HRF calls for late amendments to Health and Safety reforms to be withdrawn

Barry Wilson

The Human Rights Foundation is calling for the late amendments to the Health and Safety Reform Bill concerning classified security information to be withdrawn to allow for public submissions and consideration of Bill of Rights issues, including by the Attorney General and by the Law Commission which already has the issue under review at the request of the Government.

Endorsing major concerns expressed by the Law Society and others about the late insertion of provision for secret trials, HRF spokesperson Barry Wilson says that ‘The secret trials process is clearly inconsistent with the right to a fair trial in the NZ Bill of Rights, yet the Attorney General has failed to report this when the Bill was came back from the select committee.”

The amendments in the Supplementary Order Paper allow the Director of Security to declare that some provisions of the Bill do not apply to workers carrying out work for the SIS or the GCSB.

Barry Wilson also notes that there has been no opportunity for the public been able to have a say. “It is vital in our democracy that provisions impacting on people’s human rights be subject to robust public debate,” he says.

The SOP is also internally inconsistent as drafted. The changes set out in schedule 2A of the Bill, Clause 1(1)(a), state “….all parties to proceedings have access to classified security information that is to be produced in proceedings;” while later clauses limit such access.

Barry Wilson says the SOP is another example of the flaw in Section 7 of the NZ Bill of Rights Act which requires the Attorney General to identify inconsistencies with the NZ Bill of Rights when a bill is introduced into Parliament, but not when the inconsistency is contained in a Supplementary Order Paper introduced later. Parliament’s own Standing Orders Review Committee has recommended this be corrected.

ENDS

For further information contact Barry Wilson, Human Rights Foundation of Aotearoa New Zealand

(021) 10838266

(09) 489 9307

Email: barryw@callplus.net.nz

Prof Margaret Bedggood on the TPPA and Human Rights

MargaretBedggood3[1]

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement and Human Rights

It is not easy to raise questions about the TPPA or specifically about its effect on human rights since both the process and the content are shrouded in secrecy. Nevertheless it is possible from various leaked documents / drafts and from comparisons with other trade agreements, both those to which New Zealand is a party and other multi- and bilateral examples, to point to some issues which are clearly part of the negotiations and therefore of relevance to New Zealand’s participation in the TPPA. On these we might, at the very least, reasonably expect some assurance from those responsible, in particular the Minister in charge of trade negotiations, that they are aware of the human rights obligations which New Zealand has undertaken and that these will be duly observed.

A number of the concerns which have implications for human rights arise in the context of disputes over investment agreements and the secret and unappealable international arbitration proceedings known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) which are the sole method of settling such disputes. There are many examples of multinational enterprises (MNEs) taking sovereign governments to these tribunals. Not only can this cost a state millions of dollars but it can also prevent the state from enacting laws which can be argued to have a detrimental effect on the profits or activities of investing MNEs. Such laws may well be designed to improve a human rights situation in that state. Nor are these tactics confined to states with “less rigorous legal systems” as has been suggested in the defence of ISDS.

What human rights might be affected in such circumstances?

  • the right to health and the right to life (ICESCR article 12, ICCPR article..), especially through a lack of access to essential medicines. In New Zealand there are particular concerns about the possible downgrading of PHARMAC, but other issues have been raised by medical professionals themselves;
  • the right to work and rights in the workplace (ICESCR articles 6, 7, 8). Improvements in workers’ conditions and in labour relations generally can be threatened by MNEs’ conflicting interests;
  • the right to an adequate standard of living, including access to housing, food and water (ICESR article 11), aspects of which may again clash with the priorities of MNEs, such as profit-making and privatisation;
  • rights to intellectual property (ICESCR article 15(a)) which may come into conflict with the patenting rights of MNEs;
  • the rights of particular groups, and states’ duties to protect them: examples include children, especially those in poverty, and indigenous people.

It is of course always the case with human rights policies and procedures that a balance will often need to be struck. The concern here is that TPPA processes are not set up to take human rights into consideration at all.

