David Hicks, who has been imprisoned without trial at Guantánamo Bay for over five years,
is was a British citizen, until Home Secretary John Reid revoked his citizenship last July.
... Mr Hicks is an Australian national whose government has refused to press the Bush administration for his release. He fought a long legal battle in the UK courts which ended with senior judges ordering the home secretary to grant Mr Hicks citizenship. His mother was born in the UK and his grandfather fought for the British during the second world war.
On July 7, Mr Reid granted Mr Hicks British citizenship, only to use special powers to take it away just a couple of hours later. Mr Reid's decision came despite criticism from the government, from the prime minister down, of Guantánamo and demands for its closure...
... In his letter to Mr Hicks, Mr Reid wrote that he "poses a threat to the national security of the United Kingdom and that to deprive you of your British citizenship is conducive to the public good". [Guardian]
Given that Hicks would probably, if freed, live in Australia, it's difficult to see what threat to national security he could possibly pose, except perhaps as a source of friction between London and Washington. I'm reminded of the Trop vs. Dulles (1958) case in American law. The majority opinion of the Supreme Court was that depriving someone of their citizenship was against the eighth amendment, which bans 'cruel and unusual' punishments.
We believe ... that use of denationalization as a punishment is barred by the Eighth Amendment. There may be involved no physical mistreatment, no primitive torture. There is, instead, the total destruction of the individual's status in organized society. It is a form of punishment more primitive than torture, for it destroys for the individual the political existence that was centuries in the development. The punishment strips the citizen of his status in the national and international political community. [Trop v. Dulles]
Hicks does still have his Australian citizenship. But given the Howard government's refusal to help their citizen, given the UK's alleged influence over the Americans, and given that the other British citizens have been returned, Blair and Reid, for once, could have done the right thing. Instead they've overridden the courts and washed their hands of him, but the stain remains.
I sometimes, but not often enough, think of Hicks, stuck in that prison without hope of release, abandoned by his mother countries. And I wonder whether him being of Anglo-Saxon stock somehow makes him more dangerous in the eyes of his captors - if his name had been Aziz Abdul, would he still be there, five years on?
Anyway, I'm disgusted by our government's primitiveness and I hope that the tin man, John Howard, may be given a heart by some wizard in Oz and gets David Hicks home soon.