Thursday, July 09, 2015

Why are we detaining a mentally ill man arbitrarily?

New Zealand is not supposed to engage in arbitrary detention. Our Bill of Rights Act states very clearly that everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily arrested or detained. But according to the UN, that's exactly what we're doing:

The United Nations Human Rights Committee says a sex offender with an intellectual disability who has been locked up in psychiatric hospitals and prisons for 45 years should be released and paid compensation.

In a decision sent to the Government two weeks ago and given to the man's lawyer today, the committee's working group on arbitrary detention said the man should have been moved to a care facility after his minimum non-parole term ended in 2004.

The man's lawyer, Tony Ellis, said his client, known only as Mr A, is now 58 and was sent to a mental hospital at the age of 12, released for a year when he was 38, and has been in prison ever since.

The UN working group has found the man had been unlawfully detained for the past 11 years, and discriminated against because of his intellectual disability.

This isn't enforceable, but it is likely to be persuasive in the inevitable domestic BORA action. The mentally ill need help, not punishment; detaining them effectively indefinitely and denying them treatment is both discriminatory and simply fucking stupid.

One of the reasons the UN reached this finding is because the government didn't even bother to respond to their inquiry. Yes, a major UN human rights body told them it was examining a case, and the government did nothing. I'm not sure whether its arrogance or utter stupidity, but it suggests something is very wrong at MFAT and Corrections.