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NZ to sign UN protocol against torture

NZ to sign UN protocol against torture

New Zealand will be among the first countries to sign a United Nations optional protocol against torture, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today.

“New Zealand has actively supported the development of this protocol, which reflects our abhorrence of torture and our commitment to human rights," Mr Goff said.

"The Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture is aimed at preventing torture, rather than bringing torturers to justice after the event.

"It will establish an international expert inspection team that will visit places of detention in countries which have ratified the protocol. These visits have a deterrent effect but equally offer a chance to offer advice to local authorities, as ill treatment often stems from poor monitoring regimes.

"The protocol also obliges countries that ratify it to establish a national body to undertake regular inspections.

"The Convention actually covers all cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of people who are deprived of their liberty in a place under state jurisdiction or control.

"That means that In New Zealand the protocol will apply to the treatment of people in such places as prisons, police cells, residential facilities for children and young people, psychiatric and other medical institutions, some aged residential care facilities (eg, for people with dementia), asylum seeker detention centres, and Defence Force detention facilities.

"Torture, in all its forms, is one of the most profound abuses of human rights. Millions of people around the world have suffered from physical and psychological trauma from such treatment," Mr Goff said.

“Torture continues to be used in some countries despite being prohibited under international law. By signing and then ratifying the protocol, New Zealand has joined over 100 other countries in adding to the international pressure being exerted against nations that still regard torture as acceptable."

The government's next step is to consider whether ratifying the protocol requires amendments to existing relevant legislation or just a single amendment to the Crimes of Torture Act 1989.

Mr Goff hopes to sign the optional protocol next month when he is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

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