4 September 2006


It is time for the Government to increase efforts to secure a resolution to the case of Australian Guantanamo prisoner David Hicks said Bishop Christopher Saunders, the chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council

"As the affair has dragged on, there are increasing concerns for the physical and mental health of Mr Hicks" the Bishop said.

Referring to reports of statements by Attorney-General (Philip) Ruddock that the Australian Government will try to have Mr Hicks returned to Australia if no new charges are laid by November, Bishop Saunders commented that "While these are welcome developments, we deplore any further detention of Mr Hicks. If he has a case to answer he should be tried without further delay by a competent and independent tribunal with all of the protections of the rule of law that Australian citizens would expect, compliant with the Geneva Conventions. Otherwise his continued indefinite detention can no longer be justified"

The call from Bishop Saunders came at a time when concerns are also being expressed in the community regarding the imposition of a control order on Jack Thomas despite his terrorism-related conviction being overturned earlier in the month.

The restrictions on the freedom of Mr Thomas have been imposed under the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Bill (No. 2) introduced in 2005. The ACSJC, along with a range of organizations expressed concerns at these provisions at the time of their introduction in a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee late last year. (the submissions can be viewed here

In making its submission the ACSJC recalled some fundamental principles of Catholic Social teaching:-
"Acts of terrorism strike at the heart of human dignity and are an offence against all humanity; there exists, therefore, a right to defend oneself from terrorism. However, this right cannot be exercised in the absence of moral and legal norms, because the struggle against terrorists must be carried out with respect for human rights and for the principles of a State ruled by law."

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