#WagePeaceNZ ‘Sunday Selfies Send Minister a Message’

Double Refugee Quota

See here the open letter sent by WagePeaceNZ to the Minister of Immigration on doubling the refugee quotas, detaining asylum seekers etc:


Re: #WagePeaceNZ ‘Sunday Selfies Send Minister a Message’Dear Minister Woodhouse,


We haven’t met yet, but I hope that will change in the future. I am a columnist by trade, but am wearing a different hat today.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I began an initiative called #WagePeaceNZ. Initially, I began it as a reaction to the government’s call for troop deployment in Iraq. When I heard our Prime Minister passionately arguing for his colleagues to ‘get on the right side’, I was most struck by what wasn’t said. No one considered what seemed to me a wholly constructive, equally moral alternative, one that is humane, far more measurable, and yes, even potentially cheaper than putting Kiwi lives on the line again for this war; New Zealand could double its refugee quota and support. As a small nation, New Zealand could build the lives that war destroys instead and—well, simply put, wage peace.

Regardless of how any Kiwi feels about NZ’s troop deployment, one thing has been incredibly clear to me, we haven’t contributed nearly enough on the world stage for refugees. When you will be reviewing our refugee quota next year, you will certainly be cognisant that our own refugee quota hasn’t budged in almost three decades now, even though our population numbers have grown by 39%. Indeed, our asylum arrivals have shriveled too. Today, we get anywhere from half to five times less asylum seekers than we did before 9-11 when airplane interdiction ramped up dramatically, stopping potential arrivals from ever boarding a plane. Even if we doubled our quota—at the very least, we’d only move from 87th in the world to 78th for the total number of refugees and asylum seekers we host, not terribly impressive for a country with our per capita income.

What all these numbers really mean is that as we’ve grown as a nation over the last 28 years, our real contribution to saving refugee lives has shrunk.

But #WagePeaceNZ isn’t only about quotas. I began the initiative to raise awareness on all asylum and refugee issues in NZ, a sector that is, frankly, quite tiny in this country, relative to the rest of the world. My personal frustration is that the few folks still able to work in the field are so stretched, there is no room for education, media or advocacy to Kiwis who aren’t familiar with the issues at hand. I’m hoping #WagePeaceNZ can help change that.

Yesterday you may have noticed a slew of homemade signs and selfies land in your email box from NZ MP’s, shopkeepers, barbers, kids, teddy bears, dogs—yes, even sock puppets. It was the NZ response to a global initiative to call out Australia on what I feel is its disastrous choice of trying to sell off its human rights obligations to poorer nations. Sadly, it’s working. The cost of refugee imprisonment has been huge, in every sense. Australia has now strapped itself into spending billions of dollars to ship families, against their will, to third countries. It has significantly damaged its international reputation. But most importantly, it has made itself part of the problem. The great irony is, the country that says it wants to stop human trafficking has now become traffickers in human lives themselves.

A report just submitted to the UN has concluded Australia has contravened the Conventions on Torture, a sad indictment indeed. There have been deaths, beatings, physical and sexual abuse of women and children, all detailed in Australia’s own internal reports. Today, children are still imprisoned, something no Kiwi would support in this country, I feel sure.

Here is the core of my frustration: New Zealand has remained absolutely silent on this. In fact, what’s more worrying, in 2013, when our Prime Minister finished his Queenstown meeting with Julia Guillard, he seemed to welcome the idea that NZ had been invited to send any future boat arrivals to the prison camps on Manus and Nauru too.

I feel quite strongly that no Kiwi would welcome that prospect. I once questioned you in a forum on this and your response was this was ‘unlikely’. As I was limited in my questioning, I never learned if your response was because, indeed, New Zealand has never had a boatload of asylum seekers arrive—at least in modern history.

Kindly clarify your response, as ‘unlikely’ is far from what our Prime Minister calls getting ‘on the right side on this issue, the simple moral imperative that is at stake here.

My question stands: will you and the Prime Minister state publicly that New Zealand will have no part in future offshore detention of boat arrivals?

Further, will you and the Prime Minister—at the very least—ask Australia to meet their obligations under the Conventions on Torture, to stop imprisoning children, and to stop this unprecedented regional push to sell human lives to nations who need the money they offer?

