16 Sep 2015

Convicted rapist avoids deportation

1:18 pm on 16 September 2015

The Government has lost its battle to deport a rapist who claims he will face torture if sent back to Ethiopia.

Chala-Sani Abdula was jailed in 2007 for seven years for raping a woman who had asked to use the toilet of the Wellington bakery where he worked.

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal suspended his deportation for five years, as long as Abdula did not offend again in that time.

The tribunal - an independent body which hears appeals - said New Zealand's refugee conventions meant it was obliged not to send someone back to a place they could face torture.

Abdula, who arrived in 2004 on a resident visa, told the Tribunal his father was murdered by the Ethiopian military, and he himself was tortured. He said he suffered cigarette burns to his arms, and had a tattoo forcibly removed.

The Government argued the man posed more than a low risk of re-offending, especially as he had not undergone rehabilitative treatment and continued to deny that he raped the woman.

The Tribunal ruled those fears could be addressed by suspending the deportation for five years, dependent on Abdula not re-offending in that time.

Abdula - who came to New Zealand in 2004 as a resident after his sister was given refugee status - told the tribunal of the torture he suffered.

The tribunal's decision said: "The appellant is an Ethiopian man, of Oromo ethnicity. His father was a member and supporter of the OLF [Oromo Liberation Front]and was a proponent of Oromo culture and civil and political rights.

"He was murdered by Ethiopian government forces when the appellant was about 10-15 years of age.

"Thereafter, until the appellant left Ethiopia in 2003, he experienced difficulties with the Ethiopian authorities because of his relationship with his father.

"He was repeatedly arbitrarily detained by the Ethiopian authorities. While detained, he was frequently subjected to serious mistreatment.

"He suffered traumatic injuries to his testicle, groin and abdomen (the latter inflicted with a knife), injuries to his head inflicted with a bayonet, cigarette burns to his arms and the forcible, partial removal of a tattoo with a knife."

The judge who sentenced him described the offence he had committed in 2007. The Tribunal wrote: "It is apparent from the judge's sentencing notes that the victim was a young woman walking home late one evening after socialising with friends in the central city in Wellington.

"She was heavily intoxicated. She approached the appellant's workplace in order to use the toilet. One of the appellant's colleagues led her inside.

"He told her to sit on the toilet seat and to disrobe. He then forced her to perform a sexual act upon him.

"At around that time, the appellant came into the toilet and had sex with her. Another man entered the toilet and yelled at the appellant and his colleague, enabling the young woman to walk out to the street where bystanders came to her aid."

The tribunal heard he had returned to work at the bakery where the rape happened and had not committed any offences since his release from prison on parole in 2012.

The full finding can be found here.

Surge in appeals

The tribunal has dealt with 1512 deportation, refugee and residence appeals in the past year, the highest number in its history.

Appeals by residents facing deportation for their offending have risen by 117 per cent.

Figures for the year to July show 91 new appeals from residents against deportation in the year to July, 55 more than the previous year. Of these, 23 deportations have already been suspended by the immigration minister.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court allowed an appeal by two children of a drug smuggler who face deportation to China.

And the Government also lost its bid to cancel the refugee status of a Sri Lankan, jailed for a vicious hammer attack.