Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Current affairs


It all started many months ago with a few placards like this one around Sydney's suburbs but now the campaign is gaining momentum: just last week David Hicks was the focus of a debate in Parliament and of two major TV current affairs programs. Who is he? A young Australian who has been held in arbitrary detention at Guatanamo Bay for the past five years. So far the Australian government has shown very little concern for him, declaring that terrorists got what they deserved. The thing is, David is yet to be proved guilty of anything. It's a sad state of affairs when the government of a democratic country decides that human rights can be applied selectively...

Get Up activists demand a fair trial for David. Since the US military plan to use hearsay and testimony obtained under torture as acceptable evidence, it is obvious that a trial conducted in America would not be fair. Hence the call to have David brought home and judged here. Whether David is innocent or guilty is not the point, it's about the right to a fair trial. Five years is long enough. The Australian public is starting to realise that. And the Australian government, with elections just round the corner, is finally shifting its ground. Hope for David Hicks, great. What about the others?

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Ca a commencé il y a de longs mois avec ce poster qu'on voyait parfois accroché aux clôtures des jardins mais la campagne commence à porter ses fruits : rien que cette semaine David Hicks a été au centre d'un débat au parlement et de deux émissions télévisées très regardées. Qui est-ce ? Un jeune australien détenu depuis plus de cinq ans à Guantanamo Bay. Jusqu'ici le gouvernement australien a traité son cas par le mépris, déclarant que les terroristes comme lui n'avaient que ce qu'ils méritaient. L'ennui c'est qu'il n'a encore été jugé coupable de rien. Ah les temps sont bien tristes quand un gouvernement démocratique trouve acceptable l'application sélective des droits de l'homme...
Get Up milite pour que David soit enfin jugé, et équitablement. Difficile d'espérer ça aux USA où les militaires prévoient d'accepter comme preuves valides des rumeurs ou des témoignages obtenus sous la torture ... d'où la demande qu'il soit rapatrié et jugé en Australie. Cinq ans, ça suffit. L'opinion publique australienne semble enfin s'en apercevoir. Et le gouvernement australien, sentant le vent tourner à deux mois des élections, commence à changer de discours. De l'espoir pour David Hicks, c'est bien. Et les autres ?

29 comments:

Nathalie said...

This is my first attempt at tackling such a serious topic. I am curious to know how my readers will react. Will they shy away from what could be seen as a controversial topic?

C'est la première fois que j'aborde un sujet aussi sérieux. Je me demande comment mes lecteurs vont réagir. Feront-ils l'impasse sur un sujet considéré comme trop risqué ?

edwin s said...

Well done Nathalie.

We all know the current state of politics is a sad affair. Be it domestic or international, no one has a firm grasp of what is truly right and wrong.

I don't think this is a sensitive/controversial topic. It involves all of us. Justice will prevail. The question is how much do we pay to get there?

And have you noticed things appear to change when it's election time? What happens AFTER?

You know where I stand when it come to politics. I'm going for a latté now.

freelancer said...

Grave sujet avec un si joli ciel en second plan.

Ps : Nathalie, j'ai rattrappé le problème du Gris / N&B sur Croiseur colbert ... Est ce que tu aimes mieux ?

Mimmu said...

I respect your attitude and agree with you.
Well done as Edwin said!

I wish you everything good !

Pod said...

i admire the folk that campaign and make noise. the noise grows louder. howard astounds me sometimes. it is grand that you have increased awareness nathalie!

Olivier said...

voila un sujet important (a rapprocher un peu avec mon post sur Miss betancourt). On se demande des fois, ce que fais le gouvernement...
Là difference ici, etant l'etat US qui est vraiment devenu tres agressig, on peut esperer un changement radical au prochaine election. J'espere que le gouvernement australien reussira a faire bouger l'admistration bush ;o(((
Sujet grave, mais important. Bravo.

eekk said...

Salut!
I had the same 'serious thought'... I'd like you to read it :)
http://dreamingofbrazil.blogspot.com/2007/01/mtv-cribs-special-holiday-in-guantanamo.html#links
A bientot!

Kim said...

Hear, hear, Nathalie. Many US citizens have been working very hard to bring pressure upon the government to close what I consider an illegal system of detention without trial and suspension of civil rights and due process. The main attorney working toward closing Guantanamo is a graduate of Seattle University here (where my husband was in law school until his recent illness). I could kiss Edwin for his hopeful remark that justice WILL prevail. It is very difficult to make allegations stick and to investigate the possible wrong doing and tricky business of the current US government officials, and very discouraging at times. Australia just hosted Dick Chaney. He needed to get out of the country and away from the heat of his chief of staff's trial. Scooter Libby faces judgment and possible sentencing for lying about treasonous acts (that quite likely were Chaney's and Rove's acts as well). The majority of Americans support Mr. Hicks' release. Our government has spun out of the people's control, and reeling them back in from serving their own interests is very difficult. I hope Australians will increase the pressure upon the US to act on this illegal detention of one of its citizens.
-Kim

alice said...

