Can’t we trust officials?

The Immigration Bill is largely the result of the case of Ahmed Zaoui.

On December 2nd 2002 Ahmed Zaoui arrived in New Zealand

The NZ Security Intelligence Service decided he was a ‘risk’.

For two years he was held in prison. He was finally bailed in december of 2004, when the courts overruled the complaints of the Crown lawyers.

After another three years the security risk certificate was finally lifted, meaning Zaoui was free.

We still don’t know what the information is, because they won’t tell us.

All we know is it turned out to be wrong. So no, we can’t just trust officials to get it right, and not have the ability to question them.

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6 Responses to “Can’t we trust officials?”

  1. He was a “risk” because he was using a fake passport – a deportable offence in most countries – and because he’d already been convicted on terrorism charges. Call me an idiot, but those are pretty major offences, and just the sort of thing I’d rather keep out of my country.

  2. Well, if you insist. You’re an idiot.

    He was a refugee.

    They quite often tend to be running from something, that’s why they’re seeking refuge.

    In any event, I don’t have a problem with the fact that the SIS had concerns – by the sounds of it they were right to have concerns. But those concerns should have been played out in line with the principles of natural justice, which include transparency. That did not happen.

    Clearly the concerns were poorly founded, as they ended up letting him go. I’m not blaming the SIS for getting it wrong, they have to go with their best judgement. But they should not be allowed to interpret the evidence however they want to, in secret, without independent oversight, and have their interpretation forced to be accepted as indisputable fact.

  3. Some people are very closed, idealistic and trusting in their perceptions of how authorities will operate and treat them in tense or unusual situations. Words like naive and vaguely stupid do come to mind. I would like to believe that if I am in a tense or really stressful situation I am able to talk to someone rational who will listen to me and not assume I am an evil wrongdoer just because I do not have the correct documentation or look right etc. And if I am running away I am likely to not have the correct documentation. I trust people to be sensible but am wise enough to know that many are not and those with authority can be very scary, not necessarily very clever and often very impressed by their own self importance and lacking in good judgement or the ability to think rationally. If someone is convicted of terrorism charges by someone or a regime which I consider evil or incompetent do I have to give those charges any credibility? I feel that even a small amount of good research may suggest that I should not.

  4. wab – The behaviour you talk about is exactly why we need to keep transparency and independent oversight.

    I like to think, and I’m pretty sure this is the case in NZ, that most of the people in positions of authority actually ARE probably pretty clever, and probably have sound judgement and are rational and pragmatic. But as you say, every now and then they might not be for whatever reason, and it’s those times that we need to make sure the appropriate checks and balances are in place to ensure fair and just treatment. That’s one of the worst things about this bill I think – it allows people to act in secret without accountability for or review of their actions.

  5. The chance of getting access to independent and transparent oversight is vital for a free community and something to be treasured and planned for.

  6. Yup, no argument there!

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