27 March 2007

The US military commissions have come under further scrutiny as US military lawyer Major Michael Mori entered a guilty plea on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks.

Hicks pleaded not guilty to a charge made by the military commissions that he entered Afghanistan in December 2000 to provide material support for terrorism.

He pleaded guilty to another charge of material support for terrorism, however, that consists of a number of detailed allegations. It alleges, for example, that Hicks had links to terrorist organisations, trained under al-Qaeda, and met Osama bin Laden.

Prime Minister John Howard told Parliament today that the Government welcomes the latest development and progress towards a resolution.

The Government has had to fend off growing public criticism over its handling of Hicks’s case. They weren’t seen to be doing enough over the 5 year period to pressure the Bush administration into finding a resolution.

“It has always been our view that Hicks should face justice but we have been very concerned about the time that it has taken,” the Prime Minister said.

The legailty of the military commissions remains a contentious issue however. The Government's position is summed up by Foreign Minister Alexander Downer:

“Different courts and different jurisdictions have different practices and when you go overseas and you get seized overseas and taken before a court, you have to live within the jurisdiction within which you've found yourself.”

Labor leader Kevin Rudd has so far refused to comment, preferring to wait until the final outcome. Rudd said, with reference to Hicks's guilty plea, “we are, therefore, now in the midst of this quite complex legal process and for those sorts of reasons we ourselves are reluctant to comment.”

Rudd has been highly critical of the military commissions in the past. In his opinion Hicks was not going to get a fair trial and should have been tried in a civilian court.

For a detailed list of the charges see:


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