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Why the Ombudsman monitors places of detention

New Zealand has obligations under the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment.

National Preventive Mechanisms

The Crimes of Torture Act created National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs), that examine the conditions of detention and treatment of detainees, and make recommendations for improvement.

The NPMs include the:

  • Ombudsman
  • Independent Police Conduct Authority
  • Children's Commissioner
  • Inspector of Service Penal Establishments.

Their work is coordinated by the Human Rights Commission as the Central Preventive Mechanism, which also liaises with the United Nations.

Monitoring places of detention – Human Rights Commission

Places of detention the Ombudsman visits

The Ombudsman is responsible for examining and monitoring the treatment and conditions of people detained in:

  • prisons
  • court cells
  • mental health facilities
  • intellectual disability facilities
  • aged care facilities
  • COVID-19 managed isolation and quarantine facilities
  • immigration detention centres.

Inspection powers 

Which agencies monitor other places of detention

The Independent Police Conduct Authority is responsible for examining and monitoring the treatment of people detained in police custody.

Independent Police Conduct Authority

The Children’s Commissioner is jointly responsible with the Ombudsman for examining and monitoring the treatment of children and young people detained in child care and protection and youth justice residences.

Office of the Children's Commissioner

The Inspector of Service Penal Establishments is responsible for examining and monitoring the treatment of people detained in defence force penal establishments.

International visits

The countries that have signed up to the OPCAT have their progress monitored by the United Nations Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The subcommittee visits New Zealand and has the same entitlements to information and access to places of detention as the Ombudsman and other NPMs.

How OPCAT inspections work

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