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Zaoui Info. Raises More Questions Than Answers

FOR ATTENTION OF: CHIEFS OF STAFF

20 February 2004 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

AHMED ZAOUI - FREEDOM OR FAIR TRIAL
INFORMATION RAISES MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS

Amnesty International has renewed its call for Ahmed Zaoui to be freed unless the Government is prepared to ensure he is given a fair hearing, following the release this morning of an SIS "summary of allegations" against the imprisoned Algerian refugee.

The four-page document, released this morning by Mr Zaoui's lawyers, was described by Amnesty's NZ director, Ced Simpson, as "too little, too late, and again raising serious questions about the Government's handling of the case."

"The fact that this 'summary of allegations' was not given to Mr Zaoui eleven months ago ? as required by natural justice and in accordance with New Zealand's human right obligations ? increases the suspicion that his continuing detention has more to do with political expediency than an objective assessment of the threat he allegedly poses to New Zealand," said Mr Simpson.

The "summary of allegations" says that a decision to allow Mr Zaoui to stay in New Zealand "would indicate that New Zealand has a lower level of concern about security than other like-minded countries [and] that would impact adversely on New Zealand's reputation with such countries and thus on New Zealand's well-being."

"No-one is more concerned about terror than Amnesty International. We see the human cost and work against it every day. But much terror has been carried out in the name of "national security" and, as the European Court of Human Rights has said, you cannot have a process where an assertion that someone is a threat to national security is unchallengeable."

Mr Simpson said that the European Court of Human Rights had clearly established how human rights standards should apply in national security cases, and AI was dismayed 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.

"To be challengeable, allegations need to be specific and there must be some sort of cross-examination by counsel representing the person whose health, liberty and life are at stake, even if sources are protected, counsel need to be security-cleared, and the process is in camera."

Mr Simpson said that the Government appeared to be oblivious to the risk posed to New Zealand's international reputation from such arbitrary use of power.

Following a second report that Mr Zaoui is suffering the effects of chronic post-traumatic stress Amnesty International called for him to be moved from Auckland Central 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 earlier this month 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 cases.

"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 Mr 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?"

The Refugee Status Appeals Authority found that Mr Zaoui had been treated unfairly during proceedings in Belgium, France and Switzerland that were cited in the 'summary of allegations', and that no credible evidence had been presented that he was guilty of any serious crime.

For more information:

Visit AINZ's website at http://www.amnesty.org.nz

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