Amnesty Says NZ Government Must Act Now To End Abuses In Waikeria & All Prisons

Following the surrender of protesters at Waikeria Prison, Amnesty International Aotearoa/NZ is calling on Minister for Corrections Kelvin Davis to face up to systemic issues in the prison system.

This must include an independent inquiry into prisons, it says.

Davis ‘must act now’

Amnesty says: “All people, including those living and working in a prison, deserve to be treated with dignity.

Maori detainees at Waikeria

“Any response to events must still be legal, necessary and proportionate.

Earlier Protests About Inhumane Treatment

Amnesty says the protesters in detention have already raised concerns about inhumane treatment.

New Zealanders expect humane treatment for prisoners’

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

Amnesty’s Meg de Ronde

“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,” she says.

“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 needed, as well as a national inquiry into the prison system to find the full extent of issues. 

Amnesty said earlier: “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.”

Amnesty said the protest had suggested that prisoners were becoming increasingly desperate with the Government’s inaction to protect their right to minimum standards.

Ombudsman condemned conditions at Waikeria

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, said Amnesty.

Living conditions were poor and the provision and quality of clothing and bedding were problematic,it said.

Section of Waikeria jail on fire two days ago
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