The Problems and Promise of International Rights in the Challenge to Māori Imprisonment
This article draws upon extensive primary research involving substantive documentary analysis of United Nations (UN) reports and New Zealand (NZ) debates over the last 20 years, and interviews with senior Māori professionals, to consider the role of international human rights standards and processes in the challenge to Māori imprisonment. It shows that over-representation is carefully managed by the NZ state in four ways: (i) a perpetual representation of Māori as the offenders; (ii) the selective endorsement of rights, such that discriminatory criminal justice operations are normalised; (iii) a pervasive human rights ritualism within UN reporting processes; and (iv) the legitimisation of imprisonment and inequalities through the international rights system. Notwithstanding these problems, Māori remain alive to the potential of challenging imprisonment through engagement with international rights frameworks. They indicate the need for a tripartite approach of reforms, decolonising acts and abolitionist strategies in doing so.
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