been involved with the Taliban. Hicks when captured had already discarded his military uniform for civilian clothes and he was making for the border of Pakistan. He was handed over to the US Military; transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he was held for almost six years without a trial. It was this incrassation and his accusations of mistreatment at the hands of the American Military, that have sparked much debate in Australia as to his “human Rights’ whilst in detention of suspected terrorists.
There is no doubt that Federal laws passed since the 11 September 2001’ due to the ‘War on Terror’, which escalated with the bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York City, have represented an extraordinary challenge for human rights protection in Australia. This outright act of aggression followed by the Bali bombings on the 12th October, 2002, in which 88 Australians were killed, was to change many lives, terrorism was now considered a threat to national and personal security and it had also become a challenge to our legal system. Erosion of legislative rights is at the heart of this challenge; which traditionally was assumed to be the fundamental basis within Australia’s common law system. The critical challenge facing Australia is how to effectively respond to the threat of terrorism without abandoning the fundamental human rights principles that are essential to the maintenance of the rule of law and the hallmark of free and democratic societies.’ (Klein, 2011).
Prior to the 11th September, 2001, only the Northern Territory had laws that dealt specifically with terrorism. Australia was ill-equipped for the ramifications of acts of aggression perpetrated against Australians, like the Bali bombings, nor was our legal system equipped to deal with ‘Australian Nationals’ who like David Hicks were caught in foreign countries and accused of being involved in acts of aggression against Australian sovereignty.
Over the past ten (10) years Australia has seen the turbulent enactment of many new laws, which were often introduced in great haste, federal Parliament alone has passed 54 new statutes running into many hundreds of pages. This legislation has had unprecedented reach, from laws covering new sedition offences, the restriction of freedom of speech and broader censorship rules. Australian Citizens can be detained and questioned for up to a week by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (‘ASIO’); held under house arrest for up to a year under control orders; for up to 14 days detention without charge or trial; warrantless searches by...