New Zealand NPM reviewing results after five years

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) of New Zealand is celebrating its fifth year of operations. The torture prevention body is therefore currently undertaking a comprehensive review to identify the main progress made in preventing torture and other forms of ill-treatment in the country and the challenges that it is still facing.

The New Zealand NPM is a unique body as it is composed of five institutions, all designated by legislation. The Human Rights Commission acts as the central NPM and coordinates four existing institutions, which monitor places of detention according to thematic expertise: the Children’s Commissioner, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA), the Service for Penal Establishments and the Ombudsmen’s Office.

Thanks to highly committed individuals, who carry out the preventive visits to places of detention under the OPCAT, the NPM has been able to achieve a great deal in spite of its limited resources. For instance, the Children’s Commissioner, the IPCA and the Ombudsmen’s Office have recently published a joint review of the treatment of young people in detention. As a result of its visits to youth residence centres, the Children’s Commissioner has identified gaps in the complaints procedures for young people. Problems, such as that the language used in complaints forms was “non youth-friendly”, can now be properly addressed by relevant authorities and contribute to a better environment.

The APT is, however, concerned by the lack of funding of the New Zealand NPM. Some institutions have not received any additional funding to carry out the preventive functions under the OPCAT, while other institutions have received only limited additional funds. The NPM needs to be properly and adequately resourced to be able to cover all types of places of detention, with a multidisciplinary team and with the regularity and frequency of visits envisaged by the OPCAT. It is also indispensable that the central NPM body has the resources it needs to coordinate, lead and monitor the progress of New Zealand NPM. Hopefully the publication of the five-year review, together with the visit of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture announced for 2013, will be a wake-up call for a more effective NPM in New Zealand.