6 September 2004

Australia to tackle US over Hicks trial

The Australian Government will raise concerns with the United States about the handling of the military commission trial of alleged terrorist David Hicks.

That follows concerns raised by Australian officials who attended the preliminary hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, last month amid fears that the proceedings lacked fairness.

The Age has been told that the officials felt that the details of an agreement on trial procedures reached by the US and Australian Government had not got through to the US military personnel handling the hearing.

In a joint statement yesterday Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the officials identified a number of problems with "operational and procedural aspects of the military commission process".

Problems included a lack of agreed rules of procedure that could lead to uncertainty for both the prosecution and defence in preparing cases.

This is outrageous. Downer and Ruddock have again and again defended these same operations and procedures since they were first announced. I'll update with their previous comments in the morning. This is not a Damascene conversion. This is realising that the Hicks trial could get very embarrassing, very quickly.

It also sits very strangely with Rudocck's endorsement of military commissions in Australia.

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