"Happy Birthday David" Thursday 7th August 2003
A growing number of Australians are speaking out about their concern for the well being of fellow Australians, David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib who are currently being held, without charge, by the US military in Camp X-ray, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. These men have been kept in isolated and appalling conditions, subjected to ongoing interrogation and been cut effectively from the outside world, including their Australian and US legal counsel. Given the lack of transparency and due process to date, it is feared that neither David nor Mamdouh will not receive a fair trial. There is further concern that if found "guilty" these men may be kept in such inhumane conditions for the rest of their lives. "They are being unlawfully detained, in breach of all the norms of international law and in contravention of the Geneva Convention guidelines applying to prisoners of war", said Stephen Hopper, Mamdouh Habib's Australian solicitor. Hannah Middleton, from the newly formed Sydney Peace and Justice Coalition stated: "These men have been tried by sections of the media and vilified by our political leaders. We need to remember, that whatever the circumstances, these men are 'two of our own', and have a right to have their basic human needs met, and to receive a fair and transparent trial." Thursday August 7 was David Hicks' birthday. In Sydney, Adelaide and in country areas, Australians threw birthday parties to recognise David and Mamdouh as people who, like us, have birthdays and families, and have the same right to justice and basic human rights. The theme was "hundreds and thousands", representing other Australians who enjoy the human rights and justice that David and Mamdouh are currently denied. The birthday party in Sydney continued with a group meeting at the gates of Kirribilli House to present the birthday card to John Howard to deliver to David and call for David and Mamdouh to be repatriated to receive justice under Australian law. Stephen Hopper (Mamdouh Habib's solicitor), Maha Habib (Mamdouh's wife) and Hannah Middleton spoke at the event. In Adelaide there was a birthday cake, balloons, party hats and whistles and entertainment with Peter Coombe singing children's songs. Martyn Evans, member for Bonython cut the cake. Kay Bilney, from the Fair Go For David group in Adelaide, spoke: "We meet to remind John Howard and his government, all Australians and the world, that we have not forgotten David Hicks and Mamdou Habib, nor have we abandoned the rule of law in Australia. "All Australian citizens are entitled to international human rights and conventions and representation by their government, a responsibility which has been denied David Hicks and Mamdou Habib by the Howard government. They have received no consular or legal representation while being caged, shackled and constantly interrogated. "I know I speak not only for fairgofordavid but also the Hicks family when I sincerely thank Adelaide lawyer Steven Kenny who has supported the Hicks family and travelled to New York to assist David. "We also thank the Australian Peace Committee SA branch, Amnesty International, the political parties, the Uniting Church in Australia and every other organisation and individual who defend the right to due process, the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial."