Another Guantanamo conviction overturned

by John Q on February 19, 2015

It didn’t get a lot of attention in the US Press, but it’s front page news on Oz that the Court of Military Commission Review has just overturned the conviction of David Hicks, one of two Australians tortured and held at Guantanamo Bay, and one of only six people convicted through the Military Commissions process (this is the third successful appeal). The NY Times ran a story (interestingly, in its “US” section), which covers the main points.



Paul Foord 02.19.15 at 5:45 am

The response of Tony Abbott and The Australian is sadly predictable. There is no expression of regret for the years of maltreatment by Australia’s ally. They are still trying to label him one of the ‘worst of the worst’.


Map Maker 02.19.15 at 1:28 pm

And no expression from regret by Mr. Hicks for his actions killing muslims in Afghanistan, Albania, Indian, and Pakistan during his “vacations” abroad. Honestly, Hicks should count his stars that the Northern Alliance just didn’t put a bullet in him when he was captured in 2001. They would have been allowed to under Afghanistan law.

“Mr. Hicks admitted to training with Al Qaeda and meeting Osama bin Laden. He said he brought an AK-47 and ammunition to the front lines to fight American troops. He conducted reconnaissance missions against the US and other western embassies.”


Ronan(rf) 02.19.15 at 1:54 pm


Ronan(rf) 02.19.15 at 1:55 pm

some of the positives of EU membership , so on and so forth.


Ronan(rf) 02.19.15 at 2:14 pm

I think this gets to the crux of the matter. Would a Europe with no EU be a collection of self contained little Utopias ? Or a series of black sites and economically dysfunctional semi failed states ?


Stephen 02.19.15 at 4:27 pm

Ronan: surely with the EU we already have a series of economically dysfunctional semi failed states ? Not all of them, of course, but some.


rea 02.19.15 at 4:45 pm

no expression from regret by Mr. Hicks for his actions

“He did bad things, just not the bad thing for which he was convicted” isn’t really much of an argument for upholding a conviction.


Mitch Guthman 02.19.15 at 7:59 pm

Map Maker at 2,

I think your comment inadvertently highlights one of the most serious practical problems with the torture regime that was set up by the American government. I don’t doubt that Hicks admitted to doing these things (and may indeed have done them) but I don’t know enough about the case to say for myself whether I believe the government’s allegations against him.

Obviously, he’s going to say whatever the Americans want because that’s the only way to survive and preserve some semblance of his personality. The problem is that a relatively objective listener will tend to greatly discount not only the confession elicited under torture but all confessions obtained by those who are known routinely torture their captives for information and (as in this case) for purposes of propaganda. You say Hicks is a bad person because confessed to doing certain things but his confession was obtained by torture, how do you know?

Similarly, now that the American government has been show to have lied about intelligence information to justify the invasion of Iraq, and quite possibly tortured captives to produce false confessions and information as part of that propaganda campaign, how can you trust anything that the government says? Do you not distinguish between those with a reputation for truthfulness from those who are known deceivers?

You seem to be willing to take what is written in the NY Times just as credulously as the writers in the Times credulously accepted the assurances of known deceivers time and time again. So, my question to you is, how do you know what Hicks actually did now that it’s clear that he was tortured?


Map Maker 02.19.15 at 9:29 pm

“You say Hicks is a bad person because confessed to doing certain things but his confession was obtained by torture, how do you know?”

No, he is a bad person because he was captured during a war fighting for a side that actively supported terrorism against Australia, the US, but most of all, Afghanistan. What happened to him after he was turned over to the US is irrelevant to my views of his guilt.

As I said, the Northern Alliance would have been well within their right to kill him on the spot. His capture was reported at the time. Interesting question would be if Afghanistan would ask for his extradition for his actions prior to 11/9/01.


Collin Street 02.19.15 at 9:52 pm

So, my question to you is, how do you know what Hicks actually did now that it’s clear that he was tortured?

