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Zaoui victory welcomed, SIS must be opened up to scrutiny

Green Party MP Keith Locke is delighted by the decision to withdraw the risk security certificate against the Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui, and has called for both genuine parliamentary oversight of the SIS and less use of secret evidence in future.

"This is a great victory for Ahmed and his family, for his lawyers Deborah Manning and Rodney Harrison QC, and for a court system that consistently found Ahmed's human rights were being infringed by a secretive and unfair process," Mr Locke says.

"Ahmed Zaoui's success benefits the civil liberties of all New Zealanders, by making the Government more accountable as to who it labels a 'security threat'. The so-called 'war on terror' has given too much power to the executive arm of government.

"The Refugee Status Appeals Authority that found Ahmed to be a genuine refugee in August 2003 has been fully vindicated - and the Government could have saved Ahmed a lot of grief, and taxpayers a lot of money, by embracing the RSAA decision four years ago. The Immigration Minister has always had the power to withdraw the security risk certificate at any time. Instead, the Government backed the SIS throughout.

"It should be kept in mind that Ahmed's legal team were initially — and shamefully - denied access to the allegations against him. The Zaoui lawyers were only able to expose the shabbiness of the SIS case because they fought and won in court the right to a summary of the SIS evidence. Forced to show its hand, the SIS scoured the world for further evidence to discredit Ahmed, and finally fronted up only in July this year — at which point, the SIS case fell apart.

"The SIS now has a new leader, Warren Tucker, more committed to openness than his predecessor. The Government should now ensure the security services receive the level of genuine parliamentary oversight common in Australia, the US and the United Kingdom. It is disgraceful that the special committee currently supposed to provide this oversight in New Zealand has met for a grand total of two hours and 38 minutes since the 2005 election.

"The Government should also now drop those parts of its new Immigration Bill that envisage wider use of secret evidence in immigration decisions. The use of inaccurate, speculative secret information in the Zaoui case lies at the heart of the injustice that has been done to the Zaoui family - who can surely now expect to be speedily re-united in New Zealand.

"Secret evidence must be made capable of being speedily tested in open court. If that had been done in 2003, this fiasco would have been avoided. The Government must now commit itself to striking a better balance between national security and individual rights — otherwise, there will be further injustice done to other Zaouis in future," Mr Locke says.

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