Source: The News Online,10117,19414767-2,00.html?

June 09, 2006

From: AAP

FEDERAL Attorney-General Philip Ruddock today said he had no knowledge of whether Australian David Hicks was ever treated like a "lab rat" or tortured during his four years and five months at the US prison, Guantanamo Bay.

The June issue of The Monthly magazine reports Hicks had suffered "eight months of total isolation in a windowless cell" at the detention facility for prisoners in the US war on terrorism.

But Mr Ruddock skirted around the question of whether Hicks had been subjected to torture.

"It's very difficult to deal with the matters that he (Monthly journalist Alfred W McCoy) raises in generalised terms," Mr Ruddock told ABC radio.

"The idea that somebody is detained seems to me to be the very basis of the complaints.

"Inevitably if you are detained you are isolated from others and if you were held in a jail in Australia you are detained, you are isolated from your family."

Mr Ruddock said the impact on Hicks' health was the inevitable outcome of detention.

"The United States tell us, and I haven't seen it, that their facility now is based upon modern maximum security design used for US penitentiaries," Mr Ruddock said.

The US indifference to the Geneva Convention was justified because others in the war on terrorism were also ignoring it, Mr Ruddock said.

"It's not a conventional war in which others are observing the Geneva Conventions," he said.

"That's the environment in which he (Hicks) is detained.

"I think there are people who want to use, if you were a lawyer you would say technicalities, to try and secure his release."

The Monthly article said Hicks was sold by a Northern Alliance warlord to US forces for $1000 in mid-December 2001.

Once in US custody he was subject to rendition, a US tactic to break prisoners by flying them to foreign lands which are not subject to rules banning torture.

Mr Ruddock said he had no evidence Hicks had been sold to the US.

"When claims have been made, particularly claims of abuse, we have asked for those matters to be investigated," Mr Ruddock said.

"The manner of his apprehension, I wouldn't think, would invalidate any trial.

He said the Australian Government had spent more than $250,000 representing Hicks.

"We have ensured that he has consular representation and I think we've visited him there on some 14 occasions."

The article also said the medical records of Hicks were being used against him inside Guantanamo.

"I've got no information about it so I'm not going to rule in or out matters of which I have no knowledge," Mr Ruddock said.

Earlier this month a group of Australian lawyers wrote an open letter to Prime Minister John Howard arguing that the detention of Hicks was illegal.

The letter, with 76 signatories including four former Supreme and Federal Court judges, also demanded a fair trial for Hicks.

"The point I would make is that you can make those assertions but the question of whether or not he is being held legally is a matter that could be challenged in the United States courts and those who believe he's being held illegally could test it," Mr Ruddock said.

Prime Minister John Howard said today he had discussed Hicks' case with US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during his recent visit to the White House. "We both agreed that it would be a good idea if the military commission trial could come on as soon as possible but we both know that is being held up, not by the American government or by the Australian authorities, it's in fact being held up in the courts in America," Mr Howard said. He denied suggestions Mr Hicks had been subjected to torture since he was handed over by an Afghan warlord in 2001. "That is not a view that is shared by the American administration, and I don't except uncritically everything that is said about the Americans by Mr Hicks' lawyers," Mr Howard said.

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