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The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) has called on the Federal Government to act now to secure justice for two Australians who have been detained for over three years in US interrogation facilities.

Bishop Christopher Saunders, ACSJC Chairman said: “On International Human Rights Day, we celebrate the rights that underpin our Australian way of life. It is appropriate to consider the plight of two fellow Australians, Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks. For years, they have been denied fundamental rights afforded under international law.

“Reputable international organisations like Amnesty and the Red Cross have repeatedly raised concerns about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay – suggesting it has been tantamount to torture. And in recent times, US Courts have made rulings that put in doubt the lawfulness of their continuing detention and the ability of the military tribunals to ensure a fair hearing.”

Commenting on the rights due to the Australians, Bishop Saunders said: “It is understandable that many Australians will be wondering about the guilt or innocence of David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib in relation to possible terrorist offences. We must remember, however, that it is the Australian way to settle questions of guilt or innocence in a court of law that ensures all the proper protections of the rule of law, including the presumption of innocence.

“The detention of Hicks and Habib has gone on for too long. We call on the Australian Government to negotiate with the US an end to the detention and to ensure the Australians have immediate access to the ordinary process of justice in a non-military court.”

Bishop Saunders commended the efforts of lawyers such as Stephen Kenny and Steven Hopper who continue to act on behalf of the two Australians and to raise these vital legal and human rights issues in national debate.

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