“As the global human rights revolution stands at the threshold of historic change, New Zealand’s own record is being eroded as the Government fails to address the country’s most pressing human rights issues, says Amnesty International as it launches its annual assessment of human rights worldwide on the eve of its 50th anniversary.
“We are witnessing unprecedented levels of human rights change as protests for freedom and justice spread like wildfire across the Middle East and North Africa. While our Government has been supportive of these promising changes, its failure to live up to our own human rights obligations smacks of hypocrisy” says Patrick Holmes, Chief Executive Officer of Amnesty International Aotearoa NZ.
Amnesty International Report 2011: State of the World’s Human Rights documents abuses in 157 countries around the world during 2010. New Zealand is not exempt from criticism, as the report cites allegations of complicity in torture, indigenous rights, and the rights of refugees and asylum seekers as areas of concern.
- In August, Defence Minister Wayne Mapp confirmed there was a risk the NZSAS had been involved in the transfer of detainees to torture in Afghanistan and that he had launched an investigation. Nine months later, and despite mounting fresh evidence and allegations, the Government has not released the findings of its investigation despite promising to do so and has refused to agree to an independent investigation.
- Amnesty welcomed the Government’s support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in April and the repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2011, but concerns remain that its replacement has largely the same discriminatory impact.
- In November the Immigration Act came into effect, allowing for the extension of the detention period of refugees and asylum-seekers without warrant, lacking an explicit guarantee against the detention of children and prevents asylum applicants from access to judicial review.
- The Government has failed to formally safeguard human rights for all New Zealanders by continuing to refuse to legally entrench the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, allowing for the possible enactment of legislation that could be inconsistent with its provisions. The Act also fails to give legal recognition to economic, social and cultural rights.
“In the 50 years since Amnesty International was born, there has been a massive cultural, social and political shift that has transformed the call for human rights into a truly global demand,” says Holmes.
“New Zealanders should be proud to stand up as a nation with a firm commitment to human rights. Throughout our history we have championed many of the world’s most notable human rights achievements – we were the first country to grant universal suffrage, we were a strong campaigner for human rights at the formation of the United Nations, and we promoted a global moratorium against the use of the death penalty.”
“But if we are to continue to lead by example, we must call on our Government to ensure that fundamental human rights are not trampled for political gain,” says Holmes.”
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