Source: The News Online
April 13, 2006
A COURT decision supporting Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks' claim for British citizenship should embarrass the Australian Government into helping him, Labor said today.
A UK appeals court has upheld a ruling against the British Government's bid to deny Hicks citizenship, although the Home Office is expected to now take the matter to the House of Lords.
Britain, unlike Australia, has successfully fought for the release of all its nationals from Guantanamo Bay. Hicks' mother was born in the UK.
Today Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said Hicks could come home if he was freed by the US as a British citizen.
"If he is no longer held by the United States, he has an entitlement to return to Australia," Mr Ruddock said on ABC radio.
He said even if the terror suspect did not hold a valid Australian passport, it was unlikely the Federal Government would stop him from getting a new one.
"There's no basis upon which he would be denied travel documents to travel to Australia."
Labor said the Government should intervene now.
"It is a major embarrassment for Australia that this Australian citizen has had to turn to another country in the hope of having his basic rights protected," Opposition legal affairs spokeswoman Nicola Roxon said.
"Unlike the Howard Government, the Blair Government recognises that the military commission process (which will try Hicks) is unfair and would not let it be used for its citizens."
Adelaide-born Hicks has been held by US authorities at Guantanamo Bay since he was captured with Taliban forces in Afghanistan in late 2001.
He has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit war crimes, attempted murder, and aiding and abetting the enemy.
Fresh concerns have been raised about conditions at the US military base following reports the 30-year-old was again being held in solitary confinement.
Mr Ruddock has confirmed Hicks is isolated, but says he is not being mistreated.
In London last night, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the terror suspect, supporting last December's High Court judgment that the UK government could not refuse to register Hicks' citizenship.
But the Home Office intends to fight the case further and has until April 25 to lodge a fresh appeal to the House of Lords - via the Court of Appeal - with a decision expected in early May.
If that is denied, the Home Office then has the option of directly petitioning the House of Lords for a hearing, which would be held late this year or early 2007 if granted.
Hicks' father Terry said the Court of Appeals decision was pleasing, but there was still a long road ahead.
"I was certainly pleased, certainly," Terry Hicks said last night.
"I think it's a positive step but, as I say, I think there's a long way to go yet."
Mr Hicks said he suspected the Government would appeal to the House of Lords, but was hopeful of a similarly favourable decision there.
"I think their outlook is a lot different from the actual government and they might look at David's case and think that four years is too long (in Guantanamo Bay without conviction)."
Terry Hicks said his son was most likely oblivious to the development and would not know of it for about three weeks, when his lawyers are able to visit to tell him.