Press Release on Behalf of Ahmed Zaoui
EMBARGOED UNTIL 4 PM THURSDAY 13 SEPTEMBER 2007
Press Release on Behalf of Ahmed Zaoui
Ahmed Zaoui is delighted that the review of the security risk certificate issued against him in March 2003 has come to a successful conclusion, much earlier than anticipated. He is especially relieved and delighted for his family, who have particularly suffered by reason of the lengthy separation, uncertainty and delay. Mr Zaoui hopes that they will be permitted to join him in New Zealand in the very near future.
Mr Zaoui wishes to acknowledge at the outset his gratitude to the Director of Security Warren Tucker for having the courage to revisit his predecessor’s decision to issue the certificate, when it would have been open to him simply to stand aside and await the outcome of the current Inspector-General’s review. In doing so Mr Tucker has been prepared to face the risk, not that his assessment of and faith in Mr Zaoui will be proved wrong, but of criticism by lowest common denominator politicians and others.
Mr Zaoui considers that the Director’s decision today, read with the earlier Refugee Status Appeals Authority decision granting him refugee status, puts an end to the false accusations, originating from the Algerian military regime, that he was at any time a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism. In order to move forward, Mr Zaoui has conceded that the making and maintaining by the Security Intelligence Service of the certificate against him was justified on the basis of the information which they held. But he does not accept that he has in fact at any time been a danger to the security of New Zealand or any other country. Nor does he accept that the classified information on which the Security Intelligence Service has relied, to which the Director refers in his press release, is accurate in relation to the accusations concerning him which it apparently contains.
Mr Zaoui has said all along that he is happy to abide by New Zealand law and standards of behaviour, and indeed to co-operate in good faith with the New Zealand Security Intelligence Services over mutual interests and issues of concern. As his activities since his release from prison in December 2004 have consistently demonstrated, Mr Zaoui is committed to promoting inter-faith dialogue and harmony and understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims in New Zealand and elsewhere. He will continue to make this a priority, along with a much-needed focus on his family. Along with many others we believe Mr Zaoui has a real contribution to make in this area.
In his press release the Director refers to the fact that the security risk certificate review process has not worked well. While so far as Mr Zaoui is concerned there is much to rejoice about today, it should not be forgotten that the New Zealand legal system allowed Mr Zaoui, a genuine refugee, to be imprisoned for two years, over ten months of that in solitary confinement. This compounded the persecution which gave rise to his refugee status in the first place.
The uncertainty and indeed unworkability of the statutory process and its implementation by the authorities in practice have led to totally unacceptable delays and caused Mr Zaoui and his family unnecessary suffering and stress. At the heart of the problems has been the use of secret classified information, much of which neither Mr Zaoui nor his legal advisers have been permitted to know. The current Immigration Bill will increase the difficulties and obstacles which seekers of refuge in New Zealand like Mr Zaoui will face in the future. We would like to think that the Zaoui case will now give the Government cause for thought in terms of its future response to such cases.
Finally, Mr Zaoui wishes to thank in particular the members of his legal team, Dr Rodney Harrison QC, Deborah Manning and Richard McLeod, the Special Advocates, Stuart Grieve QC and Chris Morris. Mr Zaoui also warmly thanks the Dominican brothers who have welcomed him into their home for the last 2 ½ years as well as the many supporters and well-wishers who have buoyed his hopes and spirits and made his ordeal bearable during the years of uncertainty.
13 September 2007
Dr Rodney Harrison QC, Deborah Manning and Richard McLeod