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Some NZ human rights issues not addressed in UN process

28 January 2014

The New Zealand Law Society has welcomed the largely positive response by the international community to the Government’s recent human rights report to the United Nations.

But the Law Society remains concerned that the report did not advise of what are considered to be significant human rights issues in the New Zealand context.

The Government yesterday made its report for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on human rights to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The Law Society says it notes the high value successive New Zealand governments have placed on human rights issues.

However, the Law Society submitted a shadow report as part of the UPR process in June last year and the concerns it raised have not been acknowledged or addressed in the Government’s UN report.

The shadow report referred to the enactment of five Acts, despite reports by the Attorney-General that those Acts appeared to be inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights.

Concerns about other legislation, the Bill of Rights reporting mechanism, use of Parliamentary urgency procedures, and conflicts with fundamental aspects of the rule of law were also raised in the Law Society’s report.

Law Society spokesperson Austin Forbes QC says the concerns raised are serious but have not been acknowledged in the Government’s report to the UN.

“No reference was made to the enactment of Bill of Rights-inconsistent legislation, to the issues with the reporting mechanism, nor to any of the Law Society’s rule of law concerns,” Mr Forbes says.

“The New Zealand Public Health and Disability Amendment Act 2013 is one example. It was enacted in one sitting day despite a negative report under section 7 of the Bill of Rights Act, and despite New Zealand’s international obligations to respect and ensure the right to freedom from discrimination. No reasons were given for the use of urgency.”

“In comparison to many states, as New Zealanders we enjoy an enviable human rights environment. But as the Government acknowledged at the previous UPR in 2009, there is room for improvement.”

The Law Society remains hopeful the issues raised in its shadow report will help inform the recommendations to come from the UN Human Rights Council.


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