There are also a number of procedural rights, sometimes called ‘democracy rights’ – the rights to information, consultation, participation in policy and decision-making of those whose rights will be affected. These seem to be of no account, not only in ISDS proceedings but more broadly in the way in which the TPPA is being negotiated – in secrecy as regards some groups, including those charged with the oversight of New Zealand’s democratic structures, parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law.

These questions call for a response from the defenders of the TPPA, beyond the usual admonition to trust them to defend the interests of New Zealand and the argument that freer trade is always good and contributes to overall prosperity. It is not always clear that “the interests of New Zealand” are not confined in this context to the purely economic, nor that they are always in the interests of all New Zealanders, broadly conceived.

There is a public debate about the place of trade and of financial institutions generally and the effects of the current international financial structure which we desperately need to engage in – a debate not confined to New Zealand and in which the position of New Zealand is far from clear. That debate also has a human rights dimension, for trade systems and the international order have far-reaching, as it were downstream, effects on the protection of human rights world-wide. Adam Smith, that doyen of those who advocate free markets and free trade, was never in any doubt that the purpose of these doctrines was to enhance the well-being and common good of society. Those representing our interests in the TPPA negotiations need to convince us that they have that goal in mind.

 

Margaret Bedggood, Human Rights Foundation of Aotearoa New Zealand

Taser decision made without Police Minister

Tasers carried

A decision to give all police officers Tasers was made without the Police Minister – who was told by force bosses a short time before a public announcement.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush announced late last month that all frontline police officers would soon be armed with Tasers while on duty.

A briefing released to the Herald under the Official Information Act shows that Police Minister Michael Woodhouse was told of the change after it had been decided by police leaders.

He was assured the roll-out was not a precursor to a general arming of police with firearms – a charge that was made by opponents when the Taser expansion was announced days later.

“This decision to enable routine carriage of Tasers for level 1 frontline responders is not a step towards general arming of Police,” the July 29 briefing from Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement stated.

“Research has soundly demonstrated that the Taser is a highly effective and safe method for de-escalating violent situations compared to other tactical options at Police disposal and this is the driving factor behind this policy.”

A spokesman for Mr Woodhouse said he was verbally briefed of the change prior to the July 29 document, in line with the “no surprises” policy.

“While he is supportive of the decision, it is an operational matter for the Police Commissioner [as to] where and when his officers carry Tasers.”

Frontline officers could previously only access Tasers from a lockbox in police vehicles when required. The new initiative means Tasers can be carried by appropriately trained, level-one responders, at all times.

The briefing paper notes that the change had been run-past an external reference group made up of community leaders in Auckland.

“The group do have concerns, but Police believe these concerns can be effectively mitigated.”

Tasers have been used in New Zealand since 2010. Police research showed for every nine times a Taser was presented, it was only charged once, the briefing stated, while other tactical options had much higher injury rates.

When the policy was announced on July 31, Mr Woodhouse said he fully supported it and described it as a “welcome move”.

However, Auckland Council for Civil Liberties president Barry Wilson said at the time that the change should require a law change, that would allow the public to have a say.

“There have been a number of cases where the use of a taser has gone badly wrong,” said Mr Wilson, who was also speaking on behalf of the Human Rights Foundation.

Examples of that included the case of Mark Smilie, who the Independent Police Conduct Authority found was tasered in an excessive manner when he on the ground while being arrested.

Police had to pay Mr Smilie $20,000 compensation.In another case police used a malfunctioning taser six times on a man in 11 seconds. Mr Wilson said tasers were supposed to be used as a last resort, not to ensure compliance.

What’s a Taser?

A Taser is a handheld stun device, often shaped like a gun, that uses electric current to cause pain or to disrupt muscle control, made by American company TASER International. The weapons sell on the company’s website for between US$129.99 (NZ$198) and US$1399.99.

How do they work?

Tasers fire two small metal dart-like conductors which are connected to the gun by a 6 metre copper wire. When the darts hit a person, they deliver a 50,000 volt electric shock that disrupts the control of muscles, causing incapacitation and involuntary muscle contractions.

