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NZ bid for UNCHR - Get Own House In Order First

Media Release 28 Jan 2004

NZ bid for UN Human Rights Board: Get our own house in order first.

New Zealand should markedly improve its own Human Rights record before seeking a place on the UN Commission on Human Rights. This is the view of academic and civil liberties advocate, David Small.

While welcoming the government's stated commitment to advance the international human rights agenda, Dr Small said that the first step for New Zealand should be to set an example for other nations.

"This would require, among other things, a complete overhaul of the legislation, the systems and the institutions that are responsible for the scandalous treatment of Algerian refugee, Ahmed Zaoui. In particular, there need to be limits and checks on the powers of the SIS, sections of the Police such as those involved in threat assessments, and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security."

He also highlighted the case of the New Zealand Police giving the personal details of Afghani refugees to the Australian Police.

He said that the government has known for some years that the human rights of New Zealanders are being undermined by these agencies and has chosen to do nothing to address this.

Dr Small also identified Section 4 of the Bill of Rights Act (which weakens the Act in relation to other legislation) as an area of concern.

"If New Zealand applies for membership to the UN Commission on Human Rights, we should to it proudly, safe in the knowledge that we have no skeletons in our closet," said Dr Small


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