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UN Committee Against Torture Report

21 May 2004

The United Nations Committee against Torture has told the New Zealand Government that “over-prolonged solitary confinement of asylum seekers like Ahmed Zaoui may amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”.

Subjecting anyone to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment breaches New Zealand’s international obligations under the Convention against Torture.

The Committee also says that the Government should ensure that the fight against terrorism does not lead to a breach of the Convention or to undue hardship imposed on asylum seekers. It says the government should establish a time limit for detention and other restrictions on asylum seekers.

In the light of the report, the Human Rights Foundation has called for Mr Zaoui’s immediate release. “The Committee against Torture clearly considers Mr Zaoui has spent an excessive time in custody, including solitary confinement,” says the Foundation’s Executive Director, Peter Hosking. He says the Government should release him (or at least transfer him to the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre) while the security risk certificate process is completed.

The Committee against Torture says the Government should also take immediate steps to review the legislation relating to the security risk certificate process under which Ahmed Zaoui is being detained.

The Committee against Torture met in Geneva this month to consider the New Zealand Government’s four-yearly report under the Convention against Torture. At the invitation of the Committee, the Human Rights Foundation presented a report to the Committee stating that the treatment of Ahmed Zaoui by the New Zealand Government amounted to “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” in breach of the Convention against torture.

The Committee against Torture comprises ten independent experts from around the world who are elected by those states which, like New Zealand, have ratified the Convention.

The report sent to the Committee against Torture by the Human Rights Foundation can be accessed at www.humanrights.co.nz

ENDS

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