New Zealand Yearbook of International Law
Last Updated: 10 August 2015
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW
A major highlight for the protection and promotion of human rights in New
Zealand in 2010 was New Zealand’s endorsement of the
Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples.1 In its engagement with the human rights treaty
bodies, New Zealand received the
concluding observations of the Human Rights
Committee under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Zealand also submitted its seventh periodic report to the
Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
submitted follow-up information to the Committee Against Torture. New Zealand
was particularly active in the promotion of women’s
rights in the Human
Rights Council, most notably in the area of maternal mortality. The Human Rights
Commission issued its report
card on the state of human rights in New Zealand.
Three New Zealanders were elected or appointed to positions on international
rights bodies. This note reviews these and other aspects of New
Zealand’s state practice in the area of human rights in 2010.
II. Periodic Reports to Human Rights Treaty Bodies
A. Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee
In March, examination of New Zealand’s fifth periodic report on implementation of the ICCPR took place in New York. The New Zealand delegation was led by the Minister of Justice, Hon Simon Power. In April, the Human Rights Committee issued its concluding observations.3 The fifth periodic report covered the period January 1997 to December 2007. The Committee welcomed New Zealand’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities4 and the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.5 Other matters receiving positive comment by the Committee included the enactment of the Civil Union Act 2005, the repeal of s 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 concerning the use of force against children for the purposes of correction, and the enactment of the Immigration Act 2009.
The Committee also highlighted a number of areas of concern. While the Committee welcomed New Zealand’s indication that it was amending its regulations on detention so as to permit withdrawal of its reservation to art 10 of the ICCPR concerning the detention of juvenile offenders with adults, the Committee went on to suggest New Zealand consider withdrawing all its other reservations to the ICCPR.6 New Zealand’s other reservations to the ICCPR are to art 14(6) concerning ex gratia payments to individuals who suffer a miscarriage of justice, art 20 concerning legislation to deal with hate speech, and art 22 concerning legislation on trade unions.7 New Zealand is not currently intending to withdraw any of these remaining reservations.
In terms of New Zealand’s overall human rights framework, the Committee expressed concern that the Government had not formally responded to the Action Plan for Human Rights produced by the Human Rights Commission in 2005.8 It reiterated concerns which are regularly raised with New Zealand by treaty bodies as to the status of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, referring particularly to the fact that it does not reflect all of the ICCPR rights, is not “supreme” law and does not prevent the enactment of legislation inconsistent with it and the subject of an adverse report by the Attorney- General under s 7.9
The Committee also made a number of recommendations on particular matters of detail. The Committee referred to its 2007 decision in EB v New Zealand10 concerning prolonged access proceedings in the Family Court, and noted its concern that the author of the case had not yet received reparation. However, in its formal response to the Committee’s views in EB v New Zealand in 2007, New Zealand stated that it did not accept that a breach of the ICCPR had occurred. A reparation payment to the author will therefore not be made, although there is work underway to reduce delays in Family Court proceedings generally.
In the criminal justice area, the Committee recommended that New Zealand should consider stopping the use of tasers by the police.11 It recorded its concern at the prospect of private prisons in the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill 2009, and noted that the Government needed to remain responsible for guaranteeing the human rights of those detained in private prisons.12 The Committee expressed its concern at the compatibility of some provisions of the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Act 2007 with arts 2, 14 and 26 of the ICCPR.13 It recorded its concern at the detention of asylum-seekers in limited circumstances, and urged New Zealand to consider extending the mandate of the Human Rights Commission so that it can receive complaints of human rights violations related to immigration laws and policies.14 The Committee also noted its concern that despite the decision of the Supreme Court in Hansen v R15 that provisions in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 were inconsistent with the presumption of innocence, this had not yet resulted in legislative amendment.16
In relation to women and children specifically, the Committee noted its concern at the low representation of women in high-level and managerial positions and on boards of private enterprises.17 While the Committee welcomed the measures adopted by New Zealand concerning trafficking in human beings, the Committee was concerned that to date no cases of trafficking had been identified or prosecuted in New Zealand.18 The Committee recorded its concern at the high levels of child abuse in New Zealand.19
See the Year in Review on Indigenous Rights for discussion of the
Committee’s recommendations in relation to Māori.20
B. New Zealand’s Submission of Follow-up Responses to the Committee Against Torture
In May, New Zealand submitted further information to the Committee against
Torture in response to the Committee’s concluding
observations on New
Zealand’s fifth periodic report of May 2009.21 The further information
submitted related to four matters:
the insufficiency of prison facilities in New
Zealand; the allegations of historic abuse in state institutions; the withdrawal
New Zealand’s reservation to article 14; and the use of taser weapons
by the police.
