Statement by Anglican and Roman Catholic Bishops - Ahmed Zaoui

Urging the Government to urgently consider the situation of Ahmed Zaoui who has been held without charge in custody for almost two years.

In December 2002 Ahmed Zaoui arrived in New Zealand and sought refugee status. He has now been held in custody for almost two years, first in solitary confinement in Paremoremo Maximum Security Prison, and currently in the Auckland Remand Centre in Mt Eden. He is being held in custody on the basis of a Security Risk Certificate issued by the Security Intelligence Service on 20 March 2003.

In August 2003 his appeal for refugee status was heard by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, which extensively investigated his situation and adjudged him a genuine refugee with no indication of terrorist connections. The RSAA is conservative in its judgments, rejecting 85% of the appeals it hears.

It does not lie in the bishops’ capacity to assess matters of national security, but we are deeply concerned at the extended delay in the resolution of Mr Zaoui’s situation, and also that he continues to be held in custody pending the outcome of his case.

Accordingly we respectfully urge the Government to:

Take urgent steps to achieve a fair, judicial hearing whereby the matters relating to Mr Zaoui’s status may be resolved.

Provide for Mr Zaoui, pending such hearing, to be released on bail into more humane accommodation such as has been offered by the Dominican friars in Auckland.

Catholic Bishops

Cardinal Thomas Williams, Wellington

Bishop Colin Campbell, Dunedin

Bishop Denis Browne, Hamilton

Bishop Peter Cullinane, Palmerston North

Bishop John Cunneen, Christchurch

Archbishop John Dew, Wellington

Bishop Owen Dolan, Palmerston North

Bishop Patrick Dunn, Auckland

Bishop Robin Leamy, Auckland

Bishop Max Mariu, Hamilton

Anglican Bishops

Archbishop Whakahuihui Vercoe

Bishop Philip Richardson, Taranaki

Bishop Derek Eaton, Nelson

Bishop Muru Walters, Te Upoko o te Ika

Bishop David Moxon, Waikato

Bishop John Bluck, Waiapu

Bishop Te Kitohi Pikaahu, Tai Tokerau

Bishop George Connor, Bay of Plenty

Bishop Brown Turei, Te Tai Rawhiti

Bishop Richard Randerson, Auckland