Stalinist theatre

Robert Richter QC, The Age, April 1:

David Hicks is coming home. At what price? Let us take stock. The charade that took place at Guantanamo Bay would have done Stalin’s show trials proud. First there was indefinite detention without charge. Then there was the torture, however the Bush lawyers, including his Attorney-General, might choose to describe it. Then there was the extorted confession of guilt.

Whatever Hicks may have done, the theatre of a voluntary plea of guilty when the choice is “rot in hell or say it’s true so you can go home” is worthy of The Grand Inquisitor. In Stalin’s as well as the German show trials of the 1930s, the essence of the display was the public confession, followed by the sentence. The Iranians and al-Qaeda still practise it, but isn’t that why we declared a War on Terror?

Then there was the silence. In the show trials, it was enforced by execution. In this instance it is enforced by threats of further punishment in both the US and Australia. The implications of the gag are staggering when added to the wholesale destruction of the rule of law.

Hundreds of years of what constituted the rule of law have been jettisoned so that Howard, Ruddock and Downer can pretend that Hicks is off their election agenda. Forget habeas corpus. Forget retrospective legislation. Forget coerced evidence and confessions. Forget commissions in which guilt has been predetermined. Forget prosecutors being judges in their own cause.

It’s OK as long as those who aided and abetted the destruction of these principles are back in office and remain unaccountable and can perpetuate the lie. If they lose office, the true story will emerge — but may no longer have impact.… 

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