Kim Hill Debates Zaoui With PM - Transcript
Kim Hill: Does it seem odd to you that while you’re toying, and excuse the expression, with esoteric and non-urgent ideas about a written constitution or should we have a republic, arguably and we saw this at your Labour party conference at the weekend, arguably the most important issue for a large number of your supporters is Ahmed Zaoui – who has been locked up for two years without trial or charge.
Helen Clark: I would say to you that the most important issue by far to our supporters is the fact that this Government has presided over radically falling unemployment, that many people have jobs because the economy is growing and tax revenue has rolled in, we’re able to invest a great deal more in education and health and services to old people and families. That’s what matters to the people I represent.
Kim Hill: It is a very, very odd thing for a Labour Prime Minister, a Labour party veteran like yourself to say that as long as people are fat and healthy then to hell with the guy rotting in jail!
Helen Clark: No, no, no, I’m not saying that. I’m saying that to my supporters what I came into politics to deliver is jobs, a decent health system, education, security in old age and a lot of opportunities. That’s what our Government is delivering. Now the Zaoui issue is quite another issue and it’s being handled absolutely according to the law with full court processes and much as people might try to draw me into the loop of the director of security issuing a security risk certificate, I can’t be drawn in because I have no legal authority.
Kim Hill: All right, let’s not talk about the Ahmed Zaoui loop thing, let’s talk about why a man judged to be a genuine refugee by a Refugee Status Appeals Authority has been held without trial or charge for two years.
Helen Clark: Because a certificate of security risk was issued against him by the Director of Security, there’s a process whereby that certificate is able to be examined by an Inspector…
Kim Hill: But not by Mr Zaoui and not by us…
Helen Clark: No, no, the certificate…
Kim Hill: The reason why…
Helen Clark: The Inspector-[General] to date has not been able to get anywhere near it.
Kim Hill: Why is that?
Helen Clark: Because there has been a great deal of litigation over it. The Refugee Status Appeals Authority process took about six months…and other court processes.
Kim Hill: Now hang on a moment. This is getting increasingly Kafkaesque to realise that because the reason that the Inspector General of Intelligence has been delayed on reviewing the security risk certificate is because the Government appealed a High Court decision that said the Inspector General of Intelligence should take Mr Zaoui’s human rights into consideration, human rights into consideration.
Helen Clark: No, no, no, human rights were always going to be taken into consideration…
Kim Hill: Well, then why did the Government appeal this?
Helen Clark: The debate was about the point at which they were taken into account.
Kim Hill: Like, they shouldn’t be taken into consideration for two years and suddenly they are.
Helen Clark: No, no it is about the point in the process [that human rights are taken into consideration]. The Inspector-General looks at the certificate of security risk which is issued on security grounds. It has always been the Governments understanding that human rights issues are taken into account by the Minister of Immigration if the certificate were upheld by the Inspector-General.
Kim Hill: Do you politically…you must realise the irony of this. When you started out attending Labour Party conferences 32 years ago, you may well have been the person shouting ‘free Ahmed Zaoui’ and now you are getting them escorted out by security guards and threatened with arrest!
Helen Clark: People are escorted out because they burst into a Labour Party congress when the Leader [Ms Clark] is giving a speech and the people want to hear the Leader [Ms Clark] not someone screaming from the balcony. That’s why they were asked to leave – it is a private event not a public meeting.
Kim Hill: Where is your sense of justice on this one?
Helen Clark: Well the sense of justice is that you have a law, you have a Director of Security, who has the legal authority on his own account to issue a certificate of security risk - that then needs to be examined by the Inspector-General. As the result of a variety of legal processes, initiated by the defence for Mr Zaoui, we haven’t got to that point.
Kim Hill: Why is it that the Government didn’t accept the Refugee Status Appeal Authority’s decision that unambiguously said – this man is not a terrorist – he doesn’t present a terrorist threat – he is a genuine refugee. Do you not wake up and think ‘we have a genuine refugee locked up for two years’.
Helen Clark: No I don’t.
Kim Hill: Well why not?
Helen Clark: I personally think that the Refugee Status Appeals Authority was cavalier, in dismissing, without taking evidence from either the French or Belgian legal systems – why they reached the decision that they did. It [the RSAA decision] relied on advice from Mr Zaoui’s side of the argument.
Kim Hill: Have you read it
Helen Clark: I’m well aware of what is in it…
Kim Hill: Have you read it?
Helen Clark: No, no of course I haven’t.
