Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Secret justice isn't

I haven't watched Scoop's latest video on the Ahmed Zaoui case (I really need to poke those holes in the firewall to allow streaming media content), but I have read the accompanying text, and its a little worrying. The Inspector-General of Security and Intelligence will reportedly begin hearing witnesses for his review of the validity of the Security Risk Certificate issued against Zaoui in early August. However, those hearings will be held in secret:

Justice Neazor insists the hearings be held in private banning all observers (including observers from Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists). SIS Director, Richard Woods, will however be permitted to attend the hearings.

It's difficult to see what the justification for this is. By definition, none of the material discussed will be classified; that information will be withheld from Zaoui and reviewed later by a security-cleared "special advocate". Instead, the primary purpose seems to be to limit media coverage and independent oversight of the evidence and fairness of the processes used. What seems lost on the Inspector-General is that this gives us no reason to have confidence in the outcome, and every reason to view the proceedings as a modern-day Star Chamber.

We all know the saying: "justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done". Open justice is essential to maintaining public confidence in the integrity of the justice system. While this is not a criminal trial, a man's life and future is at stake, and the same principle should apply. The hearings should be public, so we can all see for ourselves whether the process is fair and the final judgement robust, or whether it is just another stich-up from the SIS.