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.