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UN wants review of Maori in NZ prisons

A United Nations working group is urging the New Zealand government to look into why Maori are over-represented in the nation’s prisons.


In its statement at the conclusion of its two-week visit to New Zealand, the UN working group on arbitrary detention has recommended a review be undertaken of the degree of inconsistencies and systemic bias against Maori at all levels of the criminal justice system.

The working group noted that Maori are over-represented in the prison population and warned that incarceration that is the outcome of bias “constitutes arbitrary detention in violation of international law”.

Police and Corrections Minister Anne Tolley says it’s been known for some time there are far too many Maori in the criminal justice system.

“No one misunderstands that,” she told reporters.

Asked why she thinks there are so many Maori are in prison, she replied: “I don’t think there’s a simple answer to that”.

Ms Tolley said she hasn’t seen any evidence of Maori being unfairly targeted by police.

She would need to wait for the working group’s full report before taking any action on its observations.

The working group will present its final report, including its recommendations to the government, to the Human Rights Council next year.