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Amnesty International Welcomes Zaoui Decision

1 October 2004

Amnesty International Welcomes Zaoui Decision

Amnesty International has welcomed the New Zealand Court of Appeal's decision handed down today that Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui can only be sent back to persecution if there is a present and future 'danger of substantial threatened harm to the security of New Zealand.'

'It is time for the Government to live up to its commitment to 'create and sustain a world-leading human rights environment' by ensuring that Mr Zaoui either receives a fair hearing in New Zealand of the allegations made against him, or is released' said Amnesty's NZ director, Ced Simpson.

'New Zealand should be setting human rights standards in the so-called 'campaign against terror', not violating them.'

In a unanimous decision, the Court rejected the Government's appeal against a High Court decision that the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security must take human rights standards into account in his review of the security risk certificate that has kept Mr Zaoui in prison for almost 22 months despite his refugee status.

The Court found that the 'threat to national security' alleged by the Director of Security on the basis of secret intelligence information must be sufficient to outweigh Mr Zaoui's human right to asylum from persecution, and that 'an appreciable alleviation of that danger must be capable of being achieved through his deportation.'

'This must be so if individuals are to be protected against unreasonable ideas of what constitutes 'national security',' Mr Simpson said.

'Over the years thousands of New Zealanders have campaigned through Amnesty International for individuals threatened with imprisonment, torture and death because some government or other has found it convenient to assert, rather than prove, that they were some sort of 'threat to national security'. We must do better as a country in the Ahmed Zaoui case.'

Amnesty International has consistently called for a hearing into the allegations against Mr Zaoui that would meet the standards established by the European Court of Human Rights for national security cases involving refugees.

Such a hearing would include a testing of allegations by counsel representing Mr Zaoui ' even if counsel had to be security-cleared and parts of the hearing held in camera to protect classified information.

'The New Zealand Government must now move without delay to protect his right to a fair hearing, and New Zealand's human rights reputation.'

Background

Amnesty International's sole concern in the Ahmed Zaoui case is that relevant human rights standards be applied.

AINZ has campaigned for a fair hearing into allegations against Mr Zaoui since he applied for asylum in December 2002.

Since New Zealand's Refugee Status Appeals Authority dismissed allegations made against him and granted him refugee status on 1 August 2003, AINZ has called for him to be released unless the Government is able to demonstrate in a fair judicial hearing that he is not deserving of asylum because 'there are reasonable grounds for regarding as a danger to the security of [New Zealand], or who, having been convicted by a final judgment of a particularly serious crime, constitutes a danger to the community'. (Article 33.2 of the Refugee Convention)

ENDS

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