Govt Decides Zaoui Case No Bar To Review

Govt Decides Zaoui Case No Bar To Review

Newswire, 05 Dec 2006

The Government has given up waiting for the Ahmed Zaoui case to be resolved before reviewing the law used to try to deport him as a risk to national security.

A review of the controversial Part 4a of the Immigration Act had been flagged a few years a go but was put off till the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security had completed reviewing the security risk certificate issued against Mr Zaoui.

The certifcate was issued under the provisions of Part 4a.

Immigration Minister David Cunliffe says the review will be brought forward, and even though this could happen before the Zaoui case is over, it will not affect consideration of his case.

He said the Government had legal advice that it did not need to wait till the case was over and “frankly the timelines on the resolution of the Zaoui case have extended out.

“It’s not through any choice of the Government but just the nature of the legal process, which probably exhibits why the law might need to be reviewed in the first place,” Mr Cunliffe said.

He refused to discuss the substance of the Zaoui case today when announcing sweeping changes to the Immigration Act which will be introduced to Parliament in April.

The confirmed changes feature a radically streamlined visa and appeals system, new powers to collect biometric data such as fingerprints and iris scans – but not DNA – from migrants and more powers of detention for immigration officers.

After getting public feedback, the Government has agreed to insert more human rights protections in the rewritten Act to meet concerns about potential Bill of Rights breaches in the original proposals unveiled seven months.

Among these protections is the establishment of a new independent appeals panel of three judges to assess classified information used against migrants.

The applicant and their special advocates will also get access to a summary of the classified information if it forms the basis of a deportation decision.

Mr Cunliffe indicated there may be potential for the current system for reviewing security risk certificates under Part 4a to align with the new concept of an independent panel of judges.

“What we are signalling is we think because we have got this [judges panel] proceeding it makes sense to consider exactly that matter sooner rather than later,” he said.

At the moment the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security reviews security risk certificates, which are issued by the director of the Security Intelligence Service.

Mr Zaoui was detained using such a certificate, and a hearing to review the certificate has been repeatedly delayed partly because of protracted court disputes between Zaoui’s and Crown lawyers and also by the appointment of a new Inspector-General.

Justice Paul Neazor is the current Inspector-General.

Blaming the most recent hearing delays on the SIS director, in July Mr Zaoui’s lawyers warned the appeal process could drag into next year.

Mr Zaoui arrived in New Zealand in 2003 seeking refugee status from his homeland Algeria.

He was detained while waiting for his appeal against the security certificate, and was freed on bail in December 2004 after the intervention of the Supreme Court.