UN committee finds Australia breached David Hicks' rights

UN committee finds Australia breached David Hicks' rights

SBS World News Radio: A United Nations committee has found the Australian government breached the human rights of former Guantanamo Bay inmate, David Hicks.

Mr Hicks's lawyer says he is disappointed the committee has not ordered the Australian government to pay his client compensation.

He says, if Mr Hicks wants his help, he will consider taking new legal action on the strength of the UN finding.

David Hicks's lawyer, Stephen Kenny, says he knew this day would come.

"From the very beginning, when I realised they were taking David beyond the law, I thought, 'You just can't do that.' I mean, this is not the action of a civilised country."

The UN Human Rights Committee has found Australia violated Mr Hicks's human rights when it imprisoned the Australian for seven months following his release from Guantanamo Bay.

It was part of a prisoner transfer deal the government made with the United States in 2007.

The committee's chairman, Fabian Salvioli, said in a statement Mr Hicks's sentence was the result of what he called a "flagrant denial of justice".

Mr Kenny says it is a vindication but he believes the finding does not go far enough.

"I was disappointed to see that there was no order that compensation be paid to David. I think that is the most disappointing aspect. I think that David would still be very keen to look at the compensation aspect, and that's a matter that I'll no doubt consider."

The committee's finding comes 12 months after then-prime minister Tony Abbott said he would NOT make an apology to David Hicks.

Mr Hicks was arrested in Afghanistan in 2001 and sent to the US's notorious Guantanamo Bay prison facility in Cuba the following year.

There he remained for five years, without charge, until a US military commission convicted him for "providing material support for terrorism" in 2007.

Mr Kenny says he's ready to take new legal action against the Australian government.

But he admits he is not sure how he would go about turning a UN committee decision into a law suit in Australia.

"Good question. I'm not an expert on UN law and the application to Australia. I think I'll need some advice on that one."

Fiona McLeod is the president-elect of the Law Council of Australia.

"There's not, I wouldn't have thought, a legal remedy flowing from the committee finding but certainly he has now some political options available to him."

She says the government could make an ex-gratia payment to Mr Hicks if it decided it was in the public interest to do so.

Australia's attorney-general at the time was Philip Ruddock, the so-called "father of the house" who is now set to retire from politics.

He says an ex gratia payment would not be appropriate.

"No, I think the Australian government took the view that at all times it had acted in accordance with the laws of Australia, and that this was a conviction."

Mr Ruddock is to become Australia's first special envoy for human rights at the United Nations.

He says he stands by the government's handling of the case, particularly as David Hicks had peaded guilty to the military commission charges as part of a plea bargain for his return to Australia.

"My view is that nobody pleads guilty to an offence - particularly as there are consequences - that they are not guilty of. My view is, you contest it. He pleaded guilty."

Stephen Kenny says the UN committee's Hicks decision is an indictment of Australia's leaders at the time.

"I think Ruddock and (PM John) Howard and (Foreign Minister Alexander) Downer should hang their head in shame. I mean, this is effectively a finding that they have breached the human rights of an Australian citizen."



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