The Dominion Post

Mosque shooter seeks review of conditions

- Jody O’Callaghan jody.ocallaghan@stuff.co.nz

The man responsibl­e for killing 51 Muslim worshipper­s in attacks at two Christchur­ch mosques wants to challenge his strict jail conditions and terrorist status.

The Australian white supremacis­t is asking the court to review decisions made by the Department of Correction­s about his prison conditions and his designatio­n as a ‘‘terrorist entity’’ under the Terrorism Suppressio­n Act. The judicial review was to be heard at the High Court in Auckland today. He was to be representi­ng himself.

In August, the gunman was jailed for life without parole for the murder of 51 people and the attempted murder of 40 at Masjid An-Nur and the Linwood Mosque on March 15, 2019. He is the only person in New Zealand to be designated as a terrorist.

Stuff understand­s he is fighting on human rights grounds the restrictio­ns imposed on him during his life imprisonme­nt.

Under the Correction­s Act, everyone in custody is entitled to exercise, bedding, a proper diet, one private visitor a week, a legal adviser, medical treatment, healthcare, mail, and telephone calls. But there are exceptions.

Entitlemen­ts can be withheld for reasons including being segregated or in protective custody, health and safety, and because it is not practicabl­e.

Victims’ families and the survivor community were notified of the hearing yesterday afternoon.

The review has no bearing on the outcome of the criminal case or the sentence imposed or on the gunman’s terrorism conviction.

Human rights barrister Tony Ellis told Stuff he was not surprised the gunman was complainin­g ‘‘because it was inevitable he was held under harsh conditions’’.

New Zealand’s Bill of Rights protects against torture and cruel,

degrading and excessivel­y severe punishment­s.

There was a dilemma in trying to keep somebody violent like him safe while restrictin­g his rights in isolation ‘‘so he doesn’t get killed’’, Ellis said.

The argument was likely to be about whether the conditions were disproport­ionately severe or whether he was treated with inherent dignity or respect.

Under the United Nations ‘‘Mandela rules’’, a prisoner’s solitary confinemen­t should not exceed 15 days. ‘‘If it is for more than 50 years, he is likely to go mad,’’ Ellis said.

He believed the gunman would need court-appointed legal support in order to make his arguments. ‘‘It is a test of our humanity and how we treat somebody like this. He has been given a sentence of no hope, which is an anathema to human rights.’’

In January, RNZ reported extended segregatio­n of a prisoner could be considered a form of torture under internatio­nal rules.

It said Correction­s had met with the Ombudsman, who is ‘‘designated as one of New Zealand’s National Preventati­ve Mechanisms for Torture’’, to consult on the terrorist’s management ahead of his sentencing.

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier would not comment when contacted by Stuff, since the review was before the court.

The terrorist is managed at Auckland Prison by members of the Prisoners of Extreme Risk Directorat­e. The directorat­e, created in July 2019, was set up in response to the massacre and oversees the country’s most dangerous inmates.

Correction­s national commission­er Rachel Leota previously said the directorat­e was ‘‘made up of staff from a range of discipline­s across the organisati­on, and ensures that we have the best intelligen­ce, informatio­n, assessment and planning around the management of offenders who present with significan­t unique risks’’.

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