In April of this year, the Public Interest Advocacy Service (PIAC) submitted some Freedom of Information requests to three Australian government departments on behalf of The Justice Campaign founder, Aloysia Brooks. After six months of delays, the Attorney-Generals department released only 12 pages of documents- all of which were heavily redacted, and many parts of the request were missing.
The initial request sought documents relating to Mr Hicks’ military commissions plea deal, and the Australian government’s involvement in this over a twelve month period. The time period was then narrowed, so as not to take up significant resources of the Department.
After a six month wait, and after the US government was consulted, the documents that were released provided pages with only one or two sentences on each page, and failed to address the scope of the request. Of particular concern are documents missing around the time the plea deal was arranged. In the letter accompanying the release, the Attorney-General’s department said the redactions were necessary because a release could cause damage to “international relations of the Commonwealth.” There are on-going discussions about what further steps will be taken to appeal the decision.
Commenting in relation to the release Ms Brooks noted; ”the current Gillard government is going to significant effort to ensure that the public does not have access to any of the communications between the former Howard government and US officials. It is clear that both the Australian and U.S. government’s have something to hide from all of us- and this is something that every Australian citizen needs to be concerned about.”
Whilst in opposition, the Labor government’s position on David Hicks was always that he deserved to have a fair trial and be protected from conditions that amounted to torture. Current Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon has described the military commissions process as ‘shonky’ and that it would not provide David with due process or the basic elements of a fair trial.
“We’re not confident this process with the military commission is going to in any way be a fair trial and we really think it’s time for the Government to say enough’s enough.” Attorney General Nicola Roxon 2007
Now, in an appalling back flip, Ms Roxon has not only refused to hold an independent and open investigation into David’s case in Australia, but her office attempted to use the Military Commissions plea deal, that was obtained under duress, in the proceeds of crime case that was recently dropped.
This story is a long way from being over. The fight to release these documents and the truth will continue.
“Labor has very serious concerns about the independence of the process, the impartiality of the commissioners, the lack of a proper appeal process and the lack of proper rules of evidence. It is Labor’s view that the process lacks the most basic elements of a fair trial.”
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon 2005