The Chair of the Independent Police Conduct Authority, the Honourable Justice Lowell Goddard, has been elected to a United Nations human rights body with international oversight of places of custody and detention.
Justice Goddard said she was honoured and delighted to be chosen for a place on the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT). Elections took place in Geneva on Friday 29 October, NZ time, with 31 candidates seeking 20 positions.
The SPT has oversight of almost 60 nations who have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). OPCAT provides a framework for ensuring places of detention (such as prisons, police cells, psychiatric hospitals, youth justice facilities, and military establishments) are safe, humane, and meet international standards.
“The decision reinforces the importance of New Zealand’s work in this area, and is a tribute to our international reputation in the human rights field. Many agencies in New Zealand work towards fulfilling this important obligation,” Justice Goddard said.
New Zealand ratified OPCAT in 2007, and since then the Independent Police Conduct Authority has worked with the Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, and the Inspector of Service Penal Establishments, who all share oversight of custody facilities in this country.
The Authority has responsibility for ensuring that places of Police detention, such as cells, vehicles and other places, are safe for both detainees and Police staff.
“My priorities for a term on the Subcommittee will include a focus on education and capacity-building in OPCAT member countries, to ensure that human rights abuses do not happen in the first place,” Justice Goddard said.
Justice Goddard has been advised that she will be sworn in to her new position in February 2011, for a two year term. She will undertake the duties in addition to her existing role as Chair of the Authority.
Justice Goddard expressed her thanks and gratitude to the officials and agencies who had supported her nomination and the election process.
For more information about OPCAT in New Zealand: