January 12th marked 5 years since the incarceration of David Hicks at Guantanamo Bay by the US.
Soon after Hicks was finally charged by US authorities under retrospective laws that did not exist when he was captured. This was probably under pressure from the Australian government, which itself is feeling political heat from an electorate that is uncomfortable with the unending incarceration in horrendous conditions of an Australian citizen by the US.
The five years of inaction from Canberra is part of the price of being in the ‘Coalition of the Willing’. Another reason is the fact that the Australian government itself is moving to undermine democratic rights, as seen by the beefing up of ASIO and the anti-democratic and anti-union laws of late.
Until the last year there has been little or no mainstream media coverage in support of Hicks or even an impartial debate. Recently however, such pressure has been mounted by the Hicks family, campaigners and even theatre groups, that now even the most conservative of the Legal Community in Australia and many sections of the ruling class have publicly opposed the continued detainment without trial.
The abuses at Guantanamo Bay have been known almost since its inception, the blatant human rights abuses, the appalling conditions and the physical torture, to say nothing of the mental torture applied to inmates daily.
All of this, along with the abuses at Abu Grab prison in Iraq, has shown US, UK and Australian imperialist interests for what they are. Along with the hundreds and thousands of casualties in Iraq, such abuses have served to see the ratings of Bush and Blair at an all time low, with Howard, now doing his best to try and maintain his Governments ratings in the face of an outcry from many sections of society.
Phillip Ruddock, under this pressure has been forced to at least ask the US to bring Hicks to trial quickly which led to the recent charges. However there is little faith the Military Commission will allow a fair trial.
It is vital that this campaign, while continuing the legal fight, continues to build a grass roots campaign within the community and within unions, which will add to the mounting pressure to bring Hicks home.
By Denise Dudley