New Zealand Law Society - Torture report finds persistent issues in places of detention

Torture report finds persistent issues in places of detention

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The Chief Human Rights Commissioner says prisoners moved from their home region, poor facilities for those with physical or intellectual disabilities, a high number of young Māori in care and protection residences and the provision of basic hygiene products for female detainees, remain major issues.

The Commissioner, Paul Hunt, says the latest Monitoring Places of Detention report - the annual report of activities under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) -illustrates that “while progress has been made, more needs done to ensure anyone detained has their human rights upheld”.

He says places of detention had international human rights obligations they must adhere to under the Convention against Torture.

“They need to ensure that those who are detained have sufficient access to their whānau and community, and have meaningful access to employment, training and education. They also need to have policies and practices that are responsive to the over-representation of Māori in detention,” Mr Hunt says.

Mr Hunt says the issues previously seen in places of detention are likely to have been exacerbated under COVID-19 and during the lockdown.

The report highlights:

  • The Chief Ombudsman remains concerned that the growing prison population is resulting in a high percentage of prisoners being transferred out of their home region, compromising access to legal representation and whānau. Time out of cell for many prisoners and access to timely case management was poor.
  • The Office of the Children’s Commissioner inspection domain includes Responsiveness to Mokopuna Māori. This domain assesses the Government’s responsibilities under the Treaty of Waitangi to partner with, protect and ensure participation for Māori.
  • The extent to which the rights of individuals are being protected remains an area of concern for the Independent Police Conduct Authority, particularly around the provision of basic hygiene products like toothbrushes and sanitary products for female detainees.

The report is produced annually by the five bodies responsible for monitoring to places where people are deprived of their liberty.

It was prepared by the New Zealand National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) and outlines their activities during the reporting period 1 July 2018 – 30 June 2019.