One of the things we like to think about New Zealand is that we have a good record on human rights. But according to the report of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention after visiting New Zealand, its a lie. The working group visited to review our detention ystem; they visisted 16 prisons and consulted extensively with officials. And they found serious infringements of international law. The summary from Rethinking Crime and Punishment:
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.
They also had serious concerns about the advice Parliament is getting about our international human rights obligations. But its clearly not a question of bad advice - its a question of Parliament systematically ignoring it and violating those rights when politicians think they can gain politically by doing so. It is a conscious, deliberate crime of successive governments. It would be good if there was a working international system to hold them to account for it.
The Working Group's full report is here [PDF].