Tuesday 20 December 2011

A lesson in contrasts

American legal scholars debate whether provisions in the latest defence appropriations bill would allow the government to hold citizens indefinitely without charge. Here's the latest summary:
The law provides that indefinite detention without charge may be imposed on anyone who has provided “substantial support” to groups that are “associated forces” of al-Qaeda; but it leaves undefined what constitutes “substantial support” and which groups might qualify as “associated forces.” Thus far, the lower federal courts have upheld detention of al-Qaeda or Taliban members, but not mere supporters, much less supporters of associated forces. And there is much dispute about whether the laws of war permit detention in those circumstances. Now Congress has essentially predetermined that question. Unless this and future administrations construe these provisions as limited by the laws of war, they risk authorizing detention that the laws of war would not. 
See also Volokh and Lawfare. And recall that American drug warriors have argued that marijuana users offer support to terrorist groups.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, lawyers for the police have advised that sniffer-dog searches in schools breach students' civil rights, and so the police have stopped carrying out such searches, previously requested by the schools, pending further legal advice:
"Police are currently considering the legal implications regarding searches by drug dogs in schools," a spokeswoman said.
"Police understands the Ministry of Education is also working on good practice guidelines for schools so that they can search and confiscate items that may pose a safety risk."
She said police gave other support to schools, such as drug education, arranging counselling and prosecutions. "Where schools detect more serious drug offending, police become more actively involved."
Hutt Valley High School has historically had a police dog team conduct annual searches. But its request was refused this year "on the grounds that the police have no cause to search".


  1. Without deliberately trying to self-promote, a further contrast is Mark Hotchin's asset freeze, now over one year old without even a charge laid, which I've written on here: especially the final series of questions. I'd be interested to know your thoughts on that Eric - surely that's a form of 'detention without trial'?

    (And OT, regarding your tweet yesterday, about holidaying in Nelson - we've a holiday home in the Mahau Sound, and are wondering what the damage may be there - you might find this site, Nelson Travel adviser, useful.)

  2. @Mark: I've avoided the Hotchin / Hanover Finance stuff.

    I've not followed the debacles in the NZ finance companies that closely; it would take me a week's worth of background work to be able to say anything on Hotchin without worries about being sued for defamation. I agree that trials should be speedy, but I certainly don't have enough background to say anything on whether SFO is here being reasonable. I can easily imagine things going either way. Maybe the SFO's being ridiculous, or maybe they have reasonable worries that all his assets are basically proceeds of financial crimes against his investors and that he'd tunnel them out of the country absent a freeze. I've flat priors.

    Thanks for link on Nelson; other responses have been that it's been more than a bit sensationalized. Looking forward to golden sands at the north end of the South Island!