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Investigations revealed that police had used excessive force during arrests and failed in their duty of care to detainees.


To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the government enforced a state of emergency from 25 March until 13 May and restricted movement, mass gatherings and entry into the country. 

In August, the High Court ruled that during the first nine days of the nationwide lockdown the government acted in a necessary, reasonable and proportionate way but exercised powers which lacked legal basis for those nine days.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In July, an inquiry into New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) in Afghanistan operations in 2010 found that the NZDF gave erroneous information to ministers and the public about civilian casualties over a number of years and failed to follow up on credible allegations of torture of a prisoner they had delivered into Afghan detention.

In August, reports from recent inspections of five secure mental health units within hospitals under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) found that two units had practices amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including one unit which used seclusion rooms as long-term bedrooms when facilities were over capacity.

Prison inspections under OPCAT in April and May observed that while the prisons’ overall COVID-19 response had been well-resourced, balanced and efficient, four out of the nine prisons “had difficulties ensuring that all prisoners received one hour of fresh air on a daily basis”.  A Department of Corrections review of this practice in May found that inconsistent manual documentation practices meant that it was unclear whether minimum entitlements had been met in all instances.

Excessive use of force

In February, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) found that a police officer had unjustifiably kicked a 13-year-old boy in the head during arrest. In April, the IPCA found in a separate incident that a police officer was not justified in punching a 13-year-old boy during arrest, and that the police had failed in their duty of care to arrange immediate medical attention for an obvious head injury after the arrest.

In August, the IPCA found the police had failed in their duty of care to a man who died after being in police custody. It found insufficient assessment and monitoring, and incorrect application of a spit hood.

Refugees and asylum-seekers 

The Community Sponsorship of Refugees pilot, a community-led complementary pathway to the government-led Refugee Quota Programme, received a further three years of funding in the government budget.  

Sexual and reproductive rights

In March, the Abortion Legislation Act was enacted, allowing women to seek an abortion without restrictions within the first 20 weeks of their pregnancy. After 20 weeks, women must consult a qualified health practitioner to assess their physical and mental health and well-being.