UN urges New Zealand to reduce Racism in criminal justice

Rethinking Crime and Punishment

UN urges New Zealand to reduce Racism in criminal justice system

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has urged NZ to intensify efforts to reduce structural discrimination in the criminal justice system

“This is encouraging news” says Kim Workman, spokesperson for the Robson Hanan Trust and Rethinking Crime and Punishment. “We recommended to the UN Committee that it ask the New Zealand government to research the extent to which the over-representation of Māori in the criminal justice system is due to racial bias in arrests, prosecutions and sentences and develop a strategy to address the issue.”

The Hon Judith Collins presented the Government’s latest report on New Zealand’s progress in tackling racial discrimination and inequality to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on the 21 February.

“In its concluding observations, released on 2 March, the Committee reported that it remained concerned at the disproportionately high rates of incarceration and the over-representation of members of the Maori and Pasifika communities at every stage of the criminal justice system, and urged the government to intensify its efforts to address the over-representation of members of the Maori and Pasifika communities at every stage of the criminal justice system.”

“The Committee then went one step further. It also asked the NZ Government to provide comprehensive data in its next periodic report on progress made to address this phenomenon. In doing so, it referred to earlier recommendations in 2005 and 2007 which had gone unheeded. The 2007 recommendation, which we referred to in our submission, called for research on the extent to which the over-representation of Maori could be due to racial bias in arrests, prosecutions and sentences.”

“The issue of institutional racism in the criminal justice system has been ignored by successive governments for far too long. Hopefully, this UN recommendation will provide a wake-up call to tackle a difficult and long-standing issue.”

“The first step to tackling this issue is to acknowledge that a problem exists” says Kim Workman. “New Zealand for too long has resisted the idea that our own political and organisational structures and processes are racist. For a nation so passionately opposed to apartheid, it is a difficult thing to admit. If we openly acknowledge and address those issues, our stature in the eyes of other nations, will grow.

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