Urewera raids traumatised people

Last updated 17:57 19/12/2013

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Innocent people were exposed to unnecessary trauma and had their human rights hindered by police actions during the Urewera raids, the Human Rights Commission has found.

The raids focused on the activities of a group of people who appeared to be involved in military-style training camps in the Urewera forest in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

The Human Rights Commission received 31 complaints about police actions, including being stopped at a roadblock at Ruatoki and being photographed without consent, the negative implications of using the Terrorism Suppression Act, and the impact on children confined for several hours, some without food.

The report issued today on Operation Eight focused on the innocent people affected, and not those arrested or charged, Chief Commissioner David Rutherford said.

"These people had done nothing wrong and did not break any laws but had their basic rights trampled."

No comprehensive assessment of the impact on the innocent people was carried out, and insufficient support was given to them, the report says.

"It's very clear more should have been done in the immediate aftermath to support innocent people," Rutherford said.

"We make five recommendations to help ensure negative impacts are minimised in the future.

"On the positive side, much progress has been made since 2007.

"We're pleased to see police have made changes to their processes and policies to ensure this doesn't happen again."

New search and surveillance legislation had been introduced since Operation Eight, which addressed much of the behaviour complained about, Rutherford said.

An Independent Police Conduct Authority report in May found that police acted unlawfully in establishing roadblocks and detaining and searching people during Operation Eight in 2007.

"The commission's report follows the conclusion of related court cases and the release of the IPCA report earlier this year,'' Rutherford said.

"We considered it inappropriate to release our analysis before the completion of these two matters."

Rutherford hoped the report would help further repair the relationship between police and Tuhoe leadership.

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