Helen Clark: Please Kim do not lecture to me about the judgment. I know [Hill interrupts] - Excuse me! I know that the Refugee Status Appeals Authority did not call for evidence from the Belgian and French legal systems, which both entered convictions against Mr Zaoui. Now I can come back to the point - the refugee status is irrelevant to the Director of Security’s certificate issued on security grounds. That process still needs to be seen through. That is not a process over which I have legal authority.
Kim Hill: But you could have accepted that refugee status and he would not be in Auckland Central Remand Prison?
Helen Clark: No that [Mr Zaoui’s refugee status] is not relevant to the certificate of security risk. That was issued on security grounds.
Kim Hill: Do we know why?
Helen Clark: I’m reasonably well briefed on it and I won’t be giving you a full briefing here tonight.
Kim Hill: Do you think that Mr Zaoui knows why?
Helen Clark: I think he has a fair idea.
Kim Hill: But only if he’s guilty of what you think he’s guilty of.
Helen Clark: No-one is talking about guilt. One is talking about a Director of Security on his own account issuing a certificate.
Kim Hill: By the way I don’t need to lecture you on the Refugee Status Appeals Authority. I’ll let your former Immigration Minister, Lianne Dalziel do it. Because last year she said –
In the field of refugee law the jurisprudence of our refugee status appeals authority is second to none
Helen Clark: Oh she didn’t say that with respect to the [Refugee Status appeals] authority. She talked about the refugee status determination process and that is the stage which is done in the later part. The Labour Department did the initial determination on Mr Zaoui, it actually turned down his application and it was at that point it went to appeal.
Kim Hill: But the Government has been happy to accept appeals in favour of itself – why are you saying that this Appeal Authority is in some way less legitimate than the first decision.
Helen Clark: Well its [the Refugee Status Appeal Authority] decision can’t be appealed. I simply offer my opinion that they [the RSAA] didn’t call evidence from those they then judged to be wanting.
Kim Hill: Can I ask you this then because it seems to be an issue. Do you think that Ahmed Zaoui is a terrorist or a threat to national security?
Helen Clark: I have never offered any substantive opinion on the issue of Mr Zaoui
Kim Hill: That’s why I’m asking you.
Helen Clark: No, I’m not going to give it to you – because it would be quite improper for me to do that.
Kim Hill: You’ll be hoping that he is though - otherwise you won’t be able to sleep at night.
Helen Clark: I have no hopes or expectations. What I know is that a legal process was set in chain. What I’ve also been saying for quite some time is that I don’t think the process which was legislated for in 1998 allowed for quick enough decisions to be made and it is not satisfactory for anyone. But this one has got caught up in the law.
b> I’d prefer a process which enabled a speedy outcome
Helen Clark: I’d prefer a process which enabled a speedy outcome. When this case is through that process will be reviewed. But it is not appropriate in the middle of the case.
Kim Hill: How much truth is there in the suggestion – and it has been made – that you want to be able to tell President Bush that New Zealand has a suspected terrorist in prison when you meet him in Chile at the Apec meeting.
Helen Clark: Shall I just laugh
Kim Hill: You can if you like – it would be an eloquent response.
Helen Clark: It is an eloquent response and it is ridiculous
Note: Following the commercial break Kim Hill and Helen Clark briefly traversed the merits of the New Zealand flag before once again returning to the issue of detained refugee, Ahmed Zaoui.
Kim Hill: It has been suggested, I mean just going back to Ahmed Zaoui that if we had a written constitution then you’d have the power of Habeus Corpus.
Helen Clark: Well Americans have a written constitution
Kim Hill: And they argue about it constantly!
Helen Clark: And they argue about it constantly! And they have actually far more people in far worse conditions than Mr Zaoui.
Kim Hill: You are not going to leave it there are you?
Helen Clark: In what way?
Kim Hill: Well you are not going to say that it is alright to put somebody in jail for ten months in solitary confinement – in jail for two years without trial or charge!
Helen Clark: Well it is hardly Guantanamo Bay! But the point I’m making is that everything around Mr Zaoui has been conducted within a clear legal framework. It is not a process that I have any legal authority over.
Kim Hill: No, but you are pushing the appeals against the existing decisions.
Helen Clark: The Government wants the law clarified and it is entitled to have it clarified because the Court of Appeal has come up with a rather different understanding from that on which authorities operate.
Kim Hill: I just need to know for the record – Do you worry that Ahmed Zaoui is a completely innocent victim of some Kafkaesque legal process.
Helen Clark: No.
See also - Prime Minister Bamboozles Kim Hill - http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0411/S00256.htm