Royal Commission on Christchurch terrorist attacks: Human Rights Commission supports recommendations for major institutional changes

Royal Commission on Christchurch terrorist attacks: Human Rights Commission supports recommendations for major institutional changes

December 8, 2020

The Human Rights Commission welcomes the Government’s apology to Muslim communities following today’s release of Ko tō tātou kāinga tēnei: Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain on 15 March 2019.

“Given the report’s detailed account of major institutional failings over successive years and the inappropriate focus on Islamist terrorism, we applaud the Government’s apology to Aotearoa New Zealand’s Muslim communities,” said Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt, “It is vital there is accountability for both the past and the future.” 

The Commission is reviewing the four-volume report in its role as an independent human rights watchdog. It will engage with members of the whānau directly affected by the terrorist attack and other representatives from Muslim communities, to understand how it meets their needs and concerns.   

In its report, the Royal Commission concludes there was an “inappropriate concentration” on the potential threat of Islamist extremists without any real assessment of the threat posed by other belief systems – such as right-wing extremism.    

The report states that “by the middle of the last decade, the subjects of intelligence and security and counter-terrorism had become politically and publicly toxic”, and “there was little political ownership”, with Public sector leadership “fragmented”. 

Specific failures by the Police are also identified. 

“More than 18 months after this sickening event the pain is felt every day by those who have lost loved ones and by those coping with ongoing physical and emotional trauma. This report provides extensive detail on how the attack happened, and we are examining the wide-ranging overhaul and creation of a new agency being recommended to prevent it happening again,” Mr Hunt said. 

Government agencies were to be put under the spotlight by the Inquiry, which was tasked with investigating if more could have been done to prevent the terrorist attack at the Al-Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, and what they could do to prevent future attacks. Fifty-one people were killed and many more were injured.  

A whole of government approach to building social cohesion and inclusivity is vehemently supported by the Commission in the wake of this report, as well as the recommendation the Government discusses restorative justice with whānau, survivors and witnesses.  

"The attack was motivated by racism and hatred. What a contrast to the aroha, manaaki, wairua and kotahitanga led by Ngāi Tahu alongside the community of Ōtautahi Christchurch and the whole country after 15th March. These values define who we are,” said Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon, “Planning for prevention of further terrorism must include tangata whenua as partners to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.” 

The Commission welcomes all 44 of the report’s recommendations, particularly its call for measures to improve social cohesion and relations within the country’s increasingly diverse population – and for the public service, at all levels, to better reflect this too.  There need to be checks and balances in place to help prevent structural racism. 

“A more coordinated approach to supporting the whānau, survivors and witnesses directly affected by the attacks is essential, as well as a Government commitment to ensure agencies are accountable for their actions,” said Mr Foon, “This is a vital part of the healing.” 

“Aotearoa will not be defined by 15 March 2019. We will be defined by our collective, ongoing and long-term response to this horrific chapter in our history,” Mr Hunt said, “The Government’s commitment to programmes to improve social cohesion is fundamental to our recovery.” 

“We must become non-racist and continue to build a country that is confidently diverse, vibrant and safe,” Mr Foon said. “The Commission’s door is always open to community members to discuss these issues.”   

“Ka tangi tonu mātau ki roto i te aroha mō tēnei kaupapa taumaha me te hunga i whakangaro atu,” te kī a Foon.   

More information

The Royal Commission report references Te Tiriti as the founding document of Aotearoa.  

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission was set up in 1977 and works under the Human Rights Act 1993. Its purpose is to promote and protect the human rights of all people in Aotearoa New Zealand.  The Commission works for a free, fair, safe and just New Zealand, where diversity is valued, and human dignity and rights are respected (www.hrc.co.nz) 

The Commission works to support communities affected by racist attacks including by: 

  • calling for improved data collection on hate motivated crimes 
  • publishing It Happened Here, a record of media reports on crimes in Aotearoa New Zealand motivated by hatred of race or religion 
  • publishing Kōrero Whakamauāhara: Hate Speech, an overview of the legal framework governing hate speech in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally 
  • launching the anti-racism campaign the Voice of Racism 
  • managing the Infoline enquiries and complaints service.