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:

Recommendations:

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.

Legislation

 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.

Policy

 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:

HUMAN RIGHTS ACTS: THE MECHANISMS COMPARED

  •  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

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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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