The Ahmed Zaoui case is becoming a critical test of our justice system and our democracy.
The security risk certificate procedure applied against Mr Zaoui is a “trust us” procedure. We are supposed to trust the three official players, the Security Intelligence Service director, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, and the Minister of Immigration to get it right in secret – that is, to determine whether Mr Zaoui is a danger to national security. Trusting officials to determine a person’s future in private is the antithesis of true justice, which should be open and accountable. New Zealanders are now seeing why we cannot leave it up to individual appointees operating in secret.
In the November 29 issue of the Listener, the Inspector-General Laurie Greig, showed a prejudice towards asylum seekers and a lack of understanding of our international commitments to them under the 1951 refugee convention. He said: “We don’t want lots of people coming in on false passports [that they have] thrown down the loo on the plane, and saying ‘I’m a refugee, keep me here’.”
It is well entrenched in refugee law that asylum seekers will often arrive with false documentation because they cannot apply at their local passport office in their country without being jailed, tortured, or killed.
We have also seen how the Security Intelligence Service cannot be relied on to get it right. In the Zaoui case, the Refugee Status Appeals Authority comprehensively discredited the summaries and chronologies provided by the Security Intelligence Service. The summary simply repeated the slanders Zaoui had experienced in Europe – slanders that originated with the repressive Algerian regime, which is more threatened by a democrat and a peacemaker like Mr Zaoui than it is by real terrorists. Hence its slander and framing-up of Mr Zaoui.
The New Zealand Police also repeated these slanders as the reason to detain Mr Zaoui. The New Zealand Assistant Police Commissioner for Counter-terrorism, Mr Jon White, told the Department of Corrections on 6 December that Mr Zaoui was wanted on an anti-terrorist warrant – issued in fact by the brutal Algerian regime – and that he had been sentenced to death in Algeria, something which the Algerian junta did to 1,500 people, mainly to stop exiled democrats like Mr Zaoui from coming back to Algeria.
Yet Mr Zaoui has been unjustly detained in New Zealand for 12 months, 10, shamefully, in solitary confinement, and he is now in court trying to obtain even a minimal summary of the accusations against him.
He also wants the inspector-general’s review of that security risk certificate applied to him to at least consider his human rights. It would be unwise for us to rely on the Inspector-General to deliver justice to Mr Zaoui. His track record is one of backing up the Security Intelligence Service and the police even when they are later found to be wrong, as with the raids on the houses on Aziz Choudry and David Small in 1996.
It is clear from the proceedings in the Auckland High Court this week that a key source of the accusations against Mr Zaoui is one or more of the British, American, Canadian, or Australian intelligence agencies. We know that at least three of those four agencies showed their incompetence and political bias over the so-called intelligence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That is another reason why we cannot have intelligence agencies applying secret justice in our country.
Now we have Laurie Greig coming out with prejudicial comments against asylum seekers. I hope Parliament will support my motion, on today’s Order Paper, that we recommend to the Governor-General that she remove Mr Greig from office for “neglect of duty” under section 7 of the Act governing the Inspector-General.
The Government is reluctant to do this, but it was heartening to hear the Minister of Immigration, Lianne Dalziel, in response to questions by me in a select committee this morning, say that she was “fully bound” by human rights commitments in the Zaoui case and that she was “very keen” to review the legislation applying to security risk certificates. But if the present law is inadequate and so many State agencies have got it wrong in the Zaoui case, why will she not lift the security risk certificate off Mr Zaoui, which she is authorised to do at any time.
Mr Zaoui has suffered enough.
Free him now and let him live here with his family as a legitimate refugee.