– NZ Herald

HRF: Public should have a say in Taser decision

Taser

 

Public “should have a say”

The HRF considers the public should have a say in the move to arm all frontline police with Tasers

HRF spokesperson and Auckland Council for Civil Liberties president Barry Wilson said it should require a law change, that would allow the public to have a say.

“There have been a number of cases where the use of a taser has gone badly wrong,” said Mr Wilson, who was also speaking on behalf of the Human Rights Foundation.

Examples of that included the case of Mark Smilie, who the Independent Police Conduct Authority found was tasered in an excessive manner when he on the ground while being arrested. Police had to pay Mr Smilie $20,000 compensation.In another case police used a malfunctioning taser six times on a man in 11 seconds.

Mr Wilson said tasers were supposed to be used as a last resort, not to ensure compliance.

“What these cases show is a casualness in the use of the taser and what will happen, there will be a great deal more casualness as a taser goes on the hip of every frontline police officer,” he said.

“It’s a short step towards routine arming of the police.”

NZ Herald report continues below:

All frontline police officers will soon be armed with Tasers while on duty.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush made the announcement from police headquarters in Wellington this morning, saying the change was about enhancing the safety of New Zealand communities and police staff.

Currently, frontline officers could access Tasers from a lockbox in police vehicles when required, however, the new initiative means tasers can be carried by appropriately trained, level-one responders, at all times.

There were approximately 5500 police staff trained as level one responders, Mr Bush said.

The implementation of the initiative would begin today but it would be weeks or months before frontline staff would actually be carrying a Taser.

The decision to role out Tasers to all frontline police staff was made following detailed research, which showed the Taser was successful in de-escalating violent situations, Mr Bush said.

“The reality is that police officers often enter into high risk situations.

“With Taser immediately accessible, this provides added confidence for our staff and communities that if a situation does escalate into violence.. our officers have appropriate tools to manage the situation.”

Police research showed for every nine times a Taser was presented, it was only charged once, he said, while other tactical options had much higher injury rates.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush during the press conference in Wellington this morning. Photo / Mark Mitchell

“Their working environment often involves entering high risk situations. Immediate accessibility of the Taser provides them with added confidence they can safely de-escalate violent situations.

“Officers have also cited examples where the Taser has proved a life saving alternative to a firearm.

“Firearms, which of course, will always remain the last resort.”

Police Association president Greg O’Connor said it was his hope that officers would never need to be armed with guns. The Taser was a “less lethal” option than a fire arm, he said, calling the announcement “courageous”.

“This is a relatively safe tool. Safer than most other options.

“This is a very sensible decision it will be welcomed by police officers throughout New Zealand, they’ll go to work tonight knowing they have a new tool in their belt, readily available and not in the car.”

Police currently have access to approximately 1000 Tasers. Between 400 and 600 new devices will be purchased as part of the new initiative.

The cost of purchasing more would be $600,000 per year, and it would be funded under the police budget, Mr Bush said.

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse said he “fully supported” the new taser policy and described it as a “welcome move”.

“We know frontline officers often find themselves in rapidly changing situations and it is not always practical to return to their vehicle to retrieve a taser,” he said.

“Having a taser strapped to their hip provides officers with another option to diffuse or deal with violent offenders.”

Tasers had proven to be an effective tactical option for both preventing and responding to high-risk situations, and the risk of injury to the public, offenders and police was consistently low, he said.

Since 2010, tasers had been available to police during 30,000 reported incidents attended by police.

“But due to their deterrent effect, in almost 90 per cent of cases they have not been discharged,” Mr Woodhouse said.

“We owe it to the frontline officers protecting our communities and keeping us safe to ensure they have access to all tactical options they may need during the course of duty.”

However, Dr Anthony O’Brien, senior lecturer at the University of Auckland’s School of Nursing said the use of Tasers needed “careful monitoring”.

“The perception of the Taser as safe may lead to increased use.

“In particular, the use of Tasers with vulnerable groups such as people with mental illness and addiction need to be monitored as in many instances individuals with mental illness are the subject of police attention due to aspects of mental illness, not criminal behaviour.”

 

Police Minister supports new policy

 

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse said he “fully supported” the new Taser policy and described it as a “welcome move”.

“We know frontline officers often find themselves in rapidly changing situations and it is not always practical to return to their vehicle to retrieve a Taser,” he said.

“Having a Taser strapped to their hip provides officers with another option to diffuse or deal with violent offenders.”

He said tasers had proven to be an effective tactical option for both preventing and responding to high-risk situations, and the risk of injury to the public, offenders and police was consistently low.

Since 2010, tasers had been available to police during 30,000 reported incidents attended by police.

“But due to their deterrent effect, in almost 90 per cent of cases they have not been discharged,” Mr Woodhouse said.

“We owe it to the frontline officers protecting our communities and keeping us safe to ensure they have access to all tactical options they may need during the course of duty.”

The minister said the new policy would require the purchase of between 400 and 600 devices, which would be funded from within the police’s existing budget.

 

Public “should have a say”

 

Not everyone supports the move.

Auckland Council for Civil Liberties president Barry Wilson said it should require a law change, that would allow the public to have a say.

“There have been a number of cases where the use of a taser has gone badly wrong,” said Mr Wilson, who was also speaking on behalf of the Human Rights Foundation.

Examples of that included the case of Mark Smilie, who the Independent Police Conduct Authority found was tasered in an excessive manner when he on the ground while being arrested. Police had to pay Mr Smilie $20,000 compensation.In another case police used a malfunctioning taser six times on a man in 11 seconds.

Mr Wilson said tasers were supposed to be used as a last resort, not to ensure compliance.

“What these cases show is a casualness in the use of the taser and what will happen, there will be a great deal more casualness as a taser goes on the hip of every frontline police officer,” he said.

“It’s a short step towards routine arming of the police.”

 

Background on Tasers

 

What’s a Taser?

A Taser is a handheld stun device, often shaped like a gun, that uses electric current to cause pain or to disrupt muscle control, made by American company TASER International. The weapons sell on the company’s website for between US$129.99 (NZ$198) and US$1399.99.

How do they work?

Tasers fire two small metal dart-like conductors which are connected to the gun by a 6 metre copper wire. When the darts hit a person, they deliver a 50,000 volt electric shock that disrupts the control of muscles, causing incapacitation and involuntary muscle contractions. Some Tasers also have a ‘drive stun’ function, which means the gun can be held directly against the target and arcked without firing the darts, causing pain but not incapacitation of the target. Last year Britain’s Independent Police Complaints Commission said it had major concerns about the use of Tasers in ‘drive stun’ mode, as it was purely a means of torture. A police spokesman said though this function could be used on New Zealand Taser models, police tactics and training predominantly taught probe deployment.

Who uses them in New Zealand?

Frontline police response can now carry tasers. Previously the weapons could only be accessed from a locked box in police vehicles. The new Zealand police already have about 1000 tasers, with another 400 to 600 being bought. Between March 2010 and december 2014, police showed a Taser 3656 times and discharged a Taser 542 times. In June 2012, 4,252 police were certified to use a Taser. Both models used by police (X26 and X2) have a camera that activates when it is deployed. For police to carry a taser, they must be first aid, Police Integrated Tactical Training and Taser operator certified. Tasers can only be imported to New Zealand for use by police and are a restricted weapon inder the Arms Act.

How are they used in other countries?

Argentina: In 2010, a court temporarily ruled against the use of Tasers by police and this year it was decided the government would continue with this ban.

Australia: General duty federal and state police officers in most states and territories have access to Tasers. Heavy restrictions are in place surrounding their importation and ownership.

Czech Republic: “Children, girls, women, elderly and disabled citizens” are encouraged by Czech police to use Tasers as a “defensive resource” against violence or property crime.

United States: The frequent use of Tasers by police officers in the is US controversial, and the New York Times reported in May that Taser International had sold the devices to more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies. Tasers are allowed to be carried by police in every state with few exceptions. They can be legally carried (concealed or open) by consumers without a permit in 37 states.

