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MEDIA ALERT: NZ Govt cover-up in refugee bashings

9 July 2004

MEDIA ALERT: NZ Government cover-up in refugee bashings of man criminally held with murderers

Project SafeCom Inc.

New Zealand's peaceful refugee acceptance record is in tatters with the resignation of NZ's Inspector-General of Intelligence, the keeping of an approved refugee in a maximum security murder prison block, a botched government cover-upover approved asylum seeker, and claims of refugee bashing, assaults and intimidation.

Below are some summary points of the shocking Zaoui Affair, still unfolding in New Zealand.

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.

Ahmed Zaoui is a duly elected member of the Algerian parliament - though his party never came to power due to a military coup in Algeria in 1992.

In late December 2002 he arrived in New Zealand as an asylum seeker - from that time on he has been in New Zealand penal institutions without charge.

In March 2003 New Zealand's Security Intelligence Services issued the first Security Risk Certificate in New Zealand's history. This allows Zaoui to be deported even though he has been adjudicated to be a genuine refugee. This also allows the New Zealand Government to claim that the only place Mr Zaoui can be, is in a penal institution.

After a large number of legal battles, one of which eventually led to New Zealand's inaugural Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security resigning, Zaoui's lawyers attempted to get Zaoui moved from Prison to a secure refugee centre.

The Crown fought this application and the Minister of Corrections (who is also the Minister of Immigration...) expressed the belief that Zaoui must be held in penal detention, basically without charge until such time that the next Inspector-General decides whether or not our Intelligence Services are accurate in their assessment that Zaoui is a risk to national security.

This week it was discovered by Scoop New Zealand, that there had been allegations of bashing, assaults and intimidation when Zaoui was first incarcerated in New Zealand's most notorious prison (D Block Paremeremo). This maltreatment had been mentioned in a Sunday paper last year sparking a Queen's Counsel to write to the then Minister of Correction's (but not Immigration at the time) Paul Swain seeking an urgent inquiry. The Minister replied some time later assuring the Queen's Counsel that the reports had been forwarded to Zaoui's lawyers.

Last week the General Manager of the Public Prison Service in answer to a media inquiry confirmed that this information was actually false. Eventually Zaoui's lawyers were able to get the files relating to the assault allegations but too late to use in their Court appearance.

As happens all too often, the Minister has blamed his officials. New Zealand has also been condemned by the UN Convention Against Torture Report for its handling of the case.

An ex Minister of Correction's and Government MP (though not in the majority Labour party) has been vociferous in his criticism of his own Government's handling of this botched cover-up - Robson has claimed that Zaoui has been framed by Government agencies.

Of note is the New Zealand Greens MP Keith Locke, who brought the initial matter of Zaoui's detention to Parliament's attention.

The stories got an exiled MP - New Zealand's intelligence agencies, an Inspector-General having to resign and claims of prison abuse against a Muslim man in New Zealand's most hellish prison: D-Block is where you get to go if you are a violent killer - not normally
reserved for genuine refugees.

Online resource information:

Zaoui Case: Seeking Asylum From Inside A Cell

Minister Paul Swain Misleads QC Over Zaoui Assault Reports

Second Zaoui Assault Investigation: "Once Over Lightly"


© Scoop Media

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