Il est souvent plus facile pour les gouvernements de jouer sur la peur des populations (peur du terrorisme et du reste, la liste est longue) que d'affronter les problèmes dans leur complexité. Les renvois d'ascenseur entre gouvernements sont une composante du problème, je te refile du pétrole à tel prix et tu me lâches sur la guerre en Irak, par exemple. Je pense que tous les gouvernants procèdent peu ou prou de cette façon, l'individu là-dedans, ne pèse pas bien lourd.

Imparfait présent said...

Quelque soit ce qu'un homme a fait, il y a sans doute 2 questions que l'on pourrait se poser :
- De quoi est - il coupable? Et l'est - il vraiment?

- Quelle peine mérite il?

Et surtout, que signifie une peine? ou cela s'arrête t - il? ou sont les limites?
Doit on répondre à la violence par la violence? A l'inhumain par l'inhumain? On ne doit on juste pas nous protéger d'une personne dangeureuse en l'immobilisant mais de façon digne, humaine et avec des mesures d'accompagnement pour tenter de remettre cette personne sur la voie de la raison?

Je penche pour la 3ème option.

Nathalie said...

Edwin, thanks for being my first commentator of the day and for your support

Freelancer, I visited your blog and saw the pink navy boat, you made my day!

Mimmu I didn't expect anything less from you, you are a true lady

Pod, yes just like you I am very impressed by the work of those who day after day push to make things happen: sometimes it seems hopeless but then after years of trying you see the result and you have to credit them for it

Olivier yes Ingrid Betancourt's fate certainly falls in the same category of individuals crushed by history and political agendas

eekk, thanks, I visited the display home at camp delta, seems like a fantastic place for a holiday. Congratulations on your own post, raising awareness takes many many individual initiatives

Nathalie said...

Kim you are my first (and so far only) American reader to comment. Do you realise how important that makes you?

Your comments of course are pertinent, sharp and to the point.

Very interesting comment about the welcome timing of Dick Cheney's visit to Australia...

You are right, we need to have faith that justice WILL prevail.


Alice, you are right the back kitchen of politics are not a pretty sight and individuals count for very little in the grand scheme of things

Imparfait Present, bien sûr la prison ne devrait être que la privation de liberté et rien d'autre.

On en est loin, si loin, surtout quand il s'agit de la "lutte du bien contre le mal" (dixit G.Bush). Terrasser le malin nécessite des forces considérables qui dispensent des habituelles règles du combat...

Cergie said...

Cela me rappelle la libération opportune des otages du Liban entre les deux tours de la présidentielle de 1988...
Comme quoi quelque fois les enjeux politiques donnent un gros coup de main à l'efficacité diplomatique
Je rejoins Olivier : et Ingrid Betancourt ? Quel est l'enjeu qui donnera un coup de main sérieux à sa libération ?

Nicolas said...

Tu as eu raison d'en parler Nathalie. L'attitude du gouvernement australien a ete proprement scandaleuse, laissant David Hicks "aux bons soins" de leurs amis neo conservateurs americains. Resultat: plus de 5 ans passes dans les geoles de Guantanamo et pas le debut d'une charge ou d'un proces. Une honte!!!
nicolas

norman said...

We should all consider reading David Hicks' own words before using "innocent". The September 11 deaths were the basis for David switching plans and returning to terrorist training camps, while David's letters to his father confirm what he saw as "acceptable" behaviour.

But in the western world, lawyers love people like David. In other parts of the planet, someone like David wouldn't be treated as sympathetically by whichever Government captured him.

Nathalie said...

Hi Norman, I kind of thought you would pop in at some stage along that line of thought.

I think I made it clear that the point was not whether he was guilty or innocent but that everyone was entitled to a fair trial. If he gets sentenced to 20 years, I won't bat an eyelid, but put him through trial first!

It shouldnt be up to the government to decide who is worthy of human rights and who isn't or else the whole idea of human rights falls apart.

But then you can decide human rights are not worth fighting for...

Norman said...

He was initially charged a long time back, Nathalie, and would have had his trial by now, were it not for delays arising from appeals which are typical of the U.S.A. There are many in the States who currently who have suffered far longer pre-trial detentions than has David.

