End to protest at Waikeria good but action is needed now

2 January 2021, 20:34 UTC |

UPDATE:

Following the surrender of protesters at Waikeria Prison, Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand is calling on the Minister for Corrections to commit to addressing systemic issues in our prison system. This must include an independent inquiry into our prison system. 

Executive Director Meg de Ronde says people expect people in prison to be treated humanely. 

"Our prisons are a signifier of the health of our society. People expect all people, including those living and working in a prison, to be treated with dignity. That is not what we see in our prisons today. We acknowledge the work of all involved to end the protest. However, as the dust settles on the dispute at Waikeria it is imperative we keep a light on the structural failures of our wider prison system." 

"For many months there has been a constant stream of reports outlining deeply disturbing practices within prisons, showing not only a denial of bare minimum standards, but a denial of the inherent dignity and humanity we all have no matter who we are or where we live." 

She says an investigation into what lead to the situation at Waikeria is also needed, as well as a national inquiry into our prison system to ascertain the full extent of issues across the system. 

"For months we have been calling for an inquiry to investigate the deeper structural issues to ensure our prisons fully meet human rights obligations. We don’t want a system that ignores people in prison so much that they end up resorting to desperate measures to be heard. We’re calling on the Minister to launch an independent inquiry into the prison system to give us a clear picture of the state of prisons in New Zealand."

"There must also be a prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigation into the reasons that have led to the situation at Waikeria. This must include the adequacy of Correction's response to allegations by the prisoners, and the significant failures raised in the Ombudsman's inspection report. All people, including those living and working in a prison, deserve to be treated with dignity. Corrections must ensure any action taken in response to the protest follows due process and that the prisoners are afforded their full legal rights." 

 

Minister Davis must take urgent action to protect human rights for all at Waikeria

Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand is calling on the Minister for Corrections Kelvin Davis to ensure all measures are taken to address the situation at Waikeria Prison to protect the human rights of all people involved.

All people, including those living and working in a prison, deserve to be treated with dignity. Any response to the events unfolding - including the use of force - must still be legal, necessary and proportionate. De-escalation techniques must be used first and foremost and must respect the life and physical integrity of both detainees and prison officers.

The protesters in detention have already raised concerns about inhumane treatment. Further denying the humanity of all involved through tactics such as using excessive force, or withholding food and water, will only escalate an already difficult situation.

This protest suggests that prisoners are becoming increasingly desperate with the Government’s inaction to protect their right to minimum standards. An unannounced inspection of Waikeria Prison released by the Chief Ombudsman in August 2020 found that most men in the high-security complex were double-bunked in cells originally designed for one, living conditions were poor and the provision and quality of clothing and bedding was problematic.

Amnesty International has been concerned about human rights standards in our prison system for some time. Over the past several months there has been a steady stream of reports outlining deeply concerning practices in prisons around the country, including a report by the Human Rights Commission which confirmed that problematic practices of seclusion and restraint were systemic across our detention system, amongst other human rights breaches.

It is why we are calling on the Minister of Corrections, Hon Kelvin Davis, to take both immediate action to end specific dehumanising practices, and to launch an inquiry into the state of our prison system.