Human Rights Commission backs compensation package for Christchurch terror attack victims

9:05 am on 17 March 2021

The Human Rights Commission says the government must establish a specific compensation package for those affected by the Christchurch terror attack.

Members of the Muslim community arrive at the Al Noor mosque on the 15 March 2020, the anniversary of the terror attack.

Photo: AFP / Sanka Vidanagama / NurPhoto

Many in the community say they are struggling with the ongoing trauma of what happened that day. Some were not able to access ACC as they were not physically injured.

The Human Rights Commission has released its response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the attack on 15 March, when 51 people were killed.

It states affected whānau, survivors and witnesses suffered an extreme violation of their human rights, specifically that the state failed to protect the basic right to life.

Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said many aspects of the government's response to date were consistent with a human rights approach, including setting up the Royal Commission of Inquiry and the Prime Minister's apology, but the commitment did not stop there.

Paul Hunt is the incoming chief Human Rights Commissioner.

Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt Photo: University of Waikato

The Royal Commission was not asked to consider questions of compensation, but that didn't mean it was off the table, Hunt said.

"The government needs to do more than it's doing at the moment, it deserves credit for some things that it's done but there needs to be a process to figure out a suitable reparations package."

The report points out how Norway set aside over $45 million for those affected by the white supremacist terror attack in Oslo in 2011.

But minister for the government's response to the Royal Commission's report into the terrorist attack, Andrew Little, said he was not looking at setting up a broader compensation package.

He is confident the government is doing enough.

"The language of reparation in the United Nations is not just about financial compensation it's about a whole range of things that helps to restore peoples lives and helps them deal with the trauma they are facing," Little said.

Andrew Little

Minister Andrew Little Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

"We are doing that. We have a compensation regime under ACC. I know that means that those who don't have the physical injuries don't qualify but we have put in place a range of measures to deal with their trauma and other things they're dealing with."

Maha Elmadani who lost her father Ali in the attack disagreed and said the Human Rights Commission report backed what the community had been trying to raise with the government for two years.

"It just makes it clear that under international law, victims of terrorism have rights to things like compensation, so it's good and reassuring that it's come out in this report for the government to see."

Elmadani said there was still no one place where whānau could go to get support financially, psychologically or emotionally.

"We've had to pick up the pieces and continue as if nothing has happened and it's difficult to do that when you have lost a loved one.

"The support from the general public has been amazing but the government needs to engage with us more directly."

She said certain groups or community leaders had been speaking on behalf of victims families without consulting them.

"The last two years have been muddled chaos, there has been help for some people and not for others and I don't think the government understands that - they think there has been a blanket of support."

She hopes the government takes a close look at the Human Rights Commission's report and works to create a process and plan on how they will roll out more support.

Elmadani said initial help was dwindling and in order to get emotional help she now had to go through her GP.

"We just want to have some sense of normality in our lives and this is a basic human right that we're asking for, reparation and restorative justice from the government."

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