Monday, April 30, 2007

Another indefinite detention

Earlier in the month Thomas Yadegary was freed from Mount Eden Prison after a judge ruled that his detention had become arbitrary and could no longer serve its purpose. But Thomas Yadegary wasn't alone. Last year, an OIA request revealed that there were six people who had been detained for more than a year for immigration purposes. And today we've learned about another one of them: Ali Reza Panah.

Panah's case is similar to Yadegary's: he left Iran in 2000, and converted to Christianity in Korea before travelling to New Zealand and applying for refugee status. That application has been denied and his appeals exhausted, and he has been detained for the last eighteen months in an effort to get him to sign an Iranian passport application.

The RSAA does not believe that Panah faces a genuine threat of persecution in Iran. They are wrong. According to the US State Department's 2006 International Religious Freedom Country Report for Iran, Iran has the death penalty for apostasy, and converts are subject to arrest, torture, and extrajudicial murder. Most tellingly, the New Zealand government has demanded Panah sign an indemnity saying that if he is subsequently persecuted in Iran, it is not the fault of the New Zealand government - hardly the action of people who believe he faces no danger.

Meanwhile, there is the other issue: we have kept a man in jail for eighteen months now because he will not sign his own death warrant, and show every sign of keeping him there indefinitely. This is an affront to our deepest values. Throwing people in jail without trial and keeping them there forever is the sort of thing practiced by absolute monarchs, third-world despots, or the Americans in their Caribbean gulag in Guantanamo - not by our New Zealand.


Unfortunately for Panah, if he was in Korea for long enough to convert to Christianity, then he was probably there long enough to only be entitled to make an asylum claim there too.

Korea is a signatory to the Refugee Convention, and those seeking refugee status are required to seek refugee status in the first safe country they come into - for Panah, this must surely be Korea.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 4/30/2007 12:36:00 PM

Indeed - return him to where he came from (Korea).

Posted by Anonymous : 4/30/2007 02:51:00 PM

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks he should be being sent back to Korea. I was listening to this on the radio and thinking "why are they trying to send him to Iran?"


Posted by Anonymous : 4/30/2007 04:20:00 PM

The thing that strikes me about the Panah case from the outset is that it smacks a bit of 'destination shopping'

While granted Korea isn't perfect, especially for foreigners, if the situation in Iran is so desperate I can think of many countries that would be worse to be in than South Korea which is modern relatively democratic country.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/30/2007 11:56:00 PM

"...the New Zealand government has demanded Panah sign an indemnity saying that if he is subsequently persecuted in Iran, it is not the fault of the New Zealand government..."

WTF???? Is that actually legal under international law? Has anybody investigated it from this perspective or noticed any Human Rights lawyers making comment on this?

It reminds me of Bush adding his little "signing notes" to legislation being passed and it reeks just as badly.

Posted by zANavAShi : 5/01/2007 03:37:00 PM