Amnesty International Report 2017/18 - The State of the World's Human Rights - New Zealand

New Zealand received criticism about its mental health services, detention facilities, high rates of Indigenous Māori representation in the criminal justice system, and about poor health and wellbeing among children. 

Justice system

The Waitangi Tribunal, a permanent commission of inquiry, found that the government had failed to prioritize the reduction of the high rate of recidivism among Māori and had breached its Treaty of Waitangi obligations. The commission called for urgent practical action to reduce the number. The National Preventive Mechanism found that Māori were disproportionally represented in all detention centres. Mental health and disability in detention continued to be a concern. Separate reviews by the Ombudsman and an independent expert commissioned by the Human Rights Commission highlighted the high use of prolonged solitary confinement and restraint practices in places of detention and the over-representation of ethnic minority groups in these incidents. The use of “tie-down beds” and/or waist restraints in at-risk units was found to amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The separation of children and young people in “secure care” units in “care and protection” residences was found to be inappropriate.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

The government announced the framework for its pilot community sponsorship programme for refugee resettlement, to begin at the end of the year. The new refugee category allows community groups to sponsor 25 refugees to enter New Zealand.

Children’s rights

A UNICEF report raised concern over the health and wellbeing of children in New Zealand, due to the high rates of teen pregnancy, neonatal mortality and the high teen suicide rate. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommended the establishment of an independent inquiry into abuse suffered by children, the vast majority Māori, in state care between the 1950s and 1990s.

International justice

The authorities declined to hold an independent inquiry into allegations that the New Zealand Defence Force committed crimes under international law during a raid in Afghanistan in 2010, resulting in civilian deaths. Lawyers filed a civil lawsuit calling for a judicial review on behalf of the alleged Afghan victims.

Right to health

The Auditor-General found that problems with access to housing, rehabilitation and other services led to patients being kept in mental health units for years.