United Kingdom: Tasers have been used by the UK police since 2003 and all officers authorised to carry Taser undergo a thorough three-day training programme. Taser use by the general public is illegal.

Taser incidents in New Zealand

March 2015: A 53-year-old man died in Napier after police tasered, pepper-sprayed and set dogs onto him.

October 2014: The Independent Police Conduct Authority found the use of a Taser on a man by police in front of his daughter amounted to an excessive use of force.

June 2014: The Independent Police Conduct Authority found the continued use of a Taser during the arrest of a Whakatane man in December, 2011 was excessive and contrary to law.

June 2013: A 33-year-old man was fatally shot, after being tasered by police in New Plymouth.

March 2013: The Independent Police Conduct Authority found Police were justified in using a Taser during an incident in Christchurch in 2010 after a large intoxicated man covered in blood refused to respond to police orders.

 

Prisoners should be allowed to vote: HRF Submission on law change

Submission to the Law and Order Select Committee on the Electoral (Disqualification of Convicted Prisoners) Amendment Bill

  1. Introduction

 This submission is by the Human Rights Foundation of Aotearoa New Zealand (“the HRF” or “the Foundation”), a non-governmental organisation. The HRF was established in December 2001 to promote and defend human rights through research-based education and advocacy. We have made submissions on new laws with human rights implications. We also monitor the compliance and implementation of our international obligations in accordance with the requirements of the international conventions New Zealand has signed, and have prepared parallel reports for relevant United Nations treaty bodies to be considered alongside official reports – recent reports have been to the UN Committee against Torture, the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee, and the Human Rights Committee. Though the primary focus of the Foundation is on human rights in New Zealand we recognise the universality of human rights and have an interest in the Pacific and beyond. We request the opportunity to make an oral submission to the Committee, preferably in Auckland. We understand that our submission may be made publicly available if submissions are requested under the Official Information Act 1982.

  1. Certificate of Attorney General

The Human Rights Foundation agrees with the conclusion of the Attorney General that the effect of the Bill, namely the creation of a blanket ban on voting by serving prisoners, would be contrary to the right to vote set out in the Bill of Rights Act and unjustified for the purposes of section 5 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

  1. Imprisonment as “Civil Death”

Prisoners lose the right to liberty and any right that requires liberty: they retain all other rights. The idea that imprisonment amounts to “civil death” and the end of the right to vote is inappropriate in an age of universal suffrage and freedom of expression: any amendment to the existing law should be to extend rather than reduce the franchise since all prisoners, whatever their sentence, have a legitimate right to engage in political discussion and decision-making. In the first place, prisoners may often be affected by measures introduced by Parliament and upon which politicians may stand for election: to say that they have no right to express their opinion through the ballot box is akin to taxation without any representation and fundamentally undemocratic. In this context, it should be remembered that voting is a right that can be lost only when it is necessary not a privilege that has to be earned. Secondly, as noted in New Zealand’s National Report for the United Nations Universal Periodic Review, “New Zealand has a tradition of promoting and protecting human rights both at home and overseas.” The report goes on to claim: “The idea that everyone deserves an equal opportunity in life – “a fair go” – is an important part of New Zealand’s national identity and approach to human rights on the international stage.” New Zealanders consider we should lead and/or be guided by international standards: this Bill announces New Zealand’s intention to ignore international standards and to breach the obligations it has undertaken by becoming a participant in the treaties that form international human rights law. Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides that “Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in Art 2 [which includes a catch-all “other status” that arguably includes prisoners] and without unreasonable restrictions: … (b) to vote…”

  1. European Court of Human Rights

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, in the case of Hirst v UK (6 October 2005, appn 74025/01), considered the legality of the blanket ban on voting by all prisoners who happened to be serving prisoners on the date of the election in the UK. (This was under the right to vote in Article 3 of Protocol 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for the “expression of the will of the people”, which implicitly gives a right to vote – see para 57.) The Court found that the UK was in breach of human rights standards: its reasoning, which as the foremost judicial body considering human rights matters is worthy of great weight, is as follows. First, it considered principles: “69. In this case, the Court would begin by underlining that prisoners in general continue to enjoy all the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Convention save for the right to liberty … Any restrictions on … other rights require to be justified, although such justification may well be found in the considerations of security, in particular the prevention of crime and disorder, which inevitably flow from the circumstances of imprisonment …

  1. There is, therefore, no question that a prisoner forfeits his Convention rights merely because of his status as a person detained following conviction. Nor is there any place under the Convention system, where tolerance and broadmindedness are the acknowledged hallmarks of democratic society, for automatic disenfranchisement based purely on what might offend public opinion.
  1. This standard of tolerance does not prevent a democratic society from taking steps to protect itself against activities intended to destroy the rights or freedoms set forth in the Convention. Art 3 of Protocol No 1, which enshrines the individual’s capacity to influence the composition of the law-making power, does not therefore exclude that restrictions on electoral rights are imposed on an individual who has, for example, seriously abused a public position or whose conduct threatened to undermine the rule of law or democratic foundations … The severe measure of disenfranchisement must, however, not be undertaken lightly and the principle of proportionality requires a discernible and sufficient link between the sanction and the conduct and circumstances of the individual concerned. The Court notes in this regard the recommendation of the Venice Commission that the withdrawal of political rights should only be carried out by express judicial decision …. As in other contexts, an independent court, applying an adversarial procedure, provides a strong safeguard against arbitrariness.”

In short, the Court accepted that there are circumstances in which a person who commits crime may properly be deprived of the right to vote, but the context of this must be the need for broadmindedness and tolerance that is the mark of a democratic society and individual consideration of the case of the individual prisoner. The Court then considered the application of the principles to the facts of the case (which involved a life-sentence prisoner). It accepted that there might be a legitimate aim of providing an incentive to citizen-like conduct (para 74), but found that the blanket ban was not proportionate: this was because it affected a significant number of people (some 48,000 people) and included “a wide range of offenders and sentences, from one day to life and from relatively minor offences to offences of the utmost gravity” (para 77). In summary, the UK Act is: … a blunt instrument. It strips of their Convention right to vote a significant category of persons and it does so in a way which is indiscriminate. The provision imposes a blanket restriction on all convicted prisoners in prison. It applies automatically to such prisoners, irrespective of the length of their sentence and irrespective of the nature or gravity of their offence and their individual circumstances. Such a general, automatic and indiscriminate restriction on a vitally important Convention right must be seen as falling outside any acceptable margin of appreciation, however wide that margin might be, and as being incompatible with Art 3 of Protocol No 1.” In reaching this conclusion, the Court was aware that there were several countries in Europe that had blanket bans, and so there was no international consensus. The Court has established that human rights standards impose a consensus that blanket bans on all prisoners voting are unlawful in international law. The Attorney-General’s careful analysis rests on a similar reasoning: it is to be commended. The position adopted by Hon Lianne Dalziel, MP in expressing the opposition to the Bill at Second Reading was similarly appropriate. Rehabilitation There is a further point, which also raises a human rights issue. A significant aim of incarceration is to provide prisoners with access to rehabilitative assistance: the purpose of this is to allow them to be integrated as valuable members of society. This is reflected in Article 10.3 of the ICCPR which provides that imprisonment “shall comprise treatment of prisoners the essential aim of which shall be their reformation and social rehabilitation”. To introduce a measure that provides that no prisoner has any democratic right to have a say in what happens in society runs contrary to this purpose. In this regard, we endorse the view of Hone Harawira, MP, on the Second Reading that it sends the wrong message to “people who are already isolated from our society, who are already alienated from everyday life” because it reveals that “we do not care about those who have fallen by the wayside”. The effect of the passage of the Bill will inevitably be that the matter will be drawn to the attention of the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations. New Zealand will have to announce to the United Nations that, despite having ratified the ICCPR and despite having passed the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act for the express purpose of giving further effect to its international obligations, it has decided to renege on those obligations. This is not a circumstance in which there can be a derogation from the ICCPR (since there is no public emergency threatening the life of the nation for the purposes of Art 4 ICCPR). In short, New Zealand will have to announce that it has taken action that breaches human rights when it has no good reason to have done so. This is both embarrassing and, from the point of view of a nation that relies on trade and tourism, potentially debilitating: it is entirely possible that there will be a significant number of people in advanced nations who will exercise their consumer choice against New Zealand on the basis that it is a nation content to breach human rights. Submission Prepared by Committee Member Kris Gledhill   Peter Hosking Executive Director Human Rights Foundation of Aotearoa New Zealand 11 June 2010

Climate change is a matter of human rights, agrees UN

ClimateChangeTalks

By Sébastien Duyck in Geneva

 

Last Thursday the Human Rights Council sent a strong signal to the ongoing climate negotiations by adopting by consensus a new resolution on climate change and human rights.  

The resolution, championed by Bangladesh and the Philippines, emphasizes the importance of addressing the adverse consequences of climate change for the human rights of all, and in particular of those most vulnerable.

It also stresses the importance of enhanced action and cooperation on adaptation.

Additionally, the resolution calls for the Council to consider next spring how climate change adversely impacts the efforts of states to promote and protect the right of everyone to the highest standards of physical and mental health.

The document also mandates the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare, together with relevant international organizations, a report on the subject.

Comment: Human rights focus can strengthen climate deal 

Whereas attempts to adopt a similar resolution failed last year, Bangladesh and the Philippines managed to secure very broad support for the resolution this year, as over 100 states – developed and developing alike – accepted to co-sponsor the resolution.

And while it is the fourth resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on the matter, the implications of this adoption five months before the Paris climate conference should not be underestimated.

When introducing the draft resolution to the Council, Ambassador Shameem Ahsan (Bangladesh) emphasized the importance of the adoption of a resolution on this topic this year.

“The timeliness of this resolution cannot but be stressed as the world witnesses growing climatic vulnerability while walking on developing a robust and legally-binding outcome this December in Paris”, he said.

Bluffer’s guide: UN climate talks and the Paris deal

The resolution includes several references to the provisions of the UN Framework Convention and Climate Change and to a decision adopted in 2010 under the aegis of the UNFCCC, and welcomes the upcoming Paris climate conference.

The adoption of this resolution by consensus might thus inform the ongoing climate process.

Climate negotiators are indeed contemplating whether to refer explicitly in the Paris agreement to the importance of integrating human rights to all climate-related actions.

Additionally, they are considering how to acknowledge the circumstances of the countries must vulnerable to climate change.

The resolution does not make any specific suggestions with regards to the outcomes of the Paris conference, but some countries expressed concerns about risks that the human rights council might, in the words of the US Representative to the Human Rights Council David Sullivan, “intrude on expert climate change negotiations taking place elsewhere.”

 

Legitimacy

These concerns highlight the political difficulties associated with ensuring coherence between two international legal frameworks and the importance for states to consider the linkages between their human rights obligations and the ongoing climate negotiations.

The “Geneva Pledge on Human Rights in Climate Action” constitutes one ongoing effort to address these difficulties.

Launched in February under the leadership of Costa Rica, the pledge constitutes a voluntary commitment by signatory states to strengthen expertise on the interplay between human rights in climate change. 20 countries have signed the Pledge so far.

The fact that the Human Rights Council has now acknowledged this initiative in last week’s resolution will contribute to increase the legitimacy and visibility of the pledge, potentially prompting more states to join these efforts.

Cecilia Rebong, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the UN, commented that: “the adoption of this resolution by consensus brings out a message, loud and clear, that the UN Human Rights Council has one voice in addressing the adverse impacts of climate change”.

The coming months will tell us whether this unity can be replicated in the context of the ongoing climate talks as negotiators will decide whether the Paris climate agreement can contribute to addressing climate change while promoting human rights.

 

Sébastien Duyck is a researcher at the Arctic Centre with a specific focus on environmental governance and human rights. Follow him on twitter @duycks

– See more at: http://www.rtcc.org/2015/07/06/climate-change-is-a-matter-of-human-rights-agrees-un/#sthash.yvzumJ7r.dpuf

#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.

Regards,

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
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 720 other followers