David Hicks was born on the 7th August 1975 in Adelaide, South Australia. David grew up in the suburbs, and after leaving school at 15, travelled to the Australian outback to become a jackeroo. Events eventually led David to Japan to train horses. It was here that he first saw the atrocities that were taking place in Kosovo. With the desire to assist the people of Kosovo, David flew to Albania and briefly joined the Kosovo Liberation Army. After the war ended, David returned to Adelaide before embarking on a journey that would eventually lead him to Guantanamo.
At first it was the desire to travel the Old Silk Road that led him to Pakistan, but while he was there, he learned of the hardship of the Kashmiri people in their struggle for independence from the Indian government occupation (see notes for more information regarding this). He once again became motivated to help, and agreed to undertake standard military training with the aim of providing protection to the civilian population caught up in the conflict. David received basic military training in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
After the military training was completed, David was planning to travel back to Australia, and went to Pakistan to arrange a visa when the horrific events of September 11th 2001 unfolded. Trapped in Afghanistan when the bombs started to fall during the US led invasion, David was then kidnapped by the Northern Alliance whilst waiting at a taxi stand. He was sold by the Northern Alliance to the American military for approximately US$5,000 (see notes for more information regarding this). In US military custody, David was then taken to two ships, the USS Bataan and Pelilieu where he was subjected to beatings and sleep deprivation. When processed at Kandahar prison, David was subjected to sexual humiliation and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
David Hicks was transported to Guantanamo on the 11th of January 2002. Guantanamo Bay has been internationally condemned by some Bush administration officials, the FBI, international law experts, foreign governments and human rights organisations due to the torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that has taken place within its walls. After the Australian Government admitted that David had not broken any Australian law, and political pressure mounted from the outcry of the Australian public, he was offered a politically brokered plea agreement that meant he could return home to Australia in 60 days. So, against his will, he signed the plea in 2007 after five and a half years of horror and torment. After serving seven months in an Australian prison, David was released under a twelve month Control Order on the 29th December 2007.
Due to the illegitimate military commissions system and statements by the Obama administration that the system was unfair and ‘fatally flawed’, David’s legal team believe that his conviction is now null and void. David waits for justice to be served and for formal recognition of the illegality of the conviction from the Australian Government and US government.
Kashmir is a disputed region between Pakistan and India. After the partition of British India in 1947, the states of Jammu and Kashmir had the option of joining either Pakistan or India. The maharajah of Kashmir at the time rejected both nations and sought independence for Kashmir. The struggle for control has led to horrific human rights abuses and needless conflict. For more information from the International Crisis Group website click here; and Human Rights Watch, ‘Everyone Lives in Fear: Patterns of Impunity in Jammu and Kashmir’, September, 2006, available here.
It was during this period that the US military dropped leaflets over Afghanistan offering monetary rewards for handing over suspected al-Qaeda or Taliban members. This lead to many innocent civilians being handed over by neighbours who held a grudge, and poor farmers who wanted to feed their families. The leaflets boasted that men could feed their families and send their children to school and have ‘wealth beyond their wildest dreams’. Figures now reveal that more than 85% of detainees, including David, taken to Guantanamo were sold for around 5,000 rupees by Afghan and Pakistani Mercenaries to U.S. forces. Only a small percentage were caught ‘on the battlefield’ legally defending themselves against foreign occupation. See, Amnesty International, ‘Bounties Paid for Terror Suspects’, 16th January, 2007, available here; and Alfred McCoy, ‘The Outcast of Camp Echo: The Punishment of David Hicks’, The Monthly, June 2006, p. 23.