The Dominion Post
Mosque shooter seeks review of conditions
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’’.