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.