Something else I learned while browsing the select committee pages: the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee has been conducting an inquiry into the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture, and concluded [PDF] that we should ratify. The Optional Protocol is intended to give the CAT some teeth, by establishing an international monitoring system for prisons and other places of incarceration and detention. It also requires parties to establish their own "National Preventative Mechanisms" for the same purpose. In New Zealand, this is already done by a combination of the Ombudsmen, Police Complaints Authority, and Human Rights Commission, and so ratification will not require enormous changes.
The Committee identified a number of reasons for ratification - chief among which is that we helped write the thing, and pushed hard for its adoption by the UN; it would therefore be good to be seen to be putting our money where our mouth is. Early ratification would also encourage others to do likewise, and boost efforts to eradicate torture and strengthen international law. The Committee also notes that
The inspection measures provided for by the Protocol, and the resulting increased transparency, will strengthen protection of persons deproved of their liberty in New Zealand... This will help to ensure that New Zealand maintains its reputation as a State free of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment..
While torture is non-existent in New Zealand, and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment very rare, it is always good to have a backstop to make sure we stick to our ideals.
Ratification will require legislation, and so will depend on the priority the government assigns it on the Parliamentary calendar. Let's hope they assign it a high one...