Hamish Chitts, Brisbane
About 50 people gathered in Brisbane Square on 2nd March to demand the release of David Hicks from his unlawful detention in Guantanamo Bay. Many more people paused on their way home to sign petitions and listen to speakers organised by Birsbane's Stop The War Collective as part of an ongoing series of public speak outs against Hicks' wrongful imprisonment.
Ross Daniels, Senior Human Rights Lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, told those gathered that the United States and Australian governments claim to be bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq but their treatment of David Hicks and others at Guantanamo Bay contradicts their commitment to these values. Daniels cited a list of concerns the Australian Lawyers Association has published which calls the treatment of Hicks unfair, unjust, a breech of the Geneva Convention, a breech of human rights and a basic disregard for international principles of law. He urged people to hound the Howard Government to respond to these concerns.
The Democrats Andrew Bartlet said the Howard Government has let people's rights and freedoms be grossly undermined. He warned that the Australian Government is willing to sacrifice people for its own ends and that if they can do it with Hicks they can do it with others. Bartlet called on people to keep the pressure up on all political parties and to keep voicing their concerns with the treatment of Hicks.
Socialist Alliance Senate candidate and leading Murri activist Sam Watson noted that the Australian Government had totally suspended Hicks' rights in order to serve the corrupt interests of the Bush administration. "Howard only has one agenda and that is to retain power." Watson argued that we all have a responsibility to stand up and confront Howard and demand Hicks' release.
Lee Rush whose son Scott is facing the death penalty for his involvement with the Bali 9 expressed his sympathies to Hicks' father Terry and to the rest of his family. Rush tried to protect his son by letting the Federal police know about the planned smuggling of drugs. Instead of taking action to prevent this crime Australian Federal police merely told Indonesian police about it. Rush accused the Federal police of sentencing his son to death by assisting Indonesian police.
Mark Gillespie from Brisbane's Stop The War Collective told the crowd that the Australian government has a history of and will continue to put diplomatic relationships before the rights of its citizens. They constantly lie to people and their actions internationally have nothing to with freedom or democracy. Gillespie explained while Donald Rumsfeld described Guantanamo detainees as "the most dangerous, best trained, vicious killers on Earth" they couldn't even charge Hicks with attempted murder. Instead they have charged him with providing material support for terrorism. Gillespie argued that if anyone has provided material support to terrorism it is the United States who during Israel's recent attacks on Lebanon supplied cluster bombs which Israel dropped on towns all over Southern Lebanon.
The Stop The War Collective is organising Brisbane's March 17 anti war rally and march which will hear a range of speakers including Terry Hicks. Friday's speak out for Hicks was part of an ongoing series which occur every few weeks in Brisbane Square.