Monday, October 24, 2011

Former Guantanamo Detainee David Hicks Speaks with the World Socialist Web Site

By Richard Phillips
In late 2001, Australian citizen David Hicks, 26, was captured in Afghanistan and subjected to beatings, death threats and other forms of abuse by American authorities. In January 2002, he was transported to Guantanamo where he was illegally held for over five years as an alleged terrorist, most of it in solitary confinement.
Hicks was finally repatriated to Australia in May 2007 after he accepted a back-room plea deal orchestrated by the then Australian government of Prime Minister John Howard and the Bush administration. Hicks was given an offer he could not refuse—plead guilty to “providing material support to terrorism” or spend the rest of his life in the Guantanamo Bay hell hole.
In October 2010 Hicks wrote Guantanamo: My Journey detailing his ordeal (see WSWS review). A month earlier, he lodged a formal complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee over Canberra’s refusal to secure his release from Guantanamo. As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Australian government was obliged to make an official response within six months. It has still not done so.
In July this year the federal Labor government initiated legal action aimed at seizing Hicks’s earnings from Guantanamo: My Journey. While Hicks cannot comment on this case, he recently spoke with the World Socialist Web Siteabout his incarceration in Guantanamo and his ongoing demonisation by the Australian media.

Richard Phillips: Can you comment on how the mainstream media has responded to your book? None of the reviews seriously explore the crimes committed against you in Afghanistan and Guantanamo.
David Hicks: The media has mostly attacked my character, demonising me and going on and on about whether I am guilty or not. They’re just not interested in the important questions and how Australian citizens can be abandoned.
Julian Assange is a classic example of someone who might end up in the US hands and who will no doubt be treated unfairly. He could become the next political football for the Australian government, and if it’s not him it’ll be someone else, it’s only a matter of time.
It’s important that people are clear on the main issues: that the law was denied to me and it was politicians who kept me incarcerated, and politicians who set up the so-called plea deal, under the guise of a legal arrangement. I felt like a political prisoner in Guantanamo and I still feel like a political football.
RP: Former Attorney General Phillip Ruddock declared that the Australian government had no responsibility to protect you or demand your release. How would you answer this?
DH: My understanding of the law is that if an Australian citizen alleges that he’s being tortured then the government must investigate. They never did in my case. This was despite the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq and all the photographic evidence of torture.
The Howard government simply relied on US defense department investigations, which were whitewashes, and claimed I’d never been tortured. Julia Gillard has recently stated there’s no need for an independent investigation into my treatment because it was investigated by the American defense department in 2004.
Australian consular officials came to see me in Guantanamo, but not until after I’d been there for years. I told them everything—the beatings and the serious, ongoing psychological stuff and other stuff. I also complained about my back because it was deteriorating badly. It wasn’t just from the stress positions or being kicked in the back many times—but connected to the way I was being held in isolation without exercise for years. I hoped they’d do something to stop it from getting worse. They did nothing and it’s now badly damaged.

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