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Amnesty International Criticises Zaoui Decisions

5 February 2004 - for immediate release


Amnesty International today strongly criticised recent Government decisions in the case of Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui, calling for him to be moved from Auckland Remand Prison, and for the Government to reconsider appealing against a High Court decision that human rights should be taken into account during the review of the security risk certificate under which he is being held.

The human rights organisation said that the inherent unfairness of the current security risk certificate process, and the impact on the health and well being of Ahmed Zaoui, showed the need for an immediate review of the process covering such "national security" cases.

The call comes following a second report that Mr Zaoui is suffering the effects of chronic post-traumatic stress.

"At the centre of the Ahmed Zaoui controversy is the definition of 'national security' and the sort of stand New Zealand is prepared to take in the so-called 'war against terror'," said Amnesty's NZ director, Ced Simpson.

"Will we combat terror by reinforcing human rights and the rule of law, or will New Zealand be a pawn in larger power games in which these principles are applied selectively and unjustly?"

Mr Simpson said that it had been suggested that Ahmed Zaoui was not seen as a specific threat to the lives and wellbeing of New Zealanders, but that action taken against Mr Zaoui in Europe ? described by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority as being based on political expediency - was seen as requiring a similar response from New Zealand.

The Authority found that Mr Zaoui had been treated unfairly during proceedings in Belgium, France and Switzerland, and that no credible evidence had been presented that he was guilty of any serious crime.

"At a time when Amnesty International has documented many serious human rights violations being perpetrated during the so-called "War against Terror", assertions concerning "national security" must -- when people's health, liberty and very lives are at stake -- be tested adequately during fair hearings.

Mr Simpson said that the European Court of Human Rights had clearly established how human rights standards should apply in national security cases, and expressed disappointment that a government with a declared commitment to creating a "world-leading human rights environment" has not ensured that these standards apply during the Zaoui case.

"In grappling with faulty legislation that the Minister of Immigration rightly condemned in 1999 the Government must maintain New Zealand's human rights record and ensure justice for Ahmed Zaoui and his family.

"The reasonableness of a claim that national security is threatened must be judged by the Inspector-General with human rights in mind:

· assertions must be scrutinized under questioning in a fair hearing when there is a known misinformation campaign against Mr Zaoui;

· the fact that continuing detention may amount to ill-treatment must be part of the assessment of whether the risk to national security is such that the human right to health should be violated;

· the Inspector General cannot ignore the fact that deportation consequent to his upholding a security risk certificate may result in torture and death.

"The Government cannot set aside such human rights matters until the 3-day response time the Minister of Immigration has following the Inspector General's decision at some point months down the track."


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