The abuse revealed in over 8,000 pages of incident reports on Australia’s offshore detention prisons by The Guardian yesterday signals another troubling fact, the New Zealand government has chosen to remain silent over the ‘grave concern’ of inhumane and ‘urgent’ conditions cited by the UNHCR happening in our own backyard.
Statistics revealed in testimony for a 2015 Australian Congressional report tell their own story in a snapshot of systemic abuse cited:
Number of children then held on Nauru: 93
(Plus another 104 on mainland centres)
Number of reported child abuse incidents on Nauru only. 67.
Number of which are against staff at the facility. 30
Number of staff charged. 0
Number reported raped or sexually assaulted. 33
Number of reported self-harm or suicide attempts. 253.
(That’s on average one every four days.)
Number of reported assaults on detainees. 211.
(That’s on average one every five days).
Number of years, under Australian law, that any staff member can now be jailed for speaking to the press on what is happening in these facilities. 2 years.
Cost to make an application for a press pass to Nauru (even if it is denied). $8,000.
As fair brokers in our region and on the world stage on asylum and refugee treatment, WagePeaceNZ calls on the New Zealand government to urge Australia to disband their inhumane and abusive offshore detention regime. Currently, the UNHCR has issued a statement calling for ‘refugees and asylum-seekers to be immediately moved off Nauru to humane conditions.’
New Zealand should open its doors as a one-time gesture to accommodate these long suffering refugees, as we did with such positive and successful results for the Tampa survivors.
Media Contact: Tracey Barnett
Note from Human Rights Foundation: see Guardian report here
I recorded a podcast for The Guardian on this interesting topic, along with a great range of interviewees.
I don’t agree with the title of the podcast. As I explain in the interview, the internet is now a gateway to many human rights – for example free speech, protest, family and private life, freedom of religion. So limiting or blocking someone’s internet access could seriously infringe on their human rights. But that is not the same as saying there is a ‘human right to internet access’.
As the Resolution says, “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression, which is applicable regardless of frontiers and through any media of one’s choice”.
You can hear me through the link embedded below from about 16 and a half minutes.
The world’s largest oil, coal, cement and mining companies have been given 45 days to respond to a complaint that their greenhouse gas emissions have violated the human rights of millions of people living in the Phillippines.
In a potential landmark legal case, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), a constitutional body with the power to investigate human rights violations, has sent 47 “carbon majors” including Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, a 60-page document accusing them of breaching people’s fundamental rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self determination”.
The move is the first step in what is expected to be an official investigation of the companies by the CHR, and the first of its kind in the world to be launched by a government body.
The complaint argues that the 47 companies should be held accountable for the effects of their greenhouse gas emissions in the Philippines and demands that they explain how human rights violations resulting from climate change will be “eliminated, remedied and prevented”.
It calls for an official investigation into the human rights implications of climate change and ocean acidification and whether the investor-owned “carbon majors” are in breach of their responsibilities.
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change.
Four of its most devastating super-cyclones have occurred in the last decade, and the country has recorded increasingly severe floods and heatwaves that have been linked to man-made global warming.
Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, killing more than 6,000 people and displacing 650,000 others in 2013.
The legal complaint has been brought by typhoon survivors and non-governmental organisations and is supported by more than 31,000 Filipinos.
“We demand justice. Climate change has taken our homes and our loved ones. These powerful corporations must be called to account for the impact of their business activities,” said Elma Reyes from Alabat Island in Quezon, who survived super typhoon Rammasun in 2008 and is part of the group submitting the complaint to the CHR.
The full legal investigation is now expected to start in October after the 47 companies have responded. Although all 47 will be ordered to attend public hearings, the CHR can only force those 10 with offices in the Philippines to appear.
These include Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, BHP Billiton, Anglo American, Lafarge, Holcim, and Taiheiyo Cement Corporation. The CHR has the power to seek the assistance of the UN to encourage any which do not attend to co-operate.
“The commission’s actions are unprecedented. For the first time, a national human rights body is officially taking steps to address the impacts of climate change on human rights and the responsibility of private actors,” said Zelda Soriano, legal and political adviser for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, one of the groups which has brought the complaint to the CHR.
“This is an important building block in establishing the moral and legal ‘precedent’ that big polluters can be held responsible for current and threatened human rights infringements resulting from fossil fuel products. From the Netherlands to the US, people are using legal systems to hold their governments to account and demand climate action,” she said.
The list of the 47 “carbon majors” being asked to respond to the CHR is based on research by Richard Heede, director of the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado. In 2013 he calculated that just 90 global companies had produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the start of the industrial revolution.
Together these companies emitted around 315 gigatons of CO2 equivalent into the atmosphere, or nearly 22% of estimated global industry greenhouse gas emissions from 2010 to 2013, said Heede.
“We pray that the CHR heed the demand to recommend to policymakers and legislators to develop and adopt effective accountability mechanisms that victims of climate change can easily access,” said Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines and a recipient of the Goldman environmental prize.
The CHR is not a court and would have no power to force companies to reduce emissions or fine them. However, it can make recommendations to government and would add to the worldwide pressure to persuade shareholders to divest from heavy carbon emitters.
The investigation is the latest in a growing tide of climate liability cases being brought against governments and corporations. In June, the Netherlands’ high court ruled on the world’s first climate liability suit, ordering the Dutch government to take stronger action against climate change to better protect its citizens.
However, several court cases launched in the US urging the US government to take more action against climate change have been dismissed.
Shameful and inhumane response to refugee quota
13 June 2016
Shameful and inhumane response to refugee quota, a stain on our country’s reputation
Amnesty International says the announcement by Prime Minister John Key that New Zealand will not be increasing the refugee quota for two years is absolutely shameful in the face of the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.
Responding to Prime Minister Key’s announcement today that the quota will only increase to 1000 and not until 2018, Amnesty International’s Executive Director Grant Bayldon said:
“By only increasing the annual refugee resettlement quota by 250 people in two years time, the New Zealand government have not only failed to do the right thing, they have failed the people whose lives they could have saved through resettlement.
“This is a shameful and inhumane response and a stain on our country’s reputation as a good global citizen.
“The fact that Prime Minister Key decided not to at least double the refugee quota shows that he and his Government are completely out of step with public sentiment as the people of New Zealand have clearly expressed their desire to help their fellow human beings.
“What we need to remember is that we’re talking about people here, people who New Zealand has the opportunity to provide a chance to restart their lives in safety and with dignity. The reality is that we need a significant response from a country that currently holds a place on the UN Security Council.
“The Government should have been looking at how much, not how little, we can do to help while people need protection and a second chance. Doubling our refugee quota would have been the least we could have done after 29 years without an increase.
“Amnesty International will continue to call on the Government to do its fair share and at least double the quota to help address the shameful imbalance that exists when it comes to sharing responsibility in the face of the global refugee crisis.
“Following that the next step must be an annual increase in the quota to meet the growing need for resettlement places.
“We also call on Prime Minister John Key to ensure an increase in resources to support front-line services working in resettlement and ensure we continue to give refugees the best start to life in New Zealand”.
Today 26 organisations and 5 independent experts from across the youth, justice and disability sectors have joined together to call on the Government to raise the age of youth justice in Aotearoa.
The message from the sector is clear. When we treat children and young people as adults in our justice system we create more social harm. We throw away the potential of these young people and create more offending in our communities. Over 90% of under 20s who spend time in prison are re-convicted within 2 years. “It’s not working” says Katie Bruce, Director of JustSpeak, a network of young people speaking out for evidence-based reform.
There is nothing soft about reducing future crime, respecting victims and holding young people to account in a way that addresses the causes of their offending. Thousands of young people, victims and whānau would benefit every year, especially young Māori, who are grossly overrepresented in the criminal justice system. David Hanna, Director of Wesley Community Action says “the evidence is clear – we just need political leadership”.
Next month Cabinet will decide whether to include 17 year olds in the youth justice system. This was a key recommendation of the government appointed Expert Panel on the modernisation of Child, Youth and Family. The report stated that: “Children and young people would be considered children and young people first and foremost, rather than offenders and this would drive the nature of professional practice”.
The Government has accepted the Expert Panel’s recommendation to raise the age of care to 18, with additional support into the 20s, but is yet to agree to raise the age of youth justice.
“We can’t separate the two,” says Director of JustSpeak, Katie Bruce. “We are talking, far too often, about the same young people”. Up to 80% of young people appearing in Youth Court have had concerns raised about their abuse or neglect as children. “Young people need consistency in the way that we support them to have bright futures as adults, both in care and protection and youth justice. We need to raise the age of youth justice to at least 18, with additional provisions to bring older young people into the youth justice system where we can.”
Ministers may be concerned that the Youth Justice system is a soft option. “The public can be reassured,” says Dr Nessa Lynch, Senior Law Lecturer at Victoria University. “Top-end offending, such as homicide and other serious offences, will continue to be dealt with through the adult justice system while the minor and moderate offending, which makes up the majority of offending committed by 17 year olds, will receive a response that holds the young person accountable while addressing the problems that led them to the situation.”
“We now know that our brains continue to develop throughout adolescence and into early adulthood” says Sue Wright, Brainwave Executive Director. “This means our ability to plan and think through the consequences of our actions is still maturing until we are in our early 20s. In men this is nearer to 25 years old. As we gain understanding of adolescent brain development we now know that risk taking and impulsive behaviour are a normal part of this maturation process. This can, at times, lead to behaviours which put the adolescent at risk of making poor decisions. While this does not justify breaking the law, it is clear that young people need scaffolding and appropriate adult support through these years to learn to manage the consequences of their behaviour.”
Vanushi Walters, General Manager of YouthLaw says “It’s simple. The restorative approach used within the Youth Court works. We’ve seen it work”. Moira Lawler, Chief Executive of Lifewise, says, “We see the difference it makes in a young person’s life when they are given the opportunities they need to turn their lives around.” Lifewise run a Youth Transition Service in West Auckland where they work closely with young people struggling with homelessness to connect them to the vocational training and job opportunities they are looking for. “Raising the age of youth justice would give young people the chance and the time they need to become the responsible, hardworking Kiwis they are meant to be,” says Moira.
Our youth justice system models a pioneering response for those with neurodisabilities, as highlighted in the ‘Neurodisability in the Youth Justice System’ report out just last week. We are only just starting to understand the extent of young people with neurodisabilities, such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, in our criminal justice system. “Raising the Youth Justice age is the best option to radically improve prospects for young people with neurodisabilities who are vulnerable in the justice system,” says Guy Pope-Mayell, Chair of Trustees of Dyslexia Foundation. Young people with neurodisabilities are obvious candidates to have access to the youth justice system in their late teens and even early twenties.
Kim Workman, justice advocate agrees. “There has been a significant shift on this issue worldwide, as the neurobiological and criminological evidence draws nations toward one inescapable conclusion – that they need to raise the age to at least 18 years. In 41 of the 50 US states, 18 is the cut-off point, and five of the remaining nine states have legislation in train to join the majority. New Zealand’s world- wide reputation as a leader in youth justice is at stake here.”
Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa, Ara Taiohi, Brainwave Trust, Challenge 2000, Children’s Issues Centre, Community Law, Donald Beasley Institute, Dyslexia Foundation, FASD-CAN, Hui E, Human Rights Foundation, Human Rights Lawyers Association, JustSpeak, Lifewise, OMEP, Pillars, Prison Fellowship, Restorative Practices Aotearoa, Salvation Army, Talking Trouble, Te Taitimu Trust, Unicef, Victim Support, Wesley Community Action, YouthLaw, Youthline.
Professor Mark Henaghan, Dr Nessa Lynch, Dr Kim Workman, Associate Professor Nicola Taylor and Megan Gollop.
By Michael Goldin of RightsInfo
26th May 2016
Freedom of speech, often called freedom of expression, is thought of by many as the cornerstone of a liberal democracy.
One of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, stated that:
Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.
But what do we know about freedom of speech? Here’s what the cases tell us:
It can help in the most bizarre of situations…
R v Paul Chambers
Al Murray, Paul Chambers and Stephen Fry outside the High Court outside the ‘Twitter Joke Trial’ appeal hearing on 27 June 2012
This case, also known as the “Twitter Joke Trial” was about a tweet Paul posted while at an airport. When cold weather resulted in his flight from Robin Hood Airport in Yorkshire being cancelled he tweeted:
Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!
This resulted in his home being raided by anti-terror police and he was charged under the Communications Act 2003 with sending a ‘menacing message’. Many public figures felt that such a response was absurd with Stephen Fry offering to pay his fine and legal fees.
While initially the Magistrates’ Court found that the tweet was of a “menacing nature”, the High Court reversed this decision. They said that the tweet did not cause fear in those who read it and, in any event, the 2003 Act did not intend to create a new exception to freedom of speech and its standards must be upheld.
It helps journalists publish on matters of public interest
Reynolds v Times Newspapers 
Albert Reynolds (right) with Donal Kinsella at the Trimproof Limited plant on 3rd July 1992
Albert Reynolds was a former Prime Minister of Ireland. Upon his resignation in 1994, The Times published an article implying that he had misled the Irish Parliament by suppressing vital information from them. Albert claimed that this was not true and was therefore defamatory.
The Times thought they should be allowed to publish these allegations because a defence called “qualified privilege” was available to them. This meant they make these accusations even without full proof.
The House of Lords (the UK’s then-highest court) ruled in the journalists’ favour, finding that:
…freedom to disseminate and receive information on political matters is essential to the proper functioning of the system of parliamentary democracy cherished in this country.
But freedom of speech has its limits (at least in Europe)
Norwood v UK 
Anthony Norwood, an organiser with the far-right political party, the British National Party (BNP), had been convicted under the Public Order Act 1986 for putting up a BNP poster in window of his flat. The poster contained an image of the Twin Towers on fire accompanied by the words “Islam out of Britain – Protect the British People”. He argued that his criminal conviction for displaying the poster was a direct violation of his right to free speech which should allow him to make such offensive and provocative statements.
The European Court of Human Rights disagreed. They said that the poster was a direct attack on all Muslims in Britain. Human rights are designed to protect religious groups and such a “general, vehement” attack on them could therefore not be protected speech.
Like when it comes up against national security…
R v Shayler 
David Shayler, a former member of the security services, disclosed to the press a number of classified documents relating to matters of intelligence and security. He also published an article exposing security secrets in the Mail on Sunday. He argued, among other things, that it was in the public interest for these secrets to be published given that they exposed abuses of power by the security services.
The House of Lords decided that while there had been a breach of David’s right to freedom of expression this had to be balanced against national security. They found that in this instance the latter prevailed and David was not entitled to divulge the information he did.
And it can’t make people broadcast offensive images either
R (Pro-Life Alliance) v BBC (and others) 
In the run up to the 1997 general election the Pro-Life Alliance Party wanted to air a party election broadcast which contained graphic images of abortion. This was prohibited by the BBC and other broadcasters and the matter went to court.
The House of Lords said that the broadcasters were within their rights to refuse to broadcast offensive material.
- Check out Rights Info post on why the right to free expression matters here.
- For Rights Info post on how human rights protect the free press, click here.
- For the story behind a very important free press case, click here.
Featured image ©Global Justice Now, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence. Image of Paul Chambers, Stephen Fry et al © Pigsonthewing used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence. Albert Reynolds image © Dearbhlakinsella. David Shayler image © www.axisforpeace.net, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Window image © Paolo, used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Licence.