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Five Years In Jail Acceptable For Zaoui – Crown

Five Years In Jail Acceptable For Zaoui – Crown Argues

Coverage of day one of the Zaoui Detention appeal – Court of Appeal 7th September 2004
By Kevin List

The Crown yesterday closed day one, of a two day Court of Appeal hearing , arguing that provided the case was moving along, five years in jail may be an acceptable time for a Ahmed Zaoui to spend in jail whilst the process was completed.

Detained Algerian refugee, Ahmed Zaoui's lawyers spent most of the day pointing out the numerous flaws in the process that has involved their client spending 21 months in penal incarceration, since his arrival in New Zealand in December 2002.

In an earlier High Court decision hearing regarding where and how Mr Zaoui should he held, any recourse to Habeus Corpus and bail was overruled. Justice Paterson's decision further intimated that Mr Zaoui should be moved to a more humane environment however Justice Patterson considered that a more humane environment, such as the Mangere Refugee Centre, was not suitable for an alleged risk to national security.

Justice Patterson was no doubt swayed in his opinion by testimony from senior New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS) officials that Mangere was no place for someone such as Mr Zaoui.

In reply Zaoui's lead counsel Rodney Harrison considered testimony given by Chief Operating Officer, Brendan Quirk, to have been entirely inconsistent.

Mr Quirk had never once met Mr Zaoui and had only visited the refugee centre twice in the previous year, he said.

Operating instructions regarding who may be held at Mangere pointed out that Mangere was in fact suitable for inmates considered at risk of absconding, committing criminal acts and 'risks to national security'.

Mr Quirk's affidavit seemed to imply that disorder and fear would reign among the dispossessed of the world should a former Iman described as 'man of peace' be allowed into this hallowed sanctuary, Mr Harrison said.

Also of extreme concern to Zaoui's legal team was the fact that Department of Corrections psychologist, Dr Ronnie Zeussman, had been denied access to the Mangere Refugee Centre.

Dr Zuessman was the psychologist who pointed out that ten months in solitary confinement had psychologically damaged Mr Zaoui. Despite court orders allowing him entry to The Mangere Refugee Centre, Dr Zuessman had been denied entry and was therefore unable to make a judgment as to whether or not it would be suitable for Mr Zaoui.

As senior officials at the NZIS seemed to be putting huge efforts into preventing Mr Zaoui's transfer to the Mangere Refugee Centre, the option of moving Zaoui to the Auckland Dominican friary was also canvassed.

Human Rights Commission counsel pointed out late in the day that incarcerating a genuine refugee in prison would impact on New Zealand's international commitments (disadvantageously).

Counsel said that keeping someone who was concerned about being repatriated to death in their home country (Algeria) in conditions of penal incarceration was actually cruel and inhumane behaviour.

It was further considered by the Human Rights Commission that moving Mr Zaoui to more amenable surroundings would be more in keeping with New Zealand's international obligations than incarcerating him in prison indefinitely.

However the prospect of confining a refugee indefinitely was not of great concern to the Crown.

When the Court of Appeal bench pointed out that keeping a criminal in jail for more than a year without their case being heard may trigger Habeus Corpus – the Crown pointed out that with this case we were on new ground.

Further pressed by the bench as to what may be an acceptable time limit, the figure of five years was floated.

Seemingly mystified as to why in fact Habeus Corpus was included in the original Act (Immigration Amendment 1999) - the Crown responded with the possibility of a seemingly ludicrous scenario.

According to the Crown, Habeus Corpus may have been included as a safeguard should the Inspector-General of Intelligence And Security decide he couldn't be bothered hearing the case and then no other suitable replacement was made leaving the case in limbo.

The Crown was asked to have a think of any other less extreme (and ridiculous) examples for day two.


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