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Act now for Ahmed Zaoui

"When it comes to granting refugee status to people who might be Islamic terrorists, I trust the advice of the SIS ... who trust the Australian Security Intelligence Service, who trust the CIA, who trusted the informants who told them Iraq had weapons of mass destruction ... " Lianne Dalziell (speaking in a Tom Scott cartoon, The Dominion Post, 12 August 2003).

7 August 2003

Algerian asylum seeker Ahmed Zaoui has been granted refugee status in New Zealand by the Refugee Status Appeal Authority (RSAA), but he is still being detained in Paremoremo on the basis of a security risk certificate issued by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS).

If this certificate is upheld (currently under review) then the Prime Minister has indicated that Mr Zaoui is likely to be deported. The SIS is currently determining the validity of the certificate by reviewing confidential information, which the Prime Minister has indicated will not be made public. In a statement from Helen Clark's office on 4 August 2003, the Director of the SIS stated that the information on Mr Zaoui which they made available to the RSAA is not the same information which they are using to review the certificate.

Not only is the information on which the SIS bases its decision not being given to the RSAA (the official body responsible for making decisions about the status of asylum seekers), but it will also at no time be made available to Mr Zaoui or his lawyers. This means despite his being found innocent of any terrorist activities or associations (both by the RSAA, and by overseas courts in the past), he will have no opportunity to respond to the charges against him, and also no recourse for appeal. If he is sent back to Algeria it is likely that the Algerian regime will have him tortured and killed. A number of groups and organisations are calling on the Government to to recognise the findings of the Refugee Status Appeal's Authority and to release Mr Zaoui. These include Amnesty International, Peace Movement Aotearoa, the Refugee Council, prominent Catholic Bishops, and the Anglican Social Justice Commission.

Background information

More information about Ahmed Zaoui is available from Amnesty International and the Anglican Social Justice Commission. Mainstream media reports from the last week are available here.

Mr Zaoui's case precisely demonstrates the main problems of NZ's repressive security services and anti-terrorism legislation - that bureaucrats and politicians, rather than the courts, will determine who is a 'terrorist'; and that the evidence on which any decision is made is withheld from the accused person. The kinds of problems this could cause were outlined in many submissions and articles on the proposed anti-terrorism legislation (which became the Terrorist Suppression Act in 2002), see for example, 'Coming soon - NZ anti-terrorism legislation':

"The [terrorist] designation may be based on 'classified security information' provided by an agency or government of another country - yet the Bill does not specify any standard of proof, or any way of verifying whether the information is anything other than malicious rumour.

Being designated a terrorist 'entity' will have a serious impact on anyone - but may literally be a matter of life and death for people applying for asylum here. There is no provision in the Bill for the protection of asylum seekers falsely or vindictively designated 'terrorist' by oppressive governments or their agencies; nor for the protection of refugees or migrants already settled here against such allegations." This (and links to other information on the legislation) is available here.

Prophetic words - at this point in time, it is literally a matter of life and death for Ahmed Zaoui - so please act now to ensure he does not become a victim of unjust legislation and secret decision makers.

What you can do

1) Write as soon as possible to Helen Clark and Lianne Darziel expressing your support for Mr Zaoui, urge them to honour the Refugee Status Appeal's Authority decision and permit Mr Zaoui to stay here. Their contact details are: Rt Hon Helen Clark, Prime Minister and Minister for the NZ Security Intelligence Service, email or fax (04) 473 3579; Hon Lianne Dalziel, Minister of Immigration, email or fax (04) 495 8463; or post to them at Parliament Buildings, Wellington (no stamp required).

If you could also send a copy of your letters (and any reply you receive) to Peace Movement Aotearoa and Anglican Social Justice Commission that would be extremely helpful for our work on this.

2) If you are in the Wellington area, please come along to the lunchtime vigil in support of Ahmed Zaoui on Thursday, 14 August - meet at 12-30pm at the Immigration Service National Office (52 The Terrace), at 12-45pm we will walk together to parliament. While the Immigration Service as such have no influence into Mr Zaoui's situation, our meeting place and walk will be symbolic of how the issue has moved from being an immigration issue as such, to becoming a political issue. At parliment we will be directly calling on the Government to release Mr Zaoui - and to accept the findings of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority. For more info contact Mike Mawson tel (04) 389 5458 or email.

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