Monday, September 20, 2004

Zaoui bail decision

Media reports of the Court of Appeal's decision to deny Ahmed Zaoui bail or Habeas Corpus has focused on Justice McGrath's implication that immigration regulations should be changed to allow it. In the process they've missed the real significance of the decision. Reading through the rulings, all judges agreed that Zaoui's detention was initially lawful. One - McGrath - said that it was lawful no matter what, and that there was no right to bail or Habeas Corpus. One - Hammond - blasted the government, saying that the detention had already gone on far too long and had become arbitrary. The "swing voter" - O'Reagan - agreed that the detention was lawful for the time being, but

would expressly leave open a possibility that a grant of bail could be an available remedy if the review process is not able to be brought to a reasonably swift conclusion.

He didn't lay down a deadline, but the implication is clear: the Court's patience with the government is wearing thin, and if Zaoui goes back to court in six months time, he may very well be released.