"Human Rights" is a free floating concept which has NEVER been fixed NOR set down in clearly defined legal terms; but it IS a potent psychological weapon, the more so since well meaning people are able to "interpret" it in so many quite different, often contrary ways.

Ultimately, however, an Australian Government cannot [short of invading the U.S.A., which I wouldn't recommend] do anything more than what has been done. Ironically, it's Howard who has most to gain from a trial taking place a.s.a.p., while his critics are the ones who have most to gain from delaying the trial.

Nathalie said...

How come the English detainess got out long ago then? Isn't that (at least partly) because their government did for them what the Aussie govt didn't do for Hicks, i.e. demand them back?

And what do you make of the treatment of the detainees there?
Awaiting trial is one thing (and I agree David wouldn't be the longest standing), detention conditions are another again. Your views on that?

Nathalie said...

And, as a French girl who was raised to believe in Human rights, I agree that such principles then need to be translated into actual legislation.

It doesn't change the fact that they should be (and ARE, in most democracies) MAJOR guidelines we can and should refer to.

Norman said...

"Human Rights" are arbitrary, Nathalie. Their loose interpretations have undergone many arbitrary changes over the years. Currently different nations interpret what they are in very different ways. I'm lacking the self assurance to believe I can decide which interpretation is correct. And when it comes to INDIVIDUAL interpretations of what is "meant", the differences multiply even faster. It would be wonderful if a clear definition existed, but it doesn't, resulting in "Human Rights" becoming not so much a legal term as a political weapon. Having listened in my home since I was a youngster to Human Rights pioneers such as Jesse Street, and Civil Liberties leaders such as Clarrie Martin, I'm familiar with how much the "meaning" of terms such as these has changed over the decades. The one common thread through it all was that WHATEVER the current definition happened to have become at a particular time, or within a particular group, its proponents spoke about their beliefs as if they were as immutable as the Laws of the Medes and Persians were said to have been.

The people I had in mind who have been detained without their guilt/innocence being determined, for a longer period than Hicks, were NOT his fellow detainees. They were the many hapless Americans in U.S. gaols who are left hanging around because of the U.S. legal quagmire. The U.S. Founding Fathers' obsession with checks and balances tends to have worked that way in a range of areas.

Hess, who tried to end the War between Germany and Britain, was kept in gaol without charges or trial until well after that War ended. Hicks [provided his lawyer's latest efforts to maximise the potential for a book don't get in the way?} has every chance of being dealt with far more expeditiously than poor old Hess, who didn't even receive sympathy for his ordeal.

Still, with gloriously vague shifting goal posts such as "Human Rights" in one's armoury, it's always possible to be outraged. And overall, Nathalie, that's probably less frustrating than vainly waiting for a world in which, as Socrates long ago put it, we all accept that, "The definition of terms is the beginning of wisdom".

Nathalie said...

What you say about fluctuating definitions is interesting but I would argue that,as is often the case, the easiest is usually to define things by what they are NOT. Defining Freedom of expression may be difficult, but if you are jailed for expressing your ideas against the regime
you know there's a problem!

You didn't answer my question Norman. Do you think Hick's detention conditions are acceptable?

Norman said...

Perhaps Socrates was off the mark? As for the conditions under which Hicks is detained, being less prone than most to make decisions without first knowing enough about the relevant circumstances, I simply don't know. But I'm certainly sure his family are thankful he isn't under the conditions which were prevalent under either the Taliban or Saddam? Not to mention what happened to foreigners like him who travelled to the Balkans to fight with militias? Had he been captured there, he wouldn't be in detention.

I'm far more concerned about what's happening elsewhere around the globe, including the countless innocent civilians I believe to be suffering far worse fates than Hicks --- civilians who hadn't travelled around the world on a Holy Crusade or two. But I learnt as a youngster, living amidst quite divergent cultures, that the most difficult thing in the world was to get human beings to examine their own "self evident" truths too closely. We're not genetically programmed to engage in such a psychologically painful process.

Still, I'm grateful that the life of gadflies is so much more secure theses days.

Nathalie said...

I'm afraid that saying 'I don't know' is not good enough. There were so many people during WW2 who said they 'didn't know' what the concentration camps were really about... fair enough when information wasn't as readily verifiable as today. Today???

I'm afraid the matter is much more serious than Hick's fate. It's about the US themselves fighting a Holy War of Good vs. Evil in the name of democracy and all the rest of it and then behaving like a bunch of cowboys. It may well be the most efficient way to win a war (a fact that remains to be seen)but it undermines their position completely. To me it's shooting yourself in the foot.
They want to be seen as the 'fathers' of democracy around the world but in effect the message conveyed is 'Do what I say, not what I do' - we both know how effective that is in education!

