UN criticises NZ criminal justice
19 August 2007
The disproportionate representation of Maori and Pacific people in prisons has come under fire from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. So has New Zealand's practice of detaining assylum-seekers in jail. The committee's report has highlighted these matters in relation to criminal justice in New Zealand.
Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres says the committee feels there is a need to look at why so many Maori and Pacific people end up in prison. He says urgent action is needed to address the situation in the areas of arrests, prosecution, conviction and jail.
The UN committee would also like to see an assessment of the use of provisions in the Sentencing Act to take into account offenders' community and cultural background in sentencing.
The Committee also criticised New Zealand's practice of detaining asylum-seekers in prisons. Mr de Bres says there is provision for asylum seekers to be held in jail, but the committee would like that practice to stop. He says in their view detaining asylum seekers in prisons is contrary to international standards governing their treatment. However, Mr de Bres notes the UN committee acknowledged there are few instances of such detentions of asylum seekers in prisons here.