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On International Human Rights Day, the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council has called on the Federal Government to do more to secure the fundamental rights of two Australians detained by American authorities at Guantanamo Bay. 

Council Chairman, Bishop Christopher Saunders said, “Human Rights Day provides an opportunity to celebrate the human rights that underpin the Australian way of life.  It is also a time to review significant challenges to basic rights that belong to all human beings.

“The detention of David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib without charge, without recourse to justice and in dreadful conditions is one such challenge. For two years, these Australians have been denied the protection of international laws to which the US and Australia are party – the Third Geneva Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“Our Government recently won significant concessions for the Australians should they appear before a US military commission – not least of which is protection from the death penalty.  However, strong concerns remain about lax rules of evidence, lack of judicial review and appeal rights which will impede natural justice.

“More must be done to restore the human dignity of these Australian citizens”, Bishop Saunders said.    He repeated earlier calls by the Council for the Federal Government to use its close ties with the US to end the legal limbo which has denied the detainees of Camp Delta their most basic legal and human rights. “We call on the Australian Government to increase its efforts to end the indefinite detention and to ensure Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks have immediate access to the ordinary process of justice of a non-military court.  

 “Australians believe that citizens are entitled to the presumption of innocence and the protection of the rule of law regardless of the charges that may be laid against them”, Bishop Saunders concluded.