Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Questions without Notice
Hicks, Mr David
My question is to Senator Ludwig, representing the Attorney-General. In July this year the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions dropped the proceeds of crime case against David Hicks a week before it was due to go to trial and has indicated that this was because it would have been unable to satisfy the court that admissions made by Mr Hicks in Guantanamo Bay should be relied upon and that Mr Hicks had served evidence not previously available. Why is it that admissions made by David Hicks in Guantanamo Bay may not have been reliable and what new evidence has come to light?
I thank Senator Wright for her continued interest in this Mr Hicks. I am aware that the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has discontinued the literary proceeds action against Mr David Hicks. This decision was made independent of government and it would not be appropriate for me or, in this instance, the Attorney-General to provide any further comment on this decision. The CDPP's independent decision to discontinue the action is of course a matter for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. It is the case that the government has provided Mr Hicks with considerable assistance to support his welfare and reintegration into the community.
The difficulty is that the basis of the question asks for why the decision has been made. The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions is an independent body. When they choose to discontinue matters they will generally provide a statement to that effect with supporting views, and anything further than that is a matter for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to deal with. We do not independently comment on the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions statements—they are theirs. I can ask if the Attorney-General would want to provide any additional comment with respect to the question that the senator has asked, but I think it might run aground on the basis that it was an independent decision that was made to discontinue those proceedings on 24 July 2012.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer. There is a large and growing body of evidence from inmates, former prison guards and independent third parties that detainees in Guantanamo Bay experienced torture and cruel and degrading treatment. Is the government aware of this evidence? What knowledge does it have of acts of torture and cruel and degrading treatment that were allegedly committed against Australian citizens held in Guantanamo Bay?
I thank Senator Wright for her continued interest. One of the difficulties with the question is that it is, as I understand it, framed in the way of an allegation. There are and have been a range of allegations around this particular matter. I am advised that the US authorities conducted in 2004 and 2005 two separate investigations into allegations of mistreatment. The first was conducted by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. It advised in August 2004 that an examination of medical records and other documents concerning the detention of Mr Hicks and Mr Habib revealed no evidence of mistreatment or abuse while in the US Department of Defense custody. The second investigation was conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigations Service in July 2005. US authorities advised that they had undertaken a separate and comprehensive investigation. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Very recent reports reveal that, while in US custody in Guantanamo Bay, David Hicks was forcibly administered drugs for nontherapeutic purposes—for example, mefloquine, an antimalarial medication, although it is known to cause psychotic side effects and brain damage. How long has the government known about this? Who knew about it and what steps is the government taking to obtain further information about this treatment of an Australian citizen?
I thank Senator Wright for her question. I think it did somewhat move from an allegation to an assertion of truth. I am aware of media reports of allegations that Mr Hicks was administered drugs against his will in Guantanamo Bay. US authorities conducted two separate inquiries into allegations of mistreatment in 2004 and 2005, as I outlined. Neither found any information to substantiate or corroborate allegations of mistreatment or abuse. I went to this issue a little earlier, but I think we should put this in perspective. This government provided Mr Hicks with considerable assistance during that period. So it would have been obviously— (Time expired)