June 26th marks UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. New Zealand has ratified the Convention Against Torture (CAT).
In doing so New Zealand has agreed that people will not be tortured or ill-treated by the State in New Zealand. Torture is not an issue in New Zealand today but ill-treatment remains an issue.
Some New Zealanders have been subjected to forms of ill-treatment, prolonged seclusion, degrading punishments and searches.
Historic and more recent examples of ill-treatment remind us to always be vigilant as these are very real instances when New Zealanders have been denied their human rights.
Some of our most vulnerable New Zealanders are people detained in our mental health inpatient units, Child Youth and Family residences as well as prisons and police cells.
While, thankfully, incidents of ill-treatment in our country are rare: they do happen whether intentional or not and we must do everything in our collective power to ensure they do not become engrained or embedded in our institutions.
Agencies responsible for monitoring places of detention do a great job identifying concerns and working with detaining agencies to improve the way those people are treated.
The Ombudsman’s Office, the Children’s Commissioner, the Independent Police Conduct Authority, the Inspector of Service Penal Establishments and the Human Rights Commission work collectively as the “National Preventive Mechanism” or “NPM” to monitor detention conditions in a range of facilities and to ensure compliance with international human rights obligations.
Meanwhile there are growing concerns about other facilities where people are regularly detained that are not subject to our independent monitoring process – places like locked dementia facilities.
Changes need to take place to ensure these people’s human rights are monitored and protected.