Norman said...

Perhaps I'm not as aware as I'd like to be about what's happening in education, Nathalie, but since you raised that topic, I'm frankly more concerned about how tens of thousands of NSW students are being disadvantaged in the manner revealed by the recent [ignored!] ICAC report of endemic cheating with vital HSC marks, than I am about Hicks.

When I said I "didn't know" the full details re his treatment, I meant it in the same sense that you too [along with most of the vociferous defenders of "poor David"] don't know either. I also imagine that, as I've found to be the case in many other issues over the decades, I've s[pent more time than most analysing all the material which is available. I at least DO know that once again his trial has been delayed, this time HIS legal advisers clearly being the ones delaying it --- but Hicks' lawyer will do well out of a book?

Still, what do I know? I was only a committed player over the years in trying to analyse events, including the Anti-Viet campaign, where much of my time had to be spent spent trying to prevent the blind anti-U.S. hysteria prevalent among our more vociferous supporters, from actually increasing support for the War among the general public? Nor should I assume that my success in other activities, e.g. being the only lecturer at Ballarat Uni in '75 to advocate support for a leftwing National Student Union motion, and having Ballarat ending up as the ONLY campus in the State to support the motion, means that I'm a reasonable judge of human frailties?

Still, Hicks CAN be used to generate emotional appeal. Why, his supporters are doing almost as well as the student activists did in Paris in '68. But some of us also remember how well that worked out, when the charge was led by enthusiastic Sociology students, rather than [say?] well trained qanalytically inclined Philosophy majors.

But what do I know?

Nathalie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathalie said...

Hi Norman,

Re what goes on at Guantanamo, your reply implies that it's all about what we "believe" is happening there. But from what I can see, the US military aren't really denying much of what the human rights activists are accusing them of. Their reply is not 'this is not happening' but 'this is justified'. Therefore my question to you was not "do you believe this is happening?" but 'do you agree with what's happening' ?

On another tack, I couldn't agree more, there are many other urgent causes worthy of our time, interest and commitment.

But this one is as valid (if not as important to you) as any other. No one can spend ALL their time on ALL the causes that need defending in this world. It is quite natural that people focus on what they deem important. You say there is more urgent and more important elsewhere? Well, go for it. I wish you'd spend as much time raising awareness about the positive changes you'd like to make as you do criticising the work of others...

In fact if you want to give me the material to write a post about the cheating in vital HSC marks, I'm all for it. We can do even better than that :
I'm happy to give you a free column in this blog one day.

Let's do it!
You write it, I post it !
Game ?

Daniel said...

Here 's a video fo David Hicks on MTV's Cribs. Part of a GetUp! campaign

http://one.revver.com/watch/210614
or
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITOAPDESRUM

btw: you can digg it now... how cool
http://digg.com/videos/comedy/David_Hicks_Australia_s_own_celebrity_Guantanamo_detainee_on_MTV_s_Cribs

Norman said...

Blogs, nathalie, are for light relief, not in depth analysis. So thanks for the offer, but in a world where, for example, widespread, systemic, endemic cheating in NSW [and other?] Education Systems has been covered up for years, discussing this old problem on a site seems unlikely to achieve anything.

When an ICAC report in the middle of the current State Election Campaign [in which education is supposed to be a major issue] can be "overlooked" by all parties, what point is there? As for other issues, I prefer to engage in face to face debate --- provided always in this age where maintaining high "self esteem" is paramount, there are people comfortable about engaging in the cut and thrust of critical analysis, as opposed to enjoying the comfort of seeing items only interms which can do no harm to their particular circle's current world view.

Sadly, this often means I upset people. Still, I'm grateful that hemlock is no longer available as a standard solution to the problem?

Nathalie said...

Of course, it's the old argument: the little things we can do are hardly likely to achieve anything.
True... yet false.

I grew up thinking that the USSR and USA were the two blocks that would rule the world forever and I saw the Berlin wall fall. The world can change, the world does change.

I saw the majority of the public having very little concern for what was going on in Guantanamo, and now I see the topic being covered by the major media on a regular basis. Somehow, the activists that wanted this to happen made it happen. With orange signs on their fences like the one I took a picture of, like letters of protests, like, yes, blogs...

This time my point is not the validity of the cause but the effectiveness of the campaign run by a handful of dedicated individuals.

Little drops make large rivers. I generally tend to feel like you that whatever I do will make no difference, but that's not true. It does!