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Preventive detention in New Zealand violates human rights, UN experts find

GENEVA (19 April 2018) – New Zealand violated its obligations under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights by keeping two men convicted of rape in exceptionally lengthy preventive detention after they had served their sentences, the UN Human Rights Committee found. New Zealand must immediately reconsider the continued detention of the men, and take steps to facilitate their release, the Committee said in its decision, issued today in Geneva.

The full decision is available to read here.

Allan Brian Miller and Michael John Carroll were each convicted of rape in 1991 and 1988, respectively. Despite being eligible for parole after 10 years of imprisonment, both remained imprisoned, and in individual complaints to the Human Rights Committee filed in 2014 alleged that New Zealand did not afford them access to adequate rehabilitative programs in prison, and that as a result, their continued detention was arbitrary and violated their right to personal liberty.

With the agreement of the parties, the Committee conducted the case through its first-ever oral hearing, allowing the parties’ legal representatives to respond directly, in person and through video conferencing, to Committee members’ questions on New Zealand’s preventive detention law and practice as applied to sex offenders in general, and to Mr. Miller and Mr. Carroll in particular.

In its decision in the case, the Committee found that New Zealand violated its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, writing that "The Committee considers that as the length of preventive detention increases, the State party bears an increasingly heavy burden to justify continued detention and to show that the threat posed by the individual cannot be addressed by alternative measures. As a result, a level of risk which might reasonably justify a short-term preventive detention, may not necessarily justify a longer period of preventive detention.”

“The institution of preventive detention for sex offenders stands in tension with the right to liberty under the Covenant, which demands that criminal sentences fit the crimes committed. The Committee is of the view that states resorting to open-ended preventive detention must afford robust judicial safeguards applying strict proportionality analysis,” said Mr. Yuval Shany, Vice-chair of the Human Rights Committee.

The Human Rights Committee called on New Zealand to review its relevant legislation governing preventive detention.


For more information or media requests, please contact Media Officer Julia Gronnevet in Geneva at +41 22 917 9310 or at jgronnevet@ohchr.org

Human Rights Committee members are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.

Useful links:

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Human Rights Committee individual complaints procedure

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