C. New Zealand’s Report to the CEDAW Committee
In December, New Zealand submitted its seventh periodic report22 to the
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.23
The Report covers the period March 2006 to
III. Human Rights Council
A. Women’s Rights
New Zealand was active in its engagement in the Human Rights Council during
2010, with a notable focus on various aspects of women’s
Statements were made on the right to education for women,24 integrating a gender
perspective into the work of the Human
Rights Council,25 and women’s
equality before the law.26 In its statement on the Democratic Republic of
Congo, Canada, on
behalf of itself, Australia and New Zealand, focused on the
issue of violations of the human rights of women and children, particularly
endemic sexual and gender-based violence in the Walikale region.27 New
Zealand’s statement on the High Commissioner’s
reference to the maternal mortality and morbidity issue amongst
B. Resolution on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity
A particular highlight during 2010 was further progress on the issue of maternal mortality and morbidity. As noted in the 2009 Review,29 New Zealand, along with Colombia, took a leading role in the drafting of a resolution on a human rights approach to maternal mortality and morbidity.30
New Zealand continued its work in this area in 2010, and, along with
Colombia and Burkina Faso, presented a further resolution to
the Human Rights
Council on this issue.31 This Resolution focuses on the work which the Human
Rights Council can contribute to global
efforts to reduce maternal mortality
figures and so realise Millenium Development Goal 5 which aims to reduce
by three quarters by 2015.32 The Resolution asks the Office
of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to compile a report on good
in adopting a human rights based approach to eliminating preventable maternal
mortality and morbidity.33
IV. Activities of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission
The major highlight of the work of the Human Rights Commission in 2010 was the publication of Human Rights in New Zealand 2010..34
This is the Commission’s report card on the state of human rights in New Zealand. It updates the Commission’s 2004 report, Human Rights in New Zealand Today, Nga Tika Tangata o Te Motu35 and assesses progress against the priorities set out in the New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights 2005-2010.. The Report covers the full spectrum of human rights, with chapters on individual rights and the rights of specific groups. It identifies where New Zealand does well, and where it could do better. Its particular focus is on the challenges of poverty, entrenched inequality and discrimination. Thirty specific priorities for action are identified including strengthening New Zealand’s constitutional and legal framework for the protection and promotion of human rights, tackling entrenched inequalities, and more effective implementation of the full range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The Report will guide the Commission’s work until 2015.
Other highlights of the Commission’s work in 2010 include hosting the
visit to New Zealand of Professor Ron McCallum, Chair
of the Committee on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the publication of What Next? National
Conversation about Work36 and a roundtable discussion on human rights and
the internet.37 The fourth biennial benchmark report, New Zealand Census of
Women’s Participation 2010, was also published.38
V. New Zealand Experts on International Human Rights Bodies
In March, on the nomination of the Asia-Pacific region, Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan was elected chair of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC).
In May, Valmaine Toki, lecturer at the University of Auckland, was appointed as a member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for a three-year term from 2011-2013. She is the first Māori to serve on this body, having been nominated by indigenous organisations, and appointed by the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council to represent the Pacific region.
In October, Justice Lowell Goddard, who is also Chair of the Independent
Police Conduct Authority in New Zealand, was elected to the
Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture.
University of Canterbury
1 For further discussion, see F Adcock and C Charters “Year in Review: Indigenous Peoples Rights under International Law” (2010) 8 NZYIL.