I fervently believe this is the honourable response Kiwis endorse. In just two days of effort, I got 13 MPs (two now retired) to send me their selfies, plus a damned encouraging response from folks sending them into the new #WagePeaceNZ Facebook page, now only a few weeks old. I also run a sister initiative called, #WeAreBetterThanThat, began in reaction to the government initiating refugee detention in New Zealand in 2012, so many came from there as well. For me, that’s an encouraging start. I posted just a few dozen, as it was the Cricket finals and didn’t want to drown folks. Please note, readers started reporting that their photos bounced back—perhaps the larger photos files filled your in-box—you may want to clear it? I attach the album links here, https://www.facebook.com/WeAreBetterThanThat/photos_stream or here, https://www.facebook.com/wagepeacenz/photos_stream

I hope we can work together on this in the coming year. We may not agree on some elements of the issue, but I want to believe that there can be a meeting place that starts with compassion. New Zealand’s silence has been deafening. I truly hope you will consider changing that.


Tracey Barnett

#WagePeaceNZ https://www.facebook.com/wagepeacenz

#WeAreBetterThanThat https://www.facebook.com/WeAreBetterThanThat


A Tale of Terror from RightsInfo


Secrecy and torture have played leading roles in the war on terror.  They were also centre stage in the drama that surrounded the UK government’s attempts to deport the radical Muslim cleric, Abu Qatada, to his home country, Jordan.

In 1994, Abu Qatada fled to London, with his wife and five children.  He was granted asylum because he had been tortured.  During the time he was living in Britain, as well as earning a reputation as a ‘hate preacher’ and ‘extremely dangerous man’, he was sentenced to life imprisonment in Jordan, in his absence, for terrorist activities.  That conviction was based on evidence obtained by torture. He was never charged with a crime in the UK, but between 1994 and 2013, there was much heated argument about whether the UK government could deport him back to Jordan.  If deported to Jordan, he claimed he would be tortured again.  Because the Human Rights Act protects people from the real risk of torture, the government couldn’t  deport him.  This was true even though a special immigration court found ‘he was heavily involved in terrorist activities’. The UK  Home Secretary travelled to Jordan to get them to agree, in writing, that they would not torture him.  But there was another barrier.  In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights said that he would face an unfair trial in Jordan because the court would use evidence obtained by previous torture.

The final outcome?  In 2013, Abu Qatada left the UK after Jordan signed a treaty promising not to use evidence obtained by torture against him.  He was finally freed by the Jordanian authorities in 2014, because the prosecution against him for terrorist activities was not proven.

The moral of the story?  Human rights, including the right to a fair trial, are for everyone.  Even suspected terrorists. Perhaps especially them.

This story is a short summary of a legal judgment. You can read the full judgment here
Media Coverage of this story

New Human Rights Report a Wake-up Call

The latest human rights report should be a wake-up call, says Peter Hosking, HRF Chairperson. “It highlights how much we are falling behind in our human rights performance in comparison with the international community, but I suspect we will just slumber on”, he says.

“We are very smug about human rights in this country and this latest report is quite correct, that we strut our human rights record claim on the international stage – for example, in the bid for a seat on the security council, our human rights credentials were to the forefront. Unfortunately, like our clean green image, the reality is very different.

An example of inaction by government is its reaction to the Universal Periodic Review. This is a four yearly stocktake of the human rights situation here by the UN. The stocktake took place last February (2104) – 155 recommendations were made to New Zealand, of which the government accepted 121. However, it has does nothing to implement these recommendations – it has no action plan, no budget and all the government websites have gone completely silent on UPR since last year.

The new report has a number of recommendations, many of which reflect recommendations made by HRF-led coalitions to the UN last year.

Read the report here:


Institutional Mechanisms

 The Justice and Electoral Select Committee be re-designated as the Justice, Electoral and Human Rights Select Committee and given responsibility for oversight of New Zealand’s human rights treaty commitments.

 The New Zealand Bill of Rights (NZBORA) reporting mechanism is amended to require section 7 vets by the Attorney General to be directly considered by the new select committee. Section 7 vets should apply to bills at their third reading and Supplementary Order Papers and the Attorney General should not be required to vote in favour of legislation that is inconsistent with the NZBORA.

 The Māori Affairs Select Committee takes responsibility for developing indicators to monitor human rights treaty recommendations relating to Māori and reports to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee and to Parliament on their realisation.

 The Ministry of Justice becomes the co-ordinating Ministry to ensure consistency of all New Zealand government reports to treaty bodies and to provide a national archive of all treaty body information that is freely accessible to civil society and individuals.


 New Zealand lifts the reservations relating to inciting racial disharmony in International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); age mixing in prisons in both ICCPR and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the reservations in both the ICCPR and International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) on collective bargaining and trade unions.

 New Zealand ratifies the Optional Protocols to ICESCR and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to comply with international commitments and to ensure that individuals have a remedy for the abuse of executive power.

