Mamdouh Habib – justice and the rule of law

Extraordinary but very welcome news has come through that, Mamdouh Habib, one of the two Australians who’ve been locked up in Guantanamo Bay for so long, is to be released without charge by the USA government.

I assume this will be very welcome news for Mr Habib’s family, as well as for Mr Habib himself. But it does highlight just how extraordinary the whole episode has been. Can you just imagine what would have happened if an Australian had been kept locked up for years without charge by the Government of a country from South-East Asia or the Pacific? There most likely would have been outrage expressed by the Australian Government, or at a minimum there would be strident and continual diplomatic activity to ensure that person got due process or was freed as soon as possible.

For our Government to sit by in acquiescence in this case the entire time, only for Mr Habib to be released without charge is nothing short of a disgrace. No compensation, no apology, not even a statement that might clear his name – just more suggestions that he’d been doing really dodgy stuff but the US just doesn’t feel like charging him with anything. The next stage will probably be continuing insinuations by our Govt against Mr Habib – no solid details and certainly no formal charges of breaking any laws.

The remaining British detainees are also to be freed and the Pentagon has said only 25 per cent of the detainees had “intelligence value”. Not even necessarily allegedly guilty of a crime, but just had intelligence value!! It beggars belief that hundreds of people can just be rounded up, locked away from any sort of contact for years and then just let go with a casual wave of the hand. A Govt that is able to do these sorts of things is literally placing itself above and beyond the law. Nobody should able to do that, especially not an elected Government.

This is why it is so important to defend the rule of law and fight against such blatant breaches of it. It is the same reason I put so much effort into defending asylum seekers and refugees against attacks and indignities from this Govt and the laws which Labor and Liberal passed. It is not just to defend people like Mr Habib, although his rights are important. It is also to defend our own freedoms and our own rights and those of our entire nation.

In the end it is about justice and the rule of law – the sort of basic, fundamental rights that took literally hundreds of years of turmoil, upheaval and bloodshed to develop and take hold. If we sit by and just let them be tossed aside without any accountability or solid justification, we will be putting ourselves and everyone we know at risk of having the same thing happen to them.

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  1. During World War 2 many soldiers, on both sides, were detained as POWs for several years, they were charged with nothing, then when the war was over they were released, with no compensation or apology.
    In fact many of these soldiers were detained right here in Australia.
    All perfectly legal under the Geneva Conventions.
    If Mr Habib was treated as a POW, the USA could hold him until the war is over. Which may take decades.
    Again, perfectly legal under the Geneva Conventions.

  2. If Mr Habib was a POW, which he isn’t, then you could start to try to justify that argument, although you would still run into serious problems justifying the manner and environment of his detention, let alone the torture allegations.
    The USA (and Australia) is not at war with any nation.
    There is no way to stretch the Geneva Convention so it could be interpreted as covering what the USA has done, or to say that the USA (or Australia) is at war with any nation.
    The bottom line is, if you support this approach, you have to be willing to support the same ‘rules’ (or lack of them) being applied to you or your family.
    I don’t support being subjected to a total absence of justice and I don’t support any other Australian being subjected to this either.

  3. Hi Andrew, I have just found your blog and think it is great that a senator interacts such directly with the public – weel done!! Just looking through some of the comments there seems to be a lot of negative posts – I am just wondering why obvious right wing, howard lovers would bother logging into your blog when they obviously disagree with them on nearly everything. I guess it may be similiar to that urge I get when reading the Sunday Mail, just to see what Andrew Bolt is saying this week that is sure to infuriate. Just wondering what your thoughts are?

  4. Ben
    I don’t mind negative comments (right-wing or otherwise), as long as they are not (too) abusive. Having to justify my views is useful and it fits with my overall aim with the blog, which is to provide info and views people may find of interest or value, to be accessible and ‘humanise’ politics more (rather than just a hollow propaganda device). The comments – negative and positive – questions, and any debate are part of that.
    I post comments on right-wing blogs sometimes – sometimes to provide some extra info or corretc a clear error, and also to test if that blog is one that’s interested in an exchange of views or just a macho chest beating group wank.

  5. WRT Alan Green’s comments – I’m not sure if the comment is meant to be serious or ironic (that’s not an insult, I’m just genuinely unsure), but I would agree that the Habib situation on its own might seem like a ‘tiny nibble’. But (1) if you don’t point to the dangers when they are tiny, they are far more likely to become major, and (2) it is far from the only example of serious undermining of the rule of law by the Lib Govt.
    It is no surprise that many people will give more weight to whether they can keep or get a job, afford the mortgage, find a doctor, etc than they would to the Habib case. It is quite logical and I think more poeple on the left need to acknowledge that this doesn’t make people selfish, greedy and nasty. However, others should also acknowledge that because people may pay more attention to factors that diretly affect their family in deciding their vote, it doesn’t mean they therefore don’t care at all about anything else.

  6. Hooray that Habib’s out! I normally feel dispassionate about these sorts of issues (not that I SHOULD; I just DO), but in this case I felt very sorry for Habib and for his family. I’m really, really pleased he’s out.

  7. But the so-called ‘War on terror’, a propagandica slogan if ever there was one, isn’t a real war Mike.
    Very few of these detainees could be considered as soldiers, they were the unfortunate victims of a putrid agreement between the US and Pakistani intelligence .
    The Bush administrtation and Pentagon seem to have institutionalised the desire for revenge and ritualised sadism in Guantanamo. The place is isolated and removed from the legal investigation it presumably would be if located in one of the 50 states. The legal setup they have tried to justify this with is plainy inhuman and unjust.

  8. But the ‘war on terror’ isn’t a real war Mike, only a propaganda slogan.
    Most if not all of the detainees captured in Pakistan are the result odf aputrid agreement beteen US and Pakistani intelligence. They can’t be considered as POWs,
    The Bush admin has consistently flouted international agrrements when it suits them. It seems they designed the facility at Guantanamo as a legally convenient place to institutionalize the ritualised sadism that occurs there.
    If such a facility was located in one of the 50 states it would be far harder to cover up what actually happens there and presumably open to legal investigation under local of US law.

  9. Senator Bartlett,
    While I agree with your post, it seems to me that human rights advocates have failed to convince the wider Australian public that this issue is important.
    How do “we” (by which I probably mean politicians like yourself and other human rights advocates with the benefits of media access) convince the Australian public that this stuff matters? What’s been tried so far sadly hasn’t worked.

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