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Tuesday, 10 December 2002
Page: 7656

Senator Marshall asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 18 September 2002:

With reference to the two Australian citizens, Mr David Hicks and Mr Mamdouh Habib, who are currently detained and imprisoned by the United States of America in Camp Delta in Cuba:

(1) What is the current legal status of Mr Hicks and Mr Habib.

(2) What access do Mr Hicks and Mr Habib have to legal counsel of their choice.

(3) What access to and communication with their family members have Mr Hicks and Mr Habib had.

(4) Is there any indication that Mr Hicks and/or Mr Habib will be charged with any offence in any jurisdiction; if so, what are those charges.

(5) (a) What access do Mr Hicks and Mr Habib have to Australian consular staff; and (b) can the details of that access be provided.

(6) Is the Australian Government making any representations on behalf of Mr Hicks and/or Mr Habib to secure their release from custody.

(7) What is the current health situation of Mr Hicks and Mr Habib.

(8) Under what conditions are Mr Hicks and Mr Habib being imprisoned.

(9) Does the Government believe that Mr Hicks and Mr Habibs imprisonment is legal and that Australia has met its legal responsibilities and complied with all international conventions, treaties and agreements.

Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Responsibility lies with the United States, as the detaining power, to determine the legal status of the detainees. While the United States has determined that the detainees are not prisoners of war, United States authorities have stated that the men are being detained as enemy combatants in accordance with the laws of war.

(2) To date the United States has declined to grant the detainees access to legal representation.

(3) The detainees are able to send and receive mail through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The Government understands that both Australian detainees have used this service to communicate with family members in Australia.

(4) Investigations into the activities of both men are currently being undertaken by both Australian and US authorities, to determine whether any crimes have been committed by either man. Those investigations are complicated by the unique nature of the circumstances surrounding the detainees and their activities abroad. The Australian Government is in regular contact with the United States and both countries are cooperating to ensure the investigations and any possible prosecutions are conducted effectively. I am unable to comment further on the details of these investigations, for legal and privacy reasons.

(5) Consular access to the detainees in Guantanamo Bay has been declined by United States authorities.

(6) No.

(7) Australian officials who visited Guantanamo Bay in May 2002 noted that both detainees appeared in good health. All detainees have access to medical examinations and treatment.

(8) The Government is satisfied that both Mr Hicks and Mr Habib are being held in safe and humane conditions, and are being treated appropriately by US authorities. They are detained in an individual, air-conditioned cell with clean and appropriate bedding and washing facilities. They have access to medical examinations and treatment, culturally appropriate meals, and are permitted to observe religious practices. They are given fresh towels and uniforms on request and permitted exercise and reading material. They are able to send and receive mail through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). There is an ICRC representative at the military base who has access to the facility and the detainees, to independently assess their condition.

(9) Yes.