20 November 2003

PM urged to bring home Hicks, Habib

But [Mr Howard] said the US had not offered to return the two men.

He said their return was unlikely because it would be difficult to bring a successful prosecution under Australian law.

'The reality is that these people appear to be in breach of laws for which they can be prosecuted in the United States,' he told reporters.

'There is no automatic right to repatriate an Australian to this country who is charged with an offence in another country.

'We are working with the Americans to ensure that any military commission trial of these two people is conducted in a way that guarantees that justice will be done.'

In Adelaide, Mr Hicks's father Terry Hicks said Mr Howard should push to bring the two men home for trial.

'If the British have been offered back, then I should say the Australian prime minister should be saying, hey, get our people back,' Terry Hicks told ABC radio.

Greens Senator Bob Brown said the move to return British detainees proved Mr Howard was content for Australia to be second-rate in its treatment of prisoners held overseas.

'Mr Howard is saying Australian citizens and our laws are subservient to America's,' Senator Brown told reporters.

The Howard government did not arrange a S24AA(5) proclamation under the Crimes Act which would have activated the offence of treachery. That's characteristic bungling, like the Brigitte deportation, for their actual conduct of national security, as opposed to their chest-beating in the parliament.

However, there is a way around the Howard dilemma that would be consistent with human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not imply 'any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein'. (Article 30) The Bali bombers were prosecuted under retrospective laws.

The Australian parliament can make retrospective laws. Perhaps a bill from the opposition or one of the minor parties?

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