Source: The News Online
May 11, 2006
PRIME Minister John Howard has brushed off Britain's strongest criticism of the US military prison in Cuba, saying Australia would go its own way in the handling of terrorist suspect David Hicks.
British Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith has called the Guantanamo Bay camp's existence "unacceptable" and says it should be shut down.
It is the strongest condemnation of the prison by a British government official.
Hicks, who has been held in Cuba for more than four years, hopes to win British citizenship and join the nine UK detainees Britain has successfully forced the US to release from the prison.
But Mr Howard today dismissed Lord Goldsmith's criticism.
"Irrespective of what Lord Goldsmith, or indeed anybody else, may say we make up our own mind about these things and that's our position," he told ABC radio.
Lord Goldsmith had taken a "different view" on Guantanamo Bay for some time, Mr Howard said.
"We listen to what others say on these matters, we don't necessarily agree with them on everything," he said.
"Our view in relation to Guantanamo Bay and in relation to David Hicks is that he should be brought to trial before the (US) military commission without further delay.
"And what is delaying his trial at the moment is not the Australian Government, it's not the American administration – it's a court challenge to the authority of the military commission in the United States court system.
"Our view is that he should have been brought to trial before the military commission a long time ago."
Hicks could eventually serve any jail sentence in Australia under an agreement signed in Washington this week.
Hicks, whose mother is British, wants to claim British citizenship and hopes that London will lobby for his release from Guantanamo Bay as it has for other British subjects.
Britain's Court of Appeal has unanimously rejected the UK Government's attempt to stop his application, denying the Home Office an opportunity to appeal.
However, the Home Office may seek to apply directly to the House of Lords, the highest appeal tribunal in Britain.
Hicks was captured in Afghanistan in December 2001, allegedly fighting with the ousted Taliban regime, and faces charges including attempted murder and aiding the enemy.