17 Jul. 2007

Haneef

I've been silent on the Haneef case till now. I think two things have happened in the case which are relatively new and important.

Firstly, the use of immigration powers against Dr Haneef. It's not the first time Australia has used immigration powers against someone, but the modality is somewhat new. Scott Parkin was deported in 2005 for clearly purely political reasons. Haneef however is not being deported, but held in detention in Australia, and not pending deportation, as Parkin was briefly, but pending trial for a criminal offence, despite the fact that a magistrate granted Haneef bail. The immigration powers of the state simply gives the state the ability to detain people without proper judicial oversight, and this is extremely worrying. Of course, this power is only applicable clearly to non-citizens: although the state has imprisoned and deported citizens under immigration powers, it did not actually have the right to do so, and was only able to do so because the people concerned did not have the wherewithal to mount a legal challenge, which Haneef would.

The other point which is novel is the justification for this, namely deterrence. Since Haneef has not been found guilty, but rather is thus far only tarred by association with relatives of his who are also yet to be found guilty, it is rather unclear what is being deterred. Should we not associate with our relatives in case they turn out to be charged with crimes relating to terrorism? Even if his relatives are guilty, what would be the message? Commit terrorism and we'll come after your whole family? This kind of guilt by association goes against liberal juridical principles and invokes an older form of guilt by blood, as does the whole spectacle of these men being hounded for their ethnic origins.