LCA says Howard "deceptive" about Hicks delay

According to the Law Council of Australia, the Prime Minister engaged in "blame-shifting" about delays in bringing David Hicks to a military commission hearing when he said Mr Hicks and his lawyers have impeded his trial.

Speaking from Washington, Law Council President John North said: “David Hicks languished powerless in custody, principally at Guantanamo Bay, for a period of 30 months before he was even charged with any offence. The Government did nothing during that period to expedite proceedings against him.”

Mr North said that comments made at the time about Mr Hicks by former Australian Government Ministers such as former Attorney-General Daryl Williams and former Defence Minister Robert Hill, indicated their complete "indifference to his fate.”

According to Mr North, Mr Hicks remained "completely at the mercy" of the Pentagon’s faux court, until the US Supreme Court’s June 2004 ruling that US courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad and held at Guantanamo Bay.

“It is perfectly understandable that Mr Hicks then sought access to the US court system as an alternative to a military commission,” he said.

The Law Council argued that even then, it was other cases, in some of which Mr Hicks had no involvement, that have led to US authorities granting a stay in the military commission proceedings against him.

Mr North said the case of Hamdan v Rumsfeld, not involving Hicks, has gone all the way to the Supreme Court and a decision in that case is expected in a few weeks.

According to the Law Council, if the Supreme Court finds that the military commission process is fatally flawed, then there will be no hearings against Mr Hicks or any other of the detainees who have been actually charged with offences.

Mr North said the Prime Minister could not blame Hicks for the delay of his trial.

"The Prime Minister is seeking to rewrite history by shifting the blame about delays on to Mr Hicks himself," he said.

"But it has been the US authorities, under no pressure from Australian authorities, who have presided over a drawn out process designed to avoid real judicial scrutiny of the disgrace that is Guantanamo Bay”.

19 May, 2006

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