Zaoui won’t be deported, Crown vows

Zaoui won’t be deported, Crown vows

STUFF NATIONAL NEWS, 13 April 2005

The Supreme Court has been given an assurance that Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui will not be deported in breach of international law.

Solicitor-General Terence Arnold, QC, gave the assurance yesterday during persistent questioning by judges who said the law appeared to allow Mr Zaoui’s deportation despite him being a recognised refugee.

Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias said the Immigration Act allowed the Government to make a deportation order immediately, if the certificate stating Mr Zaoui is a security risk is upheld after a forthcoming review.

Mr Arnold replied that New Zealand’s international obligations, including the Convention Against Torture, would still prevent Mr Zaoui being deported to Algeria. But his assurance does not appear to rule out the Government deporting Mr Zaoui to a « safe » country where he would not be persecuted, something referred to only in passing at the hearing yesterday.

The court is hearing a government challenge to a Court of Appeal decision that virtually ruled out deporting Mr Zaoui, and which said his human rights must be considered when the certificate is reviewed.

In that review, stalled by the appeal, inspector general of security Justice Paul Neazor must review the evidence that caused the Security Intelligence Service to declare Mr Zaoui a threat to national security.

If he upholds the certificate, Immigration Minister Paul Swain must by law decide within three days whether to deport him.

Mr Zaoui, who was detained in jail in Auckland for two years without charge till the Supreme Court freed him on bail last December, was in the court’s public gallery yesterday.

Mr Arnold said he wanted « to offer the court reassurance » that even if Mr Swain confirmed the certificate, Mr Zaoui would not automatically be deported. He could also ask the courts to intervene to stop his deportation if he felt the Government was not taking international law such as the torture convention into account.

Earlier in the hearing, Mr Arnold said the Government had been seeking a safe country to take Mr Zaoui but that search was on hold.

Mr Zaoui, a former Algerian MP who fled after a military coup, was declared a genuine refugee in August 2003 by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority.

His lawyer, Deborah Manning, declined to comment on Mr Arnold’s assurance yesterday, saying the case was still before the court.

Ms Manning said police visited the hotel where Mr Zaoui was staying on Monday night to ensure he was complying with bail conditions, amended to let him visit Wellington for the court hearing rather than live with the Dominican priests in Auckland.

The hearing continues today with submissions on behalf of Mr Zaoui.