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NZ leads by example with anti-torture legislation

Human Rights Commission
Media Release
20 July 2006

New Zealand leads by example with anti-torture legislation

The Human Rights Commission today welcomed legislation which enables New Zealand to ratify the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said today that the Crimes of Torture Amendment Bill is a means of further strengthening New Zealand’s commitment to the battle against torture.

“The Bill provides New Zealand with the opportunity to lead by example. It sends a clear message that torture and abuse must not be tolerated.”

In presenting its submission to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, the Commission congratulated the Government for its active support for the Protocol and for being the first country to sign it in 2003.

The Protocol establishes a system of international inspection visits by a sub-committee to places of detention where torture or ill treatment might be carried out. These inspections work in tandem with national mechanisms, creating a dual system of regular visits by complementary teams of international and national experts.

“The establishment of a system of regular visits to places of detention by independent expert bodies is an excellent means of preventing torture and allows New Zealand to hold itself up to international scrutiny,” Ms Noonan said.

Although the Commission supports the Bill it has two key concerns:
- two of the designated national mechanisms appear not to meet the criteria for independence from the detaining authorities and
- the definition of places of detention is too narrow, which will result in some places falling outside of the monitoring regime.

The Commission proposes amendments to the Bill to address those concerns.


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