Several organisations have come together to create a platform for people who are experiencing issues in Aotearoa’s policing and prison systems to speak out and be heard, after continued reports of serious human rights issues across these spaces.
Launched today, Aotearoa Justice Watch will provide people with lived experience of these systems a place to record their experiences. Anonymized information on the types of issues people submit on will be made available so it can be used by everyone helping to advance change. The aim is to increase transparency about what is happening, and use this information to help advocate change.
Amnesty International Executive Director Meg de Ronde says that extensive work in the criminal justice space by many has revealed the systems – as they currently operate – cause harm.
“We all know change is clearly needed, and experience shows a key driver behind change is often people speaking out and sharing their story. However, we also know that the voices of those most affected, those who go through and have deep knowledge of these systems, are not being heard. Moreover, when they do reach out to, for example, to log a complaint, we are concerned they are not always properly heard and addressed. If this were the case, the system would have fixed itself. Aotearoa Justice Watch provides a platform for people to bring to light issues that otherwise risk going ignored.”
JustSpeak’s Emily Rosenthal says the criminal justice system is not functioning as intended.
“We are hearing the same issues crop up and it’s just not good enough. Either people with the managerial and ministerial power to make change are not hearing what’s happening on the ground, or they are, and they’re not acting. Aotearoa Justice Watch will highlight patterns of harm from those who have experienced or witnessed it. These are the voices so often ignored, and to bring their complaints to light will go a long way to bringing about transformational change that is needed in our justice system.”
The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties Chairperson Thomas Beagle says the Council believes that prisons should be a tool of last resort and should only be available as a sentencing option for the most serious crimes.
“The Council believes in protecting the rights and liberties of all people. The justice system is where the power of the state is the sharpest, and anywhere power is used you can be sure to find that it is misused too. The Council believes as a matter of principle that the justice system should aim to minimise the negative impact on people. The Council also notes with grave concern the consensus that Police use more force, and use force more often, against tangata whenua and minority groups. This conduct goes against the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and Human Rights Act provisions against discrimination. We welcome initiatives such as the Aotearoa Justice Watch project to locate and describe abuses of power so that areas for improvement may be identified. People, when dealing with the police or in prison, must be provided the care and dignity afforded to everyone.”
Anyone can make a report at www.aotearoajusticewatch.co.nz and physical forms will be made available. Experiences reported could range from excessive use of force by the police to not receiving care or representation while in prison. These can come from people in prison, staff or people who are no longer in prison. These can be made by the person affected, or a family member of a person affected. Anyone who submits has the option of staying anonymous to protect their privacy.