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freedom of sorts « Previous | |Next »
January 13, 2005

Military prosecutors with the US Office of Military Commissions informed the Australian embassy in Washington last week that it was dropping charges against Mamdouh Habib, an Australian citizen who has been locked up for three years in foreign countries (Egypt, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay)without proper legal rights. Habib had been apprehended by Pakistani officials in 2001, and sent to his native Egypt, where he alleges that he was tortured. He has been detained for more than three years on suspicion of aiding the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Habib has not been charged with any offence in Pakistan, Egypt, America or Australia.


A hostile Australian Government will offer no apology or compensation.Instead it will ensure that Habib is kept under surveillance by the national security state because of his alleged associations with terrorist networks and because of assurances given to the US.

It looks as if the homeland security apparatus will continue to make his life a misery. Habib is still seen by the national security state to be an enemy combatant in the war agaisnt terrorism. Does this mean increased state repression of Muslims?

Update 14 Jan
Julian Burnside, writing in The Age, says that the US:

...decision to send Habib home is the result of two US court decisions in 2004...In US courts, evidence illegally obtained must be excluded, because the state should not break the law. Both in American and Australian courts, confessions obtained under duress must be excluded, because of their inherent unreliability.Confessions obtained by use of torture are excluded on both grounds.
Burnside says that the Americans had planned to try Guantanamo prisoners in military commissions that would not be bound by the ordinary rules of evidence so that the commissions could receive evidence of confessions obtained by use of torture.

And Australia? How much did the Howard Government know about the treatment of Habib? Why did the Government ask for his return only when evidence obtained by torture was ruled out? Why has Attorney-General Philip Ruddock been so guarded in his comments about the treatment to which Habib has been subjected? Burnside adds that:

The overwhelming inference is that the Australian Government knew or suspected that Habib had been tortured, but believed that a military commission could use evidence obtained this way. .....The Australian Government must have known of the mistreatment of prisoners in Guantanamo; it must have known that the mistreatment was designed to obtain evidence that could only be admissible in a trial that lacked the basic requirements of fairness. And it certainly knew that the victims of this mistreatment included two Australian citizens. The alternative, only slightly less disturbing, is that our Government simply did not care how the Americans treated Australian citizens.

The inference is that the national security state is willing to suspend the law of law because the war on terrorism is a state of emergency.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:10 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (2)

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