OPCAT Annual Report 2013/2014
This is the seventh annual report of New Zealand’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), a monitoring mechanism established under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
OPCAT is based on the premise that regular visits to places of detention are an effective means of preventing torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of people in detention.1 It also provides an effective way to support detaining agencies to improve conditions of detention.
Five agencies are designated as National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs): The Independent Police Conduct Authority, the Inspector of Service Penal Establishments, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Human Rights Commission.
Since 2007 NPMs have worked, independently and as part of the OPCAT mechanism, to provide a system of independent monitoring. They make recommendations to detaining agencies to strengthen human rights protections and to improve capability across the sector for managing high and complex needs. NPMs also contribute to developing a culture where the rights of all persons deprived of their liberty are protected and respected.
NPMs are not aware of any torture occurring in New Zealand’s detention facilities in the 2013/2014 period. However, ill-treatment in detention can and does still occur, whether intentional or not. The prevention of torture and ill-treatment is a shared responsibility.
Beyond their monitoring mandate NPMs seek to build relationships with detaining agencies and civil society to allow for constructive, cross-sector dialogue, aimed at addressing key areas of concern.
In the 2013-14 reporting period New Zealand’s performance in protecting human rights in detention was subjected to scrutiny by several United Nations bodies, including the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process and the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) visited New Zealand for the first time in April 2013. The SPT is the international body overseeing implementation of OPCAT. Its mandate is to develop an innovative, sustained and proactive approach to the prevention of torture and ill-treatment in detention. Its report to the New Zealand Government confirmed a number of issues that NPMs had also identified, including conditions of detention, and health and mental health care in detention. NPMs will seek to make progress on these and other areas in collaboration with detaining agencies and other key stakeholders.
The SPT also made a number of recommendations to government relating to its obligation to provide adequate financial and human resources to the NPMs so they can better fulfil their monitoring responsibilities.
In 2015 the government will be reviewed by the United Nations Committee on Torture. It is due to report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. These bodies will also review matters relating to people in detention.
New Zealand is acknowledged internationally as a leader in realising, promoting and protecting human rights. NPMs will continue to work towards their vision of a New Zealand that is free from torture and ill-treatment, where places of detention are safe and humane, and where people who are detained are treated fairly and their human rights are respected.