New Zealand's Human Rights reputation takes a battering
New Zealand’s international Human Rights reputation takes battering following Arbitrary Detention report
“New Zealand’s reputation in the international Human Rights community has taken a serious battering, following the release of a statement by the UN Working Party on Arbitrary Detention”, said Kim Workman, spokesperson for Rethinking Crime and Punishment. The Working Party Chair, Mr Mads Andenas, released a statement at a press conference, following a two week visit to New Zealand.
“While Mr Andenas was careful to point out that New Zealand was seen as a standard bearer in the treatment of offenders and prisoners in comparison to other nations, it became quickly clear we did not deserve that reputation. Representatives of civil society who were present at the conference, felt ashamed that we failed to measure up on basic human right’s issues.
“The key issues of concern came as no surprise to those present”, said Mr Workman. In its statement, the Working Party noted that:
• The Public Safety (Public Protections Orders) Bill, currently before Parliament, breached international law; prisoners who have served their sentence cannot be further detained under the label of civil preventive detention;
• The 2005 Prisoners’ and Victims’ Claims Act 2005 was in breach of international law. This Act prevents a prisoner who makes a successful claim against the Crown, from keeping any compensation received.
• There were indications of systemic bias against Maori at all levels of the criminal justice system. The Working Party urged a review into the degree of inconsistency and systems bias, including the impact of recent legislative reform. It noted that four previous UN reports have identified the same issue.
• Seventeen year old offenders continue to be treated as adults, despite recommendation from the UN that the protection measures available under the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 be extended to this age group.
• There were insufficient protection measures available to persons with mental or intellectual disabilities, who were detained
The Working Party was seriously concerned about the quality of legal advice presented to Parliament about New Zealand’s international law obligations. Kim Workman said that while this was a concern shared by the NGO sector, the view was that the public sector had lost its will to provide full and frank advice. “More and more, it looks as though Ministers are telling public servants what to say, and in some cases, telling them to say nothing at all.”