Sunday, May 08, 2005

Prisoner compensation: virtually unchanged

The Justice and Electoral Committee has reported back on the Prisoners' and Victims' Claims Bill. While there has been some tinkering around the edges, the bill is being sent back virtually unchanged. Convicted criminals will still be subject to significant barriers designed to deter them from seeking compensation for abuse by agents of the state. They will still be punished retrospectively by being treated unequally by the courts. Corrections is still being let off the hook. And despite the government's claims to the contrary, the bill still violates our international human rights obligations. This is not a bill we should pass. Unfortunately, the government is going to pass it anyway.

What is interesting in the Select Committee report is the attitudes on display from our right-wing parties. Neither National, NZ First, United Future or ACT believe that the international human rights instruments we have signed (which, among other things, demand that compensation be made available to the victims of abuse) are in any way binding on the government. But United Future goes even further:

The intent of the bill is further inhibited by the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment signed in 1986 and ratified in 1989. Whilst no country should ever sanction the use of torture or cruel mistreatment of its inmates, the extension of a ban on punishments ought not to restrain individual nations from the right to ascertain for themselves the appropriate use of such remedies in concert with their overall criminal justice aims.

The only way to read this peculiar piece of doubletalk is that United Future think that we should be allowed to torture prisoners. And these are the people who are effectively writing our criminal justice policy?


Absolutely - international law is ass. We determine our own law.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/08/2005 10:59:00 PM

And we do. Our governments choose to sign human rights instruments such as the ICCPR and the Convention Against Torture because they are consistent with and expressive of our values. We are then supposed to pass laws consistent with them (if we haven't already).

If we no longer wish to keep to those commitments, we should do the honest thing and withdraw - not claim to adhere to them while violating them both in spirit and in practice.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/08/2005 11:30:00 PM