Samaya Chanthaphavong interviewed Aloysia Brooks, founder of the Justice Campaign which calls upon the Australian government to enact federal human rights legislation, and to open an independent and public investigation into David Hicks’ detention and conviction by the Guantanamo military commission.
Aloysia Brooks is a human rights and social justice advocate who campaigns for the promotion and protection of human rights in the increased security environment. Aloysia’s background is working with survivors of torture and trauma, and working for human rights advocacy organisations, including Amnesty International Australia. Aloysia currently works as a lecturer, and is a research assistant for a European Union funded Torture Prevention Project. She completed a Masters of Human Rights at the University of Sydney in 2008 and is presently undertaking doctoral studies examining public representations of torture in Australia at the University of Sydney.
[RN] The Justice Campaign is a fairly new initiative with the Hon. John Dowd AO QC and Brandon Neely (a former guard at Guantanamo Bay) as patrons. Can you please explain to our readers a little bit about The Justice Campaign and the motivation behind setting it up?
[Aloysia Brooks] The Justice Campaign was started for two reasons. The first was my concern with the general lack of a “human rights respecting culture” in Australia. We are the only Western country that lacks federally enshrined human rights protections, and human rights are spoken of as if they are far away legal principles that only apply to people in other countries, or those who we think “deserve” them. The most vulnerable and voiceless people in our community remain unprotected.
The second reason is due to the Australian government’s handling of the David Hicks case. Human rights should not be set aside for political purposes. It was clear that there was a lot more to David’s case than the Howard government disclosed, which became particularly apparent when he was held for so long without charge or trial in conditions that clearly violated the Convention against Torture. This is why we are calling on the current government to open an independent and open investigation into David Hicks’ case. The Australian public has a right to know what involvement the Howard government had in David’s plea deal and, of particular importance, there must be a record of the torture and ill-treatment David was subjected to, and what knowledge the Howard government was a party to. The only way to prevent this from happening to another Australian citizen, someone like Julian Assange for example, is to expose what happened, and put mechanisms in place to prevent another case like this. We have seen investigations into the Haneef and Habib cases, but the resistance to opening an investigation into David Hicks’ case remains concerning. For many years we have been told by the Australian Government that he was treated lawfully and humanely. If that is the case, there shouldn’t be a reason why the Australian government should not want to hold an independent investigation. There is a lot of support for the truth about David’s situation to come to light from both sides of politics.
There is also a vast amount of misinformation out there about the David’s case, and torture in general, and there needs to be a place where people can seek reliable information, rather than the opinions of sources that lack sufficient knowledge about the case. David is aware of everything that is placed onto The Justice Campaign website – it is important that the Campaign remains a collaborative process.
The most vulnerable and voiceless people in our community remain unprotected.
Does the use of the internet change the way The Justice Campaign views and interacts with grass roots activism?
The internet has now opened the door to activists and concerned global citizens world-wide. It is always fantastic to see support and re-tweets from all over the world. For example, people from the United States and Russia are responding to my tweets about torture techniques. To see dialogue about torture and human rights occurring with people from all over the world is fantastic. There are no boundaries to activism anymore. It is a reminder that we are living in a global community, and we have an obligation to care for each other, and defend each other’s basic human rights.
I started my human rights work before Twitter and Facebook, so it has all been new for me! Social media is an excellent tool for raising awareness. Twitter forms the most central function in the campaign now. It is the fastest and easiest way to disseminate information. The Justice Campaign website receives most of its traffic after people have re-tweeted information about the campaign and events.
At the moment I am tweeting facts about torture every day this June for Torture Awareness Month. There is a misconception that to constitute torture, the act must leave physical scars. These physical techniques are not often employed in places like Guantanamo and other United States facilities anymore. Rather, techniques like sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation or bombardment and isolation are used in unison to “destroy” the person. Twitter has been an efficient way of raising awareness about this important human rights issue.