More help needed for victims of terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain

More help needed for victims of terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain

March 17, 2021

The whānau of those murdered in the terrorist attack on two Christchurch Masjidain, plus the survivors and witnesses, need further government assistance to help redress the severe harm they’ve suffered.

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) in the report, Reflections on the Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on 15 March 2019, published today, said international human rights standards hold States accountable for ensuring that victims of terrorism have rights to justice, reparation for harm caused, and rehabilitation.

“The Government…has a critical human rights duty to ensure the rights of the affected whānau, survivors and witnesses to reparation and access to justice are met,” the report said.

Chief Commissioner Paul Hunt said, “Many aspects of the Government’s response to date are consistent with a human rights approach – including setting up the Royal Commission of Inquiry and the Prime Minister’s apology – but the commitment does not stop there.”

The HRC report noted that complex legal processes lie ahead for the affected families, survivors and witnesses including a coronial inquest. It comes after consultation with those directly affected, following the release of the Royal Commission report last December.

“While legal aid is likely to be available for those wanting representation at the Coronial Court the process of getting that support is complex and may also come with costs,” Mr Hunt said.

There is also the broader question of assistance in engaging with other types of processes, particularly those with a potential for reparation, such as the restorative justice process recommended by the Royal Commission of Inquiry (Royal Commission).

The HRC report also noted that the Royal Commission into the attacks was not asked to consider questions of compensation or other forms of reparation. Mr Hunt said this did not absolve the Government from a duty to make reparations in proportion to the severe harm caused.

The HRC report also stated that the affected community, as victims of terrorism, had a right to seek and obtain information about the causes and conditions that led to the attack, so that they could learn the truth.

While the Royal Commission’s report provided a considerable amount of information the suppression orders, particularly the 30-year order on evidence and submissions by public sector chief executives, were a surprise.

“The suppression order over government information sends a mixed signal to the affected whānau and survivors. Given the lack of prior notice or consultation, it has had a potentially damaging effect on the community’s trust in the process,” the report said.

The HRC would continue to consult with affected whānau, survivors and witnesses to understand their perspectives and will also engage with the Government on its human rights duties and tangata whenua.

Click here to download the report.

Timeline:

  • 8 December 2020: The Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain was published. The 800-page document found that no public sector agency was at fault, and the Government accepted the findings and agreed in principle to its 44 recommendations. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern apologised for Government failings in the lead up to the attacks. 
  • January/February 2021: The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) hosts regional hui seeking feedback on the report and provide information about initiatives underway.  Further engagement with wider communities and the public are expected to follow.  
  • February 2021: a report by the Federation of Islamic Associations in New Zealand (FIANZ) calls for greater support for Muslim communities including a comprehensive needs analysis of the victims and full accountability from the NZ Police and the NZ Security Intelligence Services. 
  • February/March 2021: a summary response by the Human Rights Commission (HRC) is prepared in parallel to hui held by DPMC to gather feedback on the Royal Commission of Inquiry’s report. Reflections on the Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on 15 March 2019 is published by the HRC.