Australian Commentary (27) – In Defence of David Hicks

Fallen man’s exercise of power is demonic: it is power for the sake of power, and its goal is ‘a boot stamping on a human face-forever.’[1]

Today in Australia, John Howard is lauded amongst political conservatives as a great leader. Winning four elections in a row is an uncommon feat for an Australian political leader.

But there were a number of issues where Howard did not distinguish himself, and one of these was the matter of David Hicks.

Mr Howard’s career began as a solicitor. For such a person, the western, conservative legal notion of “innocence till proven guilty,” would not just be well known. As a practicing person at law, he would view it as a part and parcel of how we do things in Australia, a nation that generally prides itself in the subjection of all inhabitants (including governments) to the legitimate rule of law.

In welcoming President Bush to the Australian Parliament in 2003, Mr Howard indicated that one of the things that bring Australia and the U.S. together, “is the belief that individuals are more important than the State.” But when it came to David Hicks, Mr Howard’s government (including his Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock, also a solicitor before entering Parliament), pretty much went AWOL, when it came to ensuring the rights and liberties of an Australian citizen arrested overseas were protected.

The Dictionary tells us that the word “obsequious” means “too eager to help or obey someone important.” This attitude has characterised the attitude of Australian Prime Ministers towards the U.S., for generations now. Australian Prime Ministers it seems, would rather lick the boots of U.S. Presidents, than ensure our people are cared for properly at courts of law, and get justice.

Google tells us that Hicks was captured by a “Northern Alliance warlord” near Kunduz, Afghanistan, on or about 9 December 2001 and turned over to US Special Forces for US$1000 on 17 December 2001. Hicks’s father Terry, when interviewed, said “David was captured by the Northern Alliance unarmed in the back of a truck or a van. So he wasn’t on the battlefield at all.”

Hicks was subsequently sent to the US government prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. In an affidavit, dated 5 August 2004 and released on 10 December 2004, Hicks alleged mistreatment by U.S. forces, included being:

  • beaten while blindfolded and handcuffed
  • forced to take unidentified medication
  • sedated by injection without consent
  • struck while under sedation
  • regularly forced to run in leg shackles causing an ankle injury
  • deprived of sleep “as a matter of policy”
  • sexually assaulted
  • witness to use of attack dogs to brutalise and injure detainees.

So much for “land of the free and home of the brave.” Google also tells that James Yee, a US Army chaplain who regularly counselled Hicks while detained at Guantanamo Bay, gave a statement shortly after Hicks was freed in December 2007. He said that he did not feel Hicks was a threat to Australia, and that “Any American soldier who has been through basic training has had 50 times more training than this guy.”

In October 2012, the United States Court of Appeals ruled that the charge under which Hicks had been convicted was invalid, because the law did not exist at the time of the alleged offence, and it could not be applied retrospectively.

The efforts of the US to charge Hicks have been described as “a significant departure from the Geneva Conventions and the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, quite apart from the US constitution,” the implications being that “anyone in the world, who has suitable radical connections and who is in a war zone fighting against Americans, is guilty of a war crime.”

The Bible speaks much of justice and righteousness. Speaking of God, it says that

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne (Ps.97:2).

Justice and righteousness were to be important aspects of Isaac’s education. God said that He had chosen Abraham,

So that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him (Gen.18:19).

The Psalmist asked,

Who will stand up for me against evildoers? Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness? (Ps.93:16).

A kangaroo court that was clearly influenced by political considerations sent Jesus Christ to His death (see (Jn.18:6-15). Christians thus ought to be very sensitive about the abandonment of proper process in all trials, especially trials which are politically influenced. They will very frequently lead to injustice.


We don’t have to entirely agree with a person’s actions or statements to sympathise with them in their plight, let alone care for them. That’s one of the lessons of The Good Samaritan. But the abuse of individuals at the hands of improperly constituted government “military tribunals,” which prove little better than kangaroo courts, is something we ought to get upset and angry about.

And when it happens at the hands of a nation we are supposedly allied to, and our government drags its feet to intervene, its worse.  And when our government then decides it wants to prevent the innocent individual who has never been compensated for spending 7 years in gaol for a crime he didn’t commit, from profiting from the “proceeds of crime” from a book he  wrote, drawing attention to the kinds of oppression he suffered, we know this: there is something terribly wrong with how “justice” can be determined, both in this country and overseas.

What if it’s me, or you?


[1] Rousas Rushdoony, “The Institutes of Biblical Law,” 1973, p.448-449, quoting from George Orwell.