Covering events from January - December 2004

The detention of a refugee held for two years on the basis of a national security assessment by the intelligence services was the subject of various legal reviews and appeal processes. The first national action plan for human rights was prepared.

Detention of refugee without fair hearing

Ahmed Zaoui, an Algerian refugee, was released on bail on 9 December by order of the Supreme Court after being detained for two years. He was held on the basis of a national security assessment made by the intelligence services that relied on controversial convictions in Europe and classified intelligence information. He remained at risk of deportation on the basis of a security risk certificate issued in March 2003 under the Immigration Act.

In January, the Director of Security argued that New Zealand's reputation with "like-minded countries" would suffer if Ahmed Zaoui were allowed to remain in New Zealand, given that he had been convicted in Belgium and France on charges of criminal association and passport irregularities and had been expelled from Switzerland.

The Refugee Status Appeals Authority had granted Ahmed Zaoui refugee status in August 2003. It concluded that information supplied by the intelligence services was "limited" and some of its contents "questionable", that the European convictions were unsafe, and that Ahmed Zaoui had become "the victim of a self-validating legend" based on "an intentional strategy of the Algerian regime and its allies".

In March the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security, who was reviewing the security risk certificate, resigned following a finding by the High Court of "apparent bias". The review was further delayed as the government sought to appeal against a Court of Appeal decision in September that the review should include human rights considerations.

In September the High Court determined that the continued detention or deportation of Ahmed Zaoui could be justified "only if there are objectively reasonable grounds based on credible evidence that Zaoui constitutes a danger to the security of New Zealand of such seriousness that it would justify sending a person back to persecution."

AI campaigned for Ahmed Zaoui to be released, or for the reasons for his continued detention to be tested in a fair judicial hearing meeting international standards.

Action Plan for Human Rights

In September the Human Rights Commission published the first comprehensive assessment of the status of human rights in New Zealand. Amongst the concerns highlighted were the abuse of a significant number of children and the vulnerability to abuse of people in detention and institutional care. The Commission submitted a national Action Plan for Human Rights to the Attorney General on 10 December.

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