The story of David Hicks is long and complicated, and only now that he is back in Australia, does it appear to have an end in sight.

Before Guantanamo

Thirty-one-year-old Australian David Hicks was held in Guantanamo Bay from 2002 until May 2007. He is a former horse trainer from Adelaide in South Australia and has two young children.

David converted to Islam after training with the Kosovo Liberation Army in Kosovo in 1999. According to his father, Terry Hicks, after David returned to Australia he decided to go overseas again to further his Islamic studies and to learn ancient Arabic. He then travelled to Pakistan to study in an Islamic school.

Following the 9/11 attacks, David telephoned his father from Kandahar in Afghanistan, to tell him he was going to help the Taliban defend Kabul from the Northern Alliance. He was captured on 9 December 2001 near Kunduz in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance.

The Northern Alliance allegedly subjected David Hicks to ill-treatment before handing him to the US authorities. After he was interrogated by US and Australian officials on board the USS Peleliu, he was transported to Guantanamo Bay in January 2002.

Charges against David Hicks

The Department of Defence announced on 1 March 2007 that charges were referred to a military commission in the case of David Matthew Hicks by the Convening Authority, Office of Military Commissions, Susan J. Crawford. The convening authority referred one charge with two specifications of 'providing material support for terrorism' against Hicks. The first proceeding under the military commissions took place on 26 March with the arraignment of David Hicks.

Amnesty International (AI) believes that the military commissions established under this Act to try David Hicks and others did not meet international standards for fair trials. The charges would be irrelevant if the trials did not meet international standards.

Contact with family

David Hicks was held incommunicado for long periods. Letters to his family were reportedly restricted, and he could not speak to his lawyer until 12 December 2003 - almost two years after he arrived at Guantanamo Bay.

During this time he was transferred from Camp Delta to Camp Echo where, according to his father, he was "completely isolated. The cells are painted white and they don't see anyone". In June 2004 David Hicks was allowed, for only the second time, to talk to his family on the telephone. He briefly met his father face-to-face in August 2004.

Allegations of torture

For five years David Hicks was detained where the lights never go off and the window never opens.

In 2002 David Hicks submitted a report to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) outlining the abuses he suffered by US officials.

Although restricted in the details he was allowed to give, Stephen Kenny, David Hicks' former Australian legal consultant said that this report referred to "specific incidences that I believe were not just the actions of individual guards, but rather a well known activity that must have been authorised by some reasonably high-up people in the chain of command of the US forces."

In August 2004 David Hicks gave a sworn affidavit to his military lawyer, Major Michael Mori. Declassified in December that year, the affidavit makes disturbing allegations about David Hicks' treatment and the treatment of other detainees in US custody.

The affidavit lists a number of techniques allegedly used by US interrogators that amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. David Hicks alleges that he:

  • was repeatedly beaten, once for eight hours, including while restrained and blindfolded;
  • was forced to take unknown medication;
  • was subjected to sleep deprivation "as a matter of policy";
  • was not allowed to leave his cell in Camp Echo to exercise in the sunlight between July 2003 and March 2004.

The US Department of Defense said it investigated the allegations of beatings. However, the official who announced the investigation sought to discredit David Hicks' claims by stating that they "seem[ed] to fit the standard operating procedure in al-Qaeda training manuals".

David Hicks's allegations echo claims that have come not only from detainees, but also from non-detainee sources, including FBI agents who have said they witnessed abuses in Guantanamo.

David Hicks also alleges that he witnessed the activities of the Immediate Response Force, which he described as a squad of soldiers who enter the cells of "uncooperative" detainees in order to "brutalise" them, often using attack dogs.

According to the affidavit, David Hicks witnessed members of the squad entering cells because detainees were praying or had refused medication. He says some detainees have been stripped naked and dragged around their cells, and have been forced to view pornographic materials in order to break their will.

Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib was released from Guantanamo Bay without charge in January 2005.

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