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Abstract from

Implementing Human Rights in Closed Environments: The OPCAT Framework and the New Zealand Experience

Natalie Pierce is a Legal Advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Legal Division, where she specialises in international and transnational criminal law, international humanitarian law, extradition, law enforcement, counter-bribery and corruption, and private international law.

This article explores the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in New Zealand. To provide context to the New Zealand experience and approach, it outlines the OPCAT framework at the international level and identifies the core principles and standards that apply to States Parties and their National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs). It then reflects on the New Zealand experience in the first five years following ratification of OPCAT in March 2007 by examining the functions and powers of NPMs, their detention monitoring methodologies, and recent initiatives undertaken to improve the treatment of and conditions applicable to persons deprived of their liberty. Finally, the article considers the opportunities for ongoing development and strengthening of New Zealand’s OPCAT mandate. By examining the international framework and the New Zealand experience, this article reinforces the constructive and cooperative approach of OPCAT. Most importantly, it demonstrates the positive impact that OPCAT can have, when appropriately implemented, as a mechanism for the protection of persons deprived of their liberty and the meaningful application of human rights in closed environments.

(2014) Vol 31 Law in Context p154

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