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Reassert the Place of Human Rights within the System

Reassert the Place of Human Rights within the Criminal Justice System says Rethinking.

Date : 1st August 2014

“If there is one major challenge, it is to reassert the place and preservation of human rights within the criminal justice system”, said Kim Workman, spokesperson for Rethinking Crime and Punishment. In a wide ranging speech (http://www.rethinking.org.nz/assets/Papers%20and%20Presentations/140731Changing_Fashions_in_Criminal_Justice.pdf)
to the Meadowbank U3A last week, Mr Workman concluded by urging those present, to advocate for a review of the government’s approach to the human rights of those affected by the criminal justice system.

“Over the last five years, there has been an incremental and expanding introduction of legislative measures that are fundamentally in conflict with the rule of law, to the extent that the Law Society has felt impelled to report this matter to the United Nations. They expressed their concern that a number of bills formally declared by the Attorney-General to be in breach of the Bill of Rights have recently been enacted.”

“Of the thirteen legislative measures identified by the Law Society, nine impacted directly on prisoners and offenders. In addition, the Attorney General did not report under Section 7 of the Act on any of the six Acts of Parliament passed in 2013 which appeared to be in breach of the Bill of Rights Act”.

“Things may be about to change. Last week, the High Court in considering the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010 decided something constitutionally significant. It concluded that courts can issue a declaration that the Act is inconsistent with the right to vote under s12(a) of the Bill of Rights Act 1990 even though Parliament is New Zealand's supreme lawmaker. It sends a strong signal to Parliament that if its legislation does not limit the right to vote in a reasonable way, as justified in a free and democratic society, then Parliament is breaching fundamental rights affirmed in our Bill of Rights.”

Workman told the audience, “A nation that is seeking a place on the UN Security Council, must demonstrate that we are living up to our international rankings in the areas of social justice, peace and freedom. That is not possible at present; but it is within our grasp. What we need is people of influence like yourselves, to awaken the nation’s sense of honour. Shame and ridicule, and criticism from respected citizens and more civilized nations, are sharp moral motivators. When a highly immoral or deplorable practice becomes sufficiently repugnant in the eyes of a sufficient number of people, there will be a mood swing against it.”


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