Saturday, October 20, 2007

No confidence in secret "justice"

So, five days later, and all those arrested in Monday's raids on Maori, greens and peace activists have been denied bail. Those arrested in Wellington will be transferred to Auckland to face charges. Worse, the reasons for this denial and the evidence supporting it have all been suppressed, with the public and media frequently excluded from the courtroom. Such secrecy was unacceptable in the Zaoui case, and it is unacceptable now. Public scrutiny of the justice system is vital to ensure it does not run amok and that people are not held on spurious charges and "evidence" that fails to pass the laugh test. It is necessary to keep the system honest. Unfortunately, without such scrutiny, we're left with reports such as this one about the photographing of people in Ruatoki in today's Herald:

He said police had apparently photographed members of the public with their cars in the Ruatoki area on Monday so that they could match people against video footage of alleged "terrorist" training camps.

"Part of the problem is that they can't identify people, so in their charges it says, 'Man in dark coat with brown pants'," he said.

"The public are being shepherded like sheep in what you call a line-up to assist in the conviction of someone from their community."

I sincerely hope this is not the case, and it would be difficult to imagine such charges being sustained in court. But in the absence of public scrutiny, we have no way of knowing - and no reason to have any confidence at all in the outcome.