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Rameka v New Zealand

United Nations Human Rights Committee
Rameka v New Zealand
United Nations Human Rights Committee 
  • 6 November 2003
  • (2003) 7 HRNZ 663 CCPR/C/79/D/1090/2002

First New Zealand case ever won before the United Nations Human Rights Committee since communications were accepted in 1989. Preventive Detention Case. “We consider that the State party’s law in respect of preventive detention cannot be regarded as contrary to the Covenant. In particular, article 9, paragraph 4, of the Covenant cannot be construed so as to give a right to judicial review of a sentence on an unlimited number of occasions.”

This case is listed in 50 ‘Leading Cases on the Human Rights Committee’ (2007), complied by Raija Hanski and Martin Scheinin (a member of the Human Rights Committee 2005-2011).


The Human Rights Committee jurisprudence is labeled with CCPR which stands for the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The views of the Committee are in four formats and three languages.


Note in Fardon v Australia 2010 and Tillman v Australia 2010 the UN Human Rights Committee reversed Rameka v New Zealand in that preventive detention can now be an arbitrary detention, they say at 7.4 (4):
The “detention” of the author as a “prisoner” under DPSOA was ordered because it was feared that he might be a danger to the community in the future and for purposes of his rehabilitation. The concept of feared or predicted dangerousness to the community applicable in the case of past offenders is inherently problematic. It is essentially based on opinion as distinct from factual evidence, even if that evidence consists in the opinion of psychiatric experts. But psychiatry is not an exact science. The DPSOA, on the one hand, requires the Court to have regard to the opinion of psychiatric experts on future dangerousness but, on the other hand, requires the Court to make a finding of fact of dangerousness. While Courts are free to accept or reject expert opinion and are required to consider all other available relevant evidence, the reality is that the Courts must make a finding of fact on the suspected future behaviour of the past offender which may or may not materialise. To avoid arbitrariness, in these circumstances, the State Party should have demonstrated that the author’s rehabilitation could not have been achieved by means less intrusive than continued imprisonment or even detention, particularly as the State Party had a continuing obligation under Article 10 paragraph 3 of the Covenant to adopt meaningful measures for the reformation, if indeed it was needed, of the author throughout the 14 years during which he was in prison.


“Mr Tony Ellis—a lawyer who … I deeply respect for his very strong, clear, and consistent commitment to … advancing the causes of human rights in this country.” Nandor Tanczos, Hansard, 2005



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