Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Arbitary detention, arbitrary release

The British government has released a man it has held without trial for three years as a terrorist suspect. This is good news, of course - people should not be arbitrarily detained in such a fashion - but at the same time raises more questions than it answers. Such as why the man in question was considered dangerous enough to justify detention yesterday, but safe enough to release today. No explanation has been given either for his detention or release, and in the absence of any examination of evidence by an independent and impartial body, it's difficult not to see both decisions as essentially arbitrary.

This is the key feature of the system British Home Secretary Charles Clarke wants to preserve: the ability to place arbitrary restrictions on people's communications and movements (up to and including house arrest) at a moment's notice, solely on his say-so. As people have noted, this is the sort of system used in a police state, or in apartheid South Africa.