Monday, 27 April 2009

Federal Court upholds Australian Government support of torture

MEDIA RELEASE April 26, 2009

Federal Court upholds Australian Government support of torture

The Federal Court has dismissed Mamdouh Habib's appeal against the decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) decision not to return his passport.

The former Howard Government withdrew Habib's passport after his release from Guantanamo Bay. The reason given was that he might commit some illegal act if allowed to leave the country. The basis of this assertion was "secret" because of "national security" issues.

In a very controversial case, the AAT supported the Government position.

"Never mind that more than 80% of evidence was not presented in open court," Raul Bassi from the Canterbury Bankstown Peace Group commented. "Habib and his lawyer received hundred of documents mostly blacked out for national security reasons."

"The most dreadful part of the Tribunal ruling was that even the presiding magistrate accepted that Mamdouh was tortured. Yet whatever he said under torture was accepted by the Tribunal as evidence against him. On this basis the AAT denied Mahdouh his passport."

Bassi continued: "With the election of the Rudd Government, Habib was hopeful that the approach to his case would change. But in relation to human rights, as with Aboriginal issues, the war in Afghanistan and the anti-terrorist laws, there is a line of continuity between the old and new governments.

"Yesterday's ruling confirms that. The same lawyer who represented the Howard government in the first case represented the Rudd government in the appeal, and with the same arguments.

Bassi added that there was no doubt about the existence of torture by the military and security agencies of the United States and its allies. "The Obama administration has accepted that the US has been using torture as a common procedure supported by the highest authorities in the country at the time. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Federal Police originally denied any knowledge, but lately its has come to light that their agents saw Mamdouh Habib in Guantanamo Bay clearly in distress and that he told them that he had been tortured."

"The question now is what Mamdouh can do to achieve justice. All judicial avenues seem closed and appeals to the government have fall on deaf ears,. The Canterbury-Bankstown Peace Group wrote to the Attorney-General last year asking for an inquiry but he refused to do anything about the case."

Bassi concluded: "The Canterbury-Bankstow n Peace Group is committed to supporting its member, Mamdouh Habib in his quest for justice. We are organising different actions to take his case to Canberra, into the international arena, and to let everyone know what the Australian government is capable of.

We initiated the campaign to bring Mamdouh and David Hicks back from Guantanamo Bay. We could never have guessed that he was coming back to a country where his rights would be almost as restricted as when he was in prison."

For more information: Raul Bassi 0403037376

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