Prime Minister Helen Clark has been criticised for launching an anti-torture campaign while issues about torture in prisons are unresolved.
Helen Clark and Burundi torture survivor Sylvestre Gahungu, who now lives in Auckland, yesterday launched an Amnesty International campaign aimed at stamping out torture worldwide.
Wellington lawyer Tony Ellis, who was involved in the settlement of four former Mangaroa Prison inmates' torture claim, said it was "somewhat hypocritical" that New Zealand could be regarded as torture-free while the Mangaroa debate continued.
He said a complaint to the United Nations Committee Against Torture was still being considered as a result of issues outstanding from Mangaroa.
On September 6, Attorney-General Margaret Wilson issued a formal apology to the four inmates whom prison officers brutalised at the prison, now Hawke's Bay Regional Prison, in 1991 and 1993.
It was confirmed the prisoners received substantial compensation as part of the settlement of their civil claim against the Crown. The size of the payout was secret but was believed to be about $260,000.
Prison officers were disciplined after the incidents, but none faced criminal charges, let alone charges of torture.
Mr Ellis said that after the prisoners' case was settled, the Attorney-General was put under immense political pressure.
Justice Minister Phil Goff called the prisoners "scumbags" and there was a public outcry over the compensation.
The settlement is said to have caused a rift between Margaret Wilson and Helen Clark.
Mr Ellis said Margaret Wilson's apology was downplayed, if not totally reversed.
He said the environment created in the aftermath of the settlement was not conducive to reporting torture complaints.
The cover-up and the failure to prosecute the people "who perpetrated the gross indignities" was still of concern.
He said those issues, and the lack of sincerity of the apology, might yet be the subject of a complaint to the UN committee .
"It is important that these things are brought into the open in the international arena as well as the domestic to make sure other countries don't embark on these sort of activities."
Mr Ellis said he now had unsubstantiated reports of mistreatment of prisoners at Mt Eden, Linton and Paremoremo.
"However, it was difficult to complain when, if you do, you are subjected to a barrage of public ridicule."
Also, one of the Mangaroa prisoners, who is still an inmate, had been muzzled when he asked to speak to a journalist. Mr Ellis said if New Zealand was torture-free, those who claimed to have been tortured should be allowed to speak out.