2 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (opened for signature 16 December 1966, entered into force 23 March 1976).
3 United Nations Human Rights Committee “Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: NEW ZEALAND” UN Doc CCPR/C/NZL/CO/5 (2010) [“Concluding Observations on New Zealand of the Human Rights Committee”].
4 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (opened for signature 13 December 2006, entered into force 3 May 2008).
5 Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (opened for signature 18 December 2002, entered into force 22 June 2006).
6 Concluding Observations on New Zealand of the Human Rights Committee, above n 3, at .
7 See <www.bayefsky.com>.
8 Concluding Observations on New Zealand of the Human Rights Committee, above n 3, at .
9 Ibid at .
10 UN Doc CCPR/C/89/D/1368/2005/Rev.1 (2007). For discussion, see Natalie Baird “Year in Review: International Human Rights Law”  NZYbkIntLaw 8; (2007-2008) 5 NZYIL 193 at 196-198.
11 Concluding Observations on New Zealand of the Human Rights Committee, above n 3, at .
12 Ibid at .
13 Ibid at .
14 Ibid at .
15  3 NZLR 1.
16 Concluding Observations on New Zealand of the Human Rights Committee, above n 3, at .
17 Ibid at .
18 Ibid at .
19 Ibid at .
20 F Adcock and C Charters “Year in Review: Indigenous Peoples Rights under International Law” (2010) 8 NZYIL.
21 Committee against Torture “Consideration of reports submitted by States parties: Follow-up responses by New Zealand to the concluding observations of the Committee against Torture [19 May 2010]” UN Doc CAT/C/NZL/CO/5/Add.1 (2011).
22 Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women “Consideration of reports submitted by States parties: Seventh Periodic Report: New Zealand” UN Doc CEDAW/C/ NZL/7 (2011).
23 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (opened for signature 18 December 1979, entered into force 3 September 1981).
24 CANZ Statement “Women’s Human Rights and the Right to Education: Statement by New Zealand on behalf of Canada, Australia and New Zealand” (Geneva, 7 June 2010) <http:// www.mfat.govt.nz> .
25 Hine-Wai Loose “Statement on Integrating a Gender Perspective into the work of the Human Rights Council” (Geneva, September 2010) <http://www.mfat.govt.nz> .
27 CANZ Statement “CANZ International Human Rights Council – Democratic Republic of Congo” (Geneva, September 2010) <http://www.mfat.govt.nz> .
28 James Kember “Fifteenth Regular Session of the Human Rights Council – Item 2 – High Commissioner’s Update” (Geneva, September 2010) <http://www.mfat.govt.nz> .
29 Natalie Baird “Year in Review: International Human Rights Law”  NZYbkIntLaw 13; (2009) 7 NZYIL 299 at 307.
30 Preventable Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and Human Rights HRC Res 11/8, A/HRC/ RES/11/8 (2009).
31 Wendy Hinton “Introduction of L27 on Behalf of the Missions of Burkina Faso, Colombia and New Zealand - Preventable Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and Human Rights: Follow-Up to Council Resolution 11/8” (Geneva, September 2010) <http://www.mfat.govt.nz> .
32 Preventable Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and Human Rights HRC Res 15/17, A/HRC/ RES/15/17 (2010).
33 Ibid at -.
34 Human Rights Commission Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 – Nga Tika Tangata o Aoteraoa 2010 (Human Rights Commission, Wellington, 2010).
35 Human Rights Commission Human Rights in New Zealand Today, Nga Tika Tangata o Te Motu (Human Rights Commission, Wellington, 2004).
36 Human Rights Commission What Next? National Conversation about Work (Human Rights Commission, Wellington, 2010).
37 Human Rights Commission and InternetNZ Report on Human Rights and the Internet Roundtable (Human Rights Commission, Wellington, 2010).
38 Human Rights Commission New Zealand Census of Women’s Participation 2010 (Human Rights Commission, Wellington, 2010).
* I thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for providing some of the information for this review. The views expressed here are my own, as are any errors or omissions.