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Monday, 05 February 2007

Uniting Church condemns unfair trial for Hicks

The Uniting Church in Australia today condemned the Government’s acceptance of the new draft charges against Guantanamo detainee David Hicks and expressed deep concern for his wellbeing and about the trial process.

Uniting Church President the Rev. Gregor Henderson said that the Australian Government must immediately act to ensure that David Hicks is afforded a fair trial.

“David Hicks has been locked up without being charged or tried for more than five years, and the conditions in which he is detained have been beyond cruel.

“Now the Australian Government is willing to let David Hicks be tried under a system that permits evidence gained through coercion. Both the Australian and US legal systems understand such evidence as unreliable at best and a gross abuse of human rights at worst,” Rev. Henderson said.

“We are also concerned that the Government believes that charges laid retrospectively are unacceptable in Australia but is comfortable and relaxed with Australians facing such a prospect overseas.”

Rev Henderson reiterated the Uniting Church’s strong support for democracy and the human rights of all people.

“The Uniting Church believes that every human being is precious, and that it is a fundamental responsibility of the Australian Government to ensure that its citizens are treated with dignity and respect,” said Rev. Henderson.

At its 10th National Assembly in July 2003, the Uniting Church made a statement calling for David Hicks to be returned to Australia and tried under Australian or international law.

“We believe that the Australian Government has a responsibility to advocate for a fair trial for all its citizens charged overseas regardless of the nature of allegations and charges. We do not condone terrorism and believe that terrorists should be brought to justice, but justice is not served when prisoners are abused and the right to a fair trial is removed.

“The rules of the new Military Commission do not meet basic democratic principles and international standards of justice. If we allow the quality of our democracies to be worn away in the face of terrorism then terrorism wins,” said Rev. Henderson.