Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Sanctuary and Politics

In 1849 a philosopher was expelled from Belgium and France because of subversive views and political activities and came to Great Britain. Despite pressure from Prussia and other european nations the British government refused to expel him because they believed in freedom of expression. The British government was no more enamoured of these philosophies than their european neighbours nor were under any covenant or obligation to accept this refugee. They simply stuck to their liberal principles and did "the right thing". Today Karl Marx's grave is a tourist attraction in Highgate Cemetry.

In 2002 an Islamic politician and scholar, expelled from Belgium, France and Switzerland for alleged political activities came to New Zealand. The NZ Refugee Status Appeals Authority examined the previous allegations against him and rejected them. The SIS (under pressure from undisclosed other countries)issued a security risk certificate allowing him to be deported in spite of the RSAA ruling. Ahmed Zaoui has remained in prison since that time amidst repeated litgation over that certificate and its review. During this litigation it has become increasingly apparent that alleged secret evidence held by the SIS contains nothing of substance beyond the allegations that have already been discredited by the RSAA.

The Sock Thief and The Whig have pointed to a Herald article on Zaoui's party (the FIS) and suggest that he should be deported because his politics are objectionable. Lord Russell (an altogether nobler Whig) would have found Karl Marx's politics no less objectionable and a far more credible threat but put human decency, freedom of expression and a conviction that dangerous ideas should be confronted by counter arguments rather than suppression first. I do not believe that this (or any recent) NZ government is any less committed to human rights or freedom of expression and we have the additional argument of international obligations under the Refugee Convention. What is on trial is whether they have the moral courage of their earlier British counterpart.


Blogger Uroskin said...

You could add Voltaire, France and Switzerland too, or the Descartes in The Netherlands.
I guess the tug for Governments is between being seen to condone unpalatable views by allowing them to be expressed, and suppressing them by refusing thought offenders entry (or banishing them)

20 October 2004 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger Rich said...

19th Century Britain did not have or need a secret service. 21st Century New Zealand doesn't need one either, but unfortunately we have one. The whole Zaoui affair stems from SIS trying to justify their existence, IMHO.

20 October 2004 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger Greyshade said...

I agree with you up to a point but ... Britain has employed espionage networks since at least the 16th Century but didn't have formal intelligence until the late 19th (Special [Irish] Branch 1883) and early 20th (ancestors of MI5 and MI6 1909). Lord Russell would not have lacked intelligence about the domestic dangers and foreign policy implications of sheltering Marx and it would all have come from people with their own agendas.

No doubt the SIS has its own motives for the advice it is giving the government and maintaining "street cred" with DGSE and other counterpart agencies is probably high on the list. Helen Clark is (or should be) aware of those motives and in a position to ask searching questions about the actual intelligence and its provenance. Asking those questions is part of the moral courage I questioned in my posting. The government can no more avoid moral responsibility for their decision (whatever it is) by blaming their intelligence service then Bush or Blair can for starting the Iraq war.

20 October 2004 at 6:25 PM  
Blogger sagenz said...

now there is the interesting thing. surely we should let a learned person like Zaoui stay in New Zealand. I agree. But dont you think the world would have been a better place during the 20th century if Marx had been shot on sight?

24 October 2004 at 3:03 AM  
Blogger Greyshade said...

You have a point at a certain level. The same level that would argue that the world would have been a better place during the

24 October 2004 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Greyshade said...

You have a point at a certain level. The same level that might argue that the world would have been a better place during the middle ages if Jesus of Nazareth had been killed at birth.

I suspect that History doesn't really work that way - although, of course, we will never know.

What we do know is that England would have been a worse place in 1849 if Karl Marx had been shot on sight rather than accepted as a refugee.

24 October 2004 at 2:19 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

29 October 2004 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

Dialectical materialism shows that had Marx been shot, then his philosophy would have been discovered by others. :-)

29 October 2004 at 2:55 PM  
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