Significant issues highlighted by the Human Rights Commission have been reflected in the most recent UN report on New Zealand’s human rights performance.
Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford welcomes, in particular, the report’s attention to the issues of there still being too many Māori people in prisons in comparison to other groups, the number of people with mental health issues and other disabilities in prison, and the need for government to do more to stop violence against women and children.
Commissioner Rutherford says the UN review of New Zealand’s performance under the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment gives the government the opportunity to reflect and commit to changes that will improve the wellbeing of people.
The UN committee agreed with the Commission’s view that the approach of the Police programme, Turning the Tide (a Police partnership with iwi to address the disproportionate incarceration of Māori), could be applied to other areas of the justice system.
“Māori are significantly over-represented in our prisons. While only five percent of Māori come into contact with the justice system, they make up 50 percent of our prison population,” David Rutherford said.
“Over 60 percent of prisoners have a learning or mental health disability. I believe that better identification of these issues early on will mean the lives of most of these people will stay on track. Many of these people simply shouldn’t be in prison.”
Mr Rutherford agrees with the UN Committee’s call to government to better fund the Independent Police Conduct Authority and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.
The Commission looks forward to the August report of the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence.
The Human Rights Commission submission to the Committee and other submissions can be read here along with the UN report.