LIKE most other people, Britain's Home Secretary John Reid wins some and loses some. Yesterday a tribunal judge ruled that the government should be able to deport failed asylum seekers from Zimbabwe despite the possibility that their freedom and lives might be at risk if they had to return. This ruling overturned one made last year which said that Zimbabwe was unsafe for all failed asylum seekers. The government has argued that, despite the onerous political situation they live under, Zimbabweans should not assume that they would automatically be granted asylum in Britain were they to seek it. A win for Mr Reid. But yesterday, Mr Reid also suffered a serious reverse when three of the most senior judges in England and Wales upheld an earlier judicial decision that to keep suspected but uncharged terrorists under house arrest for 18 hours a day was so draconian that that it amoutned to a “deprivation of liberty” contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. True to form, Mr Reid criticised the judges and said he would try to get the House of Lords to reconsider the ruling. It's important that this issue should be tested to destruction, so to speak. What is at stake here is whether the state can hold suspects indefinitely without charging them in court (habeas corpus, no less) and whether house arrest can be so severe as to come close to imprisonment. Thus far the British government has lost this argument at every stage.


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