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A New Human Rights Institution

Tuesday, 31 October 2000 Media Statement

A New Human Rights Institution


A new Human Rights Institution for New Zealand is proposed in a paper prepared for the Associate Justice Minister Margaret Wilson.

The new organisation would incorporate functions now carried out by the Human Rights Commission and the Race Relations Office. The distinct role of Privacy Commissioner would remain. The report suggests further consideration of the roles of the Health and Disability Commissioner and the Commissioner for Children but not until the new institution has established itself and its public reputation.

Margaret Wilson said that Human Rights Law was a complex and difficult area.

"But this should not deter us from careful examination of our institutions and laws.

"The government is to seek submissions on the report from members of the public and will discuss its recommendations in the light of the public response and the policy commitments of each coalition partner."

"The report makes practical recommendations about the issues at the heart of the Consistency 2000 project, aimed at bringing government policies and practices in line with human rights requirements. These will be examined by the government as it considers the development of these human rights issues," said Ms Wilson.

The re-evaluation team responsible for the paper - Peter Cooper, Paul Hunt, Janet McLean and Bill Mansfield —found that:

 Existing domestic human rights organisations are fragmented

 There is a need for greater public education and debate regarding New Zealand’s human rights obligations

 The relationship between the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Human Rights Act 1993 is not well understood.

Based on these findings the independent evaluation team recommended general strategic directions for human rights.

The new Human Rights Institution would promote Human Rights and offer conciliation where people believed their human rights to have been breached. If conciliation failed to resolve matters, they could be taken to an independent Human Rights Proceedings Commissioner for decision.

The key focus of the new institution would be on promoting a human rights strategy, community leadership and education work.

It would also be responsible for improving New Zealand’s human rights environment through the development of a Plan of Action for the promotion and protection of human rights.

The paper also proposes clarification of the different role of the Bill of Rights Act and the Human Rights Act.

The paper proposes that the Bill of Rights Act be the standard against which to judge government actions and laws. The Human Rights Act should protect citizens from illegal discrimination by other citizens.

Where the government acts in the same role as a private citizen – as an employer or trader for example – the Human Rights Act would apply.

Additional information:

The deadline for submissions is 20 December 2000

Submissions can be directed to the Human Rights Team
Ministry of Justice
PO Box 180
WELLINGTON

or e-mailed: visit the the Ministry of Justice’s website: www.justice.govt.nz

Biograhical details:


Ms McLean and Mr Hunt are highly regarded experts in the area of human rights law and protection models. Both have written a number of leading academic articles on human rights protections in New Zealand and other countries. Mr Hunt is also an independent adviser to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Mr Cooper and Mr Mansfield have considerable expertise in public and private sector organisational design, reforms, change management and accountability structures.


ENDS

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