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News Backgrounder: Zaoui Seeks His Freedom

News Backgrounder: Zaoui Seeks His Freedom


By Kevin List

Today the lawyers for detained refugee Ahmed Zaoui have gone to the High Court in Auckland seeking his release from penal custody. Mr Zaoui, who is New Zealand's first and only recipient of a security risk certificate (SRC), has now been detained in various New Zealand penal institutions for more than 18 months.

The legislation that is keeping Mr Zaoui in penal custody was introduced in 1999. At the time the members of the Select Committee that worked on this legislation included current MP's Gerry Brownlee, Lianne Dalziel, Taito Philip Field, Matt Robson and Pansy Wong. The committee's chairperson was former National MP Joy Quigley.

Interestingly two of the committee's advisors at the time have risen through the ranks of the Department of Labour.

The man responsible for looking into the legal implications of the Immigration Amendment Act 1999 for the New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS) was Graeme Buchanan.

Today Buchanan took over one of the new Deputy-Secretary positions created at the Department of Labour. Missing out on a position as a Deputy Secretary was current General Manager of the NZIS Andrew Lockhart. During the select committee proceedings Lockhart was manager of Border and Investigations at the NZIS, and would have played a significant role in working on aspects of the legislation dealing with security issues.

Zaoui's lawyers will today be arguing that section 114O of the 1999 Amendment Act provides leeway to detain a SRC recipient in premises other than a penal institution. The Department of Labour have advised the Government that this section can only be interpreted as providing for penal detention for Zaoui. However section 114(O) does state that a person held under a SRC may be released from either a prison or from some 'other premises’.

When questioned about this provision, the then chairperson Joy Quigley was unable to assist Scoop with any specifics.

Quigley pointed out that when the MPs considered the legislation they had no idea that someone would be in jail for more than a year whilst the SRC proceedings rumbled on. The committee's main concern was a boatload of Chinese asylum seekers that was supposedly heading for New Zealand. In order to avoid detaining a mass arrival of boat people in penal custody, new provisions were put in place relating to what was then determined as 'other premises'.

A NZIS briefing paper to the committee relating to custody pointed out that till that date (late 1998) no person held under immigration laws had been detained in what were termed 'other premises'. However proposals were put in place by NZIS to work around this issue. The paper stated that

'At this stage it is anticipated that NZIS, via the Manager Border and Investigations, would assume overall responsibility for the approved premises by means of being designated the person in charge.'

At present the manager of the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre is known as the 'Person in Charge' and it is an approved premises.

Regardless of whether or not Zaoui wins his latest Court battle, National MP Wayne Mapp considers Zaoui (or anyone subject to a SRC) should be kept in a penal institution for the duration of the process.

Mapp is convinced that the Labour Government is absolutely correct to maintain that Zaoui cannot be anywhere else but a penal institution.

Dr Wayne Mapp's personal view expressed to Scoop today is, "that anyone who is the subject of a security risk certificate should be held in penal custody." Dr Mapp considered that the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre would not be secure enough for someone who was the subject of a security risk certificate.

In Dr Mapp's latest press statement on the Zaoui case Mapp called the current litigation (to move Zaoui from penal custody) vexatious.

When pressed as to whether all the litigation engaged upon by Zaoui's lawyers had been vexatious he conceded that the recent Court of Appeal case may have been necessary to clarify what the Inspector-General's responsibilities are.

However Mapp was of the opinion that the appeal to dismiss the Inspector-General should have been handled at the same time as the case regarding the Inspector-General's responsibilities (Dec 2003).

**** ENDS ****

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