It turns out it doesn’t actually matter: his conviction was vacated not because his confession was falsely induced through torture, but because what he was charged with and what he confessed to weren’t actually crimes.

[because the third geneva convention sets out that combatants — explicitly including insurgents — can’t be put through your domestic legal process except for acts in violation of the third geneva convention &c. It’s not actually a crime to kill american soldiers as a proper distinguishing-sign-wearing insurgent, and that was all they had on Hicks. And since he was, you know, tortured, I think we can say pretty comfortably that that was all he actually did, too. So of course he got off: he never actually committed any crime, never broke any applicable law.]

This is I think a key understanding of the whole “commission” process; the military commission process was enacted precisely because the Bush regime wanted perfectly-legal military activity to be subject to harsh criminal sanctions, something they couldn’t do through normal courts, either military or civil.


Mitch Guthman 02.19.15 at 10:01 pm

Obviously I didn’t make my point clear. I wasn’t really talking about David Hicks, about whom I know very little and care even less. My point was about what happens when you lose your good name.


ezra abrams 02.19.15 at 11:07 pm

not sure how much news this should get; it got maybe 30 seconds on NPR last night
seems about right


Abbe Faria 02.19.15 at 11:47 pm

This is a tragedy. I blame both Bush and his allies for trying to get clever and cut corners with the Gitmo program, and the human rights lobby for being determined to tear it all down.

There are 15k foreign Jihadists (5k European) raping, murdering and enslaving their way through Iraq and Syria. The legal system needed to hunt these guys down and hold them accountable for their crimes is non-existent, and there’s no interest in building one. These guys are committing and abetting the most vile crimes and are being treated like a bunch of crazy kids who aren’t responsible for their actions. They’re going to go home to Europe and have great lives.

I know we didn’t do a thorough enough job hunting down Nazi war criminals, collaborators and traitors – but that’s the idea. Instead we’re going to have deradicalisation programs waiting for them, it makes me sick, we’re behaving like Perón’s Argentina.


derrida derider 02.20.15 at 3:15 am

It is really old hat now, but Map Maker is simply asserting that which is not so. Hicks never killed anybody, Muslim or otherwise; in fact he never attempted to. He went to Afghanistan to defend its legal government against internal rebels (the same reason young Americans and Australians go to Israel). But he was such an unimpressive warrior that the Taliban kept him away from the front and finally set him to stand guard over an abandoned tank, a post he deserted after just two hours. The local villagers hid him until the Americans invaded and then sold him for a quick $5000. And that is the worst that even his prosecutors persecutors said about him.


hix 02.20.15 at 1:06 pm

Isnt there some kind of law that bans people from fighting for a foreign government in most countries? With the obvious double standard in enforcement and public perception of doing so ofc -_-.


jwl 02.20.15 at 3:58 pm

Derrida Derider,

What did he do for Lashgar-e-Taiba in Kashmir?

The Taliban government of Afghanistan was not widely recognized and never in control of the country. Calling it the legal government is a bit of a stretch.

It is possible to disagree with the legal judgement against him without downplaying his loathsome associations, you know.


John Quiggin 02.20.15 at 9:48 pm

hix: Australia has such a law, though it’s not clear whether Hicks would have been covered (it’s been tightened to deal with groups like Islamic State). But even he was breaching Australian law, that doesn’t give the US any justification for its multiple breaches of the Geneva Conventions.


Sancho 02.23.15 at 12:43 am

Right now, out there in the world, are millions of young people joining armies and movements and cults in the process of figuring out who they are, which they’ll participate in for a short while before getting disillusioned and moving on.

David Hicks happened to join one right before it was declared an enemy of the western world, and so got to be a target for a conservative Australian government on a national security bender.

It would be nice if the pompous moralists applied that zeal to, for example, the evangelical Americans in Uganda lobbying to institute the death penalty for sodomy.

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