|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Human Rights Committee
2697th Meeting (AM)
Human Rights Committee Concludes Consideration of New Zealand’s Fifth Report;
Questions Posed on Treatment of Maori, Asylum Seekers, Human Trafficking
Delegation: “We Are Determined, as a Country, to Make Human Rights
Relevant in the Daily Lives of New Zealanders and of Citizens around the World”
While praising New Zealand’s self-critical attitude and constructive engagement with protecting the fundamental rights of its citizens, experts on the Human Rights Committee today raised concerns about possible breaches of the rights of the Maori people and expressed alarm that the country’s age for criminal responsibility was 10, as they wrapped up their two-day consideration of the country’s fifth periodic report on compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Several experts took exception to the New Zealand delegation’s claim that consideration of the Waitangi Treaty of 1840 was built into the country’s law-making process, underlining that the Treaty’s translations -- and, thus, its very meaning -- remained unsettled, even contentious. To that end, Hellen Keller, expert from Switzerland, stressed that a “consultation process” regarding land and water rights legislation was not the same as seriously integrating the views and concerns of the Maori in the decision-making process.
A few experts expressed concern that the age of criminal responsibility -- which was set at 10 for murder and manslaughter -- was quite low. Saying “this was a knife that cuts both ways”, Rajsoomer Lallah, expert from Mauritius, suggested that if -- as the delegation indicated -- there were so few young offenders, the age could be raised. While he understood its consideration of the seriousness of the offence compelled New Zealand to set the age at 10, he believed the maturity of the person should be the primary factor in making such a determination.
On a related note, he expressed concern over reports from non-governmental organizations in New Zealand that there was a “militarization” of juvenile offenders, suggesting this was not a “salutary” way for a country to treat its youth.
Underscoring that under international law asylum seekers should not be detained, Zonke Zanele Majodina, expert from South Africa, pressed the New Zealand delegation on its detention practices, particularly in light of the Immigration Act. In the absence of a sufficiently expansive oral response, she requested it provide further comments on the process of asylum applications, particularly regarding the safe third country issue.
Welcoming the development of a national action plan on preventing human trafficking, Michael O’Flaherty said he was nevertheless startled to hear the Government say it was not aware of any incidence of such trafficking. Indeed, he had never heard a comment like that from any country and even a cursory survey of reports from trafficking experts indicated New Zealand was a destination country for trafficked women, particularly those from south Asia, and also suffered from instances of internal trafficking.
Given this, he wondered if trafficking had not been labelled as such by the Government and asked if it made distinctions between prostitution and trafficking. He also asked what was being done to identify and address internal trafficking, and how it was being policed.
Responding, Simon Power, New Zealand’s Minister of Justice, reiterated that, while the country investigated all claims of trafficking, it had yet to identify a case. In these endeavours, the Government applied the definition of human trafficking used by the United Nations. He acknowledged that, while the delegation had noted its international obligations to prevent trafficking, the Government did have measures in place that could respond to internal trafficking. Moreover, it was considering formal measures to assist and protect victims of trafficking. Until then, the needs of such persons were being addressed in line with international law.
In concluding the two-day discussion, Mr. Power emphasized that the challenge for his and any Government was to ensure human rights were pertinent in the daily lives of citizens and, in doing so, bolster the application of internationally-agreed rights instruments, including the Covenant. New Zealand must work hard so that its citizens did not believe such treaties -- and discussion of their application -- were the remit of high academic and international bodies.
“We are determined, as a country, to make human rights relevant in the daily lives of New Zealanders and of citizens around the world,” he said.
The Human Rights Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 17 March, to continue work on Draft General Comment 34.
The Human Rights Committee, the 18-member expert body which monitors global implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, met today to continue its consideration of the fifth periodic report on New Zealand’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (document CCPR/C/NZL/5). (See also Press Release HR/CT/720 issued 15 March.)
Continuing the delegation’s response to the experts’ questions begun yesterday, SIMON POWER, Minister of Justice, said that 550 people had filed claims against the Government related to ill treatment in New Zealand’s institutions. The Government had settled a number of these claims, funding them through public funds. The listening and advice service implemented in 2008 was intended for those experiencing ill treatment. While it was meant to be direct contact with the claimant, without the participation of a lawyer, it in no way limited a claimant’s ability to seek legal redress.
Turning to the hearings on the E.B. v New Zealand case, he noted that counsel for the non-custodial parent filed an appeal in March 2008, with an expanded appeal submitted in September. This appeal was related to the judge. In November, that appeal was considered, and the high court held there were not enough grounds for the appeal, particularly with respect to seeking access to the youngest child. The Government would inquire if there was context for providing more information.
On questions related to terrorism cases, he said that New Zealand legislation did not provide the chance to challenge designations based on Security Council resolution 1267 (1999). On New Zealand’s own designations, however, the person affected could challenge such a designation as soon as it was made by the Prime Minister. It was true that such designations may be based, in part, on confidential information that could not be shared. The Government was interested in upholding fairness, but because it did not hold these were criminal designations, it considered there was no burden for sharing that information. He noted that there had been no instance in which a designation had been challenged, not least because the four made last month were the first to be made by New Zealand.
Turning to questions on “Operation Eight”, he stressed that all warrants were made based on sworn evidence. While it was not possible to comment on the case further, he noted that the charges involved intentions to commit violent actions toward creating a sense of terror among the citizens of New Zealand. Also, all of those charged were released on bail subject to various conditions within four weeks of arrest. They were all held in normal institutions. Responding to a question on why the case would not be tried until 2011, he said the charges were not ready to proceed. Further, the case involved 18 defendants and there had been a number of pre-trial challenges. Given these circumstances, the Government considered that due process was being upheld.
To questions regarding the length of preventative detention sentences, he noted that such sentences were now open to review after five years. The parole board must then determine if the offender posed a serious risk for re-offending.
He went on to say, in response to the question on whether the court’s approach in the case concerning the right of a woman to wear a burka while testifying in court was democratic and fair, that the court undertook extensive assessments on the likely impact of the witness’s request on the fairness of the case. It concluded that granting her request to wear a burka would affect that fairness and determined that she would not be allowed to wear the burka while testifying. However, on the basis of her sincerely held faith, it allowed for her to be shielded from view.
Responding to a question related to foreign national children accessing education, he said a special programme was in place to allow these children, who were unlawfully in the country, to have access to education services. He further noted that, since the introduction of this special policy, 611 such permits were issued in the 2007-2008 year. In the 2008-2009 period, 800 permits were issued, while to date, in 2009-2010, over 500 permits had been issued. This showed that the programme had been a success.
He said that neither current immigration legislation nor the 2009 Immigration Act allowed for the detention of asylum seