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.