David Hicks: The Man Who Was Chemically Tortured

Published on Dissident Voice, by Binoy Kampmark, September 16, 2012.

One sensed they were out to get him from the start. David Hicks, a misguided, foolish man, who found himself at a paramilitary camp in Afghanistan, had to be punished. Since the Australian authorities struggled to find a basis to get the former Guantánamo inmate for his participation on the wrong side of ‘terror’, they did so vicariously. Hicks, detained for six and a half years, made an Alford plea, acknowledging the submitted evidence without admitting to the charges. He was convicted under the Military Commissions Act 2006 for providing material support for terrorism and served a seven-month prison sentence in Australia on his return. 

The reason why there is now renewed interest in the Hicks case arises from documents and revelations from the proceeds of crime action launched by the Australian government. The patriotic darlings could not quite get their head around the fact that Hicks would want to write his own account about what happened in Guantánamo. They made an effort, which they subsequently dropped on July 24, to seize any earnings that might have accrued from Guantanamo: My Journey. In so doing, a few items of dirty laundry came out.

Some of this relates to the use of various drugs on the inmate population for “non-therapeutic” purposes. Euphemistically, this has been termed “pharmaceutical interrogation”, giving the impression that your local pharmacist would like to have a friendly word with you. When the all seeing state is the entity responsible for administering the needle or the pill, the stakes are somewhat different.

The dossier on Hicks’s treatment is getting weightier, and would have been far more illuminating had the case gone ahead. There are supporting statements from New York lawyer Josh Dratel and former Guantánamo Bay guard Brendon Neely, saying that that inmates would be rough handled for refusing to take the “medication”. According to Dratel, US prosecutors admitted that “guards had forced him to eat a meal which contained a sedative before they read him the charges” … //

… In a policy environment where torture is justified, by whatever name or appellation, the adoption of a drugs program to deal with state designated Untermenschen, and outcast subjects is irresistible. The case gets even less surprising when authorities of such clout as the US Food and Drug Administration can put Lariam, the brand name of mefloquine on the legal list. Besides, what is good for American prison inmates, the first to be exposed to quinolines, is good for non-American terrorist suspects.

This sordid story is another reminder that Australia’s government is one of the few on this peculiar planet to bequeath its citizens to other regimes and fob off infractions against them. Be it torture, suspect trials, and questionable legal proceedings, Canberra has stepped to the merry tune of its friends in Washington. Citizenship is merely a conjuring trick in the immigration offices, a matter of ceremony rather than substance. Hicks’s torture, of which the authorities in Canberra have been, to various degrees, complicit tells us that it will never reach the eyes of a properly constituted court.
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