Wednesday 12 January  2005

Kay Danes Former HOSTAGE of the Communist Regime of Lao PDR
Advocate Foreign Prisoners Support Services

RE: Human Rights Advocate, Kay Danes, speaks out about Australian Prisoner returning home after torture ordeal by US Government Authorities

I am indeed pleased that common sense has finally prevailed following the announcement made this week that fellow Australian Mamdouh Habib, will soon be reunited with his family in Australia.
The Sydney man was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 and has been in US custody without charge for more than three years on suspicion of terrorism.

Australian Minister Philip Ruddock stated that it is unlikely Habib will be charged under Australian laws, but will remain a 'person of interest' in a security context.

Habib's wife Maha, says that she would like the opportunity to prove her husband's innocence against the accusations that he is a terror suspect.

There is a definite need for the Australian Government, to establish an International Court that would provide a legal avenue for Australians wrongfully convicted overseas, to have their cases re-presented in an 'Open' and 'Lawful' Judicial system.

An increasing number of Australians and foreigners are being unlawfully detained throughout the world, ill-treated and tortured by Governments that violate United Nation Mandates and Human Rights Agreements; under the guise of 'National Sovereignty' or the 'War on Terror'.

Once a person has been subjected to the type of ill-treatment and torture that Habib himself endured in Guantanamo, or that my husband Kerry Danes and I endured in the communist prison camp in Laos in 2000-2001, the road to recovery can almost be as frightening as the experience itself.

Much like Habib, my husband and I were unlawfully detained and tortured by Lao PDR authorities in an attempt to extract false confessions. Though the Australian Government lobbied diligently for our release, confident of our innocence, they still couldn't prevent the ill-treatment we endured, or the wrongful conviction we were given in a closed court.  Though we were granted a Presidential Pardon and returned home on 9 November 2001, the damage had already been done when the first brutal interrogation began.

Habib will discover, as we did, that the nightmare is haunting; and living with an unlawful conviction or the stigma of being labelled a criminal, is emotionally torturous and defeating. It also presents an array of practical problems that affect employment, travel and re-adjusting to 'normal daily life'.
I can only hope that his family remain strong and seek professional counselling to help them cope, particularly the children.  Our son is now 11 years old and still thinks I am going to be kidnapped by secret police wielding guns.

Trauma has a lasting effect on children. They don't have to be detained in a prison camp to suffer similar affects of Post Traumatic Stress, that is common amongst political prisoners and persons held hostage.

The family of Fellow Australian, David Hicks, of Adelaide, are also suffering as a result of Hick's unlawful detainment by the US Government. Hicks is due to face trial by a military commission in March 2005. He is the only Australian still detained at Guantanamo Bay.

It doesn't end there.

Noorpolat Abdulla, a 31-year-old Australian citizen, was convicted in a closed court in 2001 and sentenced 15 years imprisonment. He too was accused of preparing a terrorist attack in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, in Central Asia.  Since his conviction, his family, which maintains the father of two is innocent, have lobbied for his release.

Recently, they've gone public with their disquiet at the Australian Government's handling of the case. They claim the Government did not do enough to ensure an open and fair hearing and say its left the former Adelaide resident to rot in a prison camp straight out of Stalin's gulag.

If Abdulla survives a third of his sentence, he will be able to apply to the Kazakhstan authorities for clemency. His family wait anxiously for the time to pass in the hope, that Abdulla will also return to the country he loves [Australia] and the son who was born following his imprisonment, whom he has yet to meet.

"All persons should have the right to justice, where it has so blatantly been denied." - Kay Danes

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