 New Zealand urgently repeals the Public Health and Disability Act to reinstate the jurisdiction of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Review Tribunal for all New Zealanders.

 A comprehensive review is undertaken of the Human Rights Act 1993 that covers the incorporation of the principle of equality, the appointments process, independence, the status and functions of Commissioners and resourcing.


 New Zealand pro-actively nominates candidates for the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Human Rights Committee, treaty body committees and special procedures, and institutes a cross party mechanism on UN representation.


Kris Gledhill book launch: Human Rights Acts: The Mechanisms Compared

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Join us in celebrating the launch of Kris Gledhill’s new book:


  •  Date: Tuesday 31 March
  • Time: 5.30-7pm
  • Venue: Law Student Centre, Level 2, Building 810, 1-10 Short Street
  • Wine and canapés will be served to celebrate.
  • RSVP: Khylee Quince – k.quince@auckland.ac.nz by Monday 30th March

The aim of this book is to consider the jurisprudence that has developed in these various jurisdictions relating to these mechanics for the promotion of human rights. Relevant case law from countries that have a constitutional approach, such as Canada, South Africa and the United States, is also featured. Chapters cover such matters as the choice between a constitutional and non-constitutional bill of rights, the different approaches adopted as to how legislators are alerted to possible breaches of fundamental rights as Bills progress, the extent of the interpretive obligation, the consequences of failing to reach a rights-compliant interpretation, the remedies available in litigation and any alternatives to litigation.

The book is aimed at practitioners and also at academics and policy makers.

On Human Rights Day, Twenty Seconds on the UDHR, Eleanor Roosevelt, and NZ’s role in the Declaration

Eleanor Roosevelt holding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948

Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While Eleanor Roosevelt is rightly lauded for her leadership, New Zealand played a key role in ensuring that economic, social and cultural rights received due attention in the UDHR alongside civil and political rights:

“Experience in New Zealand has taught us that the assertion of the right of personal freedom is incomplete unless it is related to the social and economic rights of the common man. There can be no difference of opinion as to the tyranny of privation and want. There is no dictator more terrible than hunger.” (Delegation member, Dr Colin Aikman, on behalf of New Zealand, UN, 1948).

When the General Assembly adopted the Declaration, with 48 states in favour and eight abstentions, it was proclaimed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”, towards which individuals and societies should “strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance”. The Declaration with its broad range of political, civil, social, cultural and economic rights inspired more than 60 human rights instruments which together constitute an international standard of human rights. Today the general consent of all United Nations Member States on the basic Human Rights laid down in the Declaration makes it even stronger and emphasises the relevance of Human Rights in our daily lives.

HRF Joint Statement with Amnesty and others opposing urgency on Terrorist Fighters legislation


A joint statement by over 20 organisations has been delivered to all political parties highlighting concerns with the Government’s proposed Foreign Fighters Bill.

A broad coalition of New Zealand’s leading academics and human rights, legal and migrant organisations today called on the Government to delay the passage of its proposed anti-terror laws to allow more comprehensive

Following the release of the Select Committee report, the 20-plus organisations highlighted major concerns with the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014, which the Government is currently attempting to rush through Parliament. The joint statement was delivered to Attorney-General Chris Finlayson and all political parties this morning.

A diverse range of groups and individuals, including the Human Rights Lawyers Association, the Human Rights Foundation of Aotearoa New Zealand, Amnesty International New Zealand and the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, have disputed the Government’s claims that the Bill is compatible with New Zealand’s human rights obligations.

“Human security is a human right”, said Peter Hosking, Chairperson of the Human Rights Foundation of Aotearoa New Zealand, “and the government has an important duty to protect the community from terrorism. Laws can legitimately limit the rights of individuals for the purpose of countering security threats, but these limitations must be both necessary and proportionate.” he said.

“The United Nations Security Council (to which New Zealand was recently elected) has, in Resolution 2178, made clear that any measures taken to ensure such protection must also comply with all of the state’s other human rights obligations, including those relating to fair trials and due process and the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement.”

The coalition of organisations and experts are highlighting several key concerns with the Bill, including a failure to justify the measures and the expansion of surveillance powers. However, they are particularly concerned about the urgency with which this Bill is being rushed through Parliament.

“By failing to provide adequate time for consultation by experts and others, the Government is denying the opportunity for proper scrutiny and robust debate as to whether the proposals are indeed consistent with New Zealand’s obligations under international law,” said Amanda Brydon, Advocacy Manager at Amnesty International.

“In particular, the Government already has the power under the Passports Act to suspend passports for a year. There is no need for the urgency under which the measures are being enacted.”

“Countering terrorism strategies will not be successful if human rights are not respected and protected.”


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