Monday, December 13, 2004

Holding our heads up again

According to the Sunday Star-Times, the Supreme Court's decision to free Ahmed Zaoui on bail means that now we can hold our heads up again. Not quite. While I agree that the decision is a landmark victory for huamn rights and the rule of the law, and one that we can all be proud of, we cannot truly hold our heads high until we have a final verdict that the Inspector-General must take Zaoui's human rights into account, and we have made sure that this atrocity can never happen again. The laws that allowed the government to imprison Zaoui without charge or trial for two years on secret evidence are still in place; we cannot rest until they are reformed to ensure that they respect the fundamentals of justice.

Helen Clark has promised to review the law once Zaoui's case is resolved; what worries me is that she will "fix" it by removing the judicial oversight which has so embarassed her government. We must make sure that this does not happen. Justice requires that allegations by the security services must be tested in a proper court, rather than simply in the minds of a bunch of professional paranoids and their mushroomed minister.

The Star-Times does however hit home in its assessment of Zaoui's opponents:

What Mapp and his fellow anti-Zaoui campaigners really stand for is mindless obeisance to the authorities - even when the authorities are egregiously wrong. What they want is capitulation to foreign pressure and injustice. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Indeed they should. Freedom is not built on trusting the government, but on being inherantly suspicious of it. Those who would take the SIS on faith are effectively saying that our intelligence services - or rather, their foreign "partners" - should be allowed to imprison anyone they want, without any oversight whatsoever. But that's tyranny, not freedom, and it has no place in an open and democratic society like New Zealand.