Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture NEW ZEALAND

Protection of minorities from torture and ill-treatment

5. While taking note of the Maori Strategic Plan developed by the Department of Corrections, as well as the various initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Justice to reduce Maori offending, the Committee is alarmed at the disproportionately high number of Maoris and Pacific Islands people incarcerated, in particular women who, according to information available to the Committee represent 60% of the female prison population. The Committee is further concerned at the over-representation of Maoris at all levels of the criminal justice process, as well as at the insufficient safeguards in place to protect the rights of minorities from discrimination and marginalization, which put them at a higher risk of torture and ill-treatment. (art.2)

The Committee recalls that the protection of certain minorities or marginalized individuals or populations especially at risk of torture is a part of the obligation of the State party to prevent torture and ill-treatment. In this regard, the State party should take further measures including legal, administrative and judicial measures, to reduce the over-representation of Maoris and Pacific Islands people in prison, in particular women. The State party should also provide adequate training to the judiciary and law enforcement personnel that takes into account the obligation to protect minorities, and integrates a gender perspective. Also, the State party should undertake an in-depth research on the root causes of this phenomenon in order to put in place adequate safeguards to ensure full protection of minorities from discrimination and marginalization, which put them at a higher risk of torture and ill-treatment.

Use of taser weapons

16. While taking note of the assurances by the State party whereby tasers are only to be used by trained and certified staff and only when the officer has an honest belief that the subject is capable of carrying out the threat posed and that the use of the taser is warranted, the Committee is deeply concerned about the introduction of these weapons in the New Zealand police. The Committee is concerned that the use of these weapons causes severe pain constituting a form of torture, and that in some cases it may even cause death. In addition, the Committee is concerned at reports whereby during the trial period tasers were predominantly used on Maoris and youths. (arts. 2 and 16)

The State party should consider relinquishing the use of electric taser weapons, the impact of which on the physical and mental state of targeted persons would appear to violate articles 2 and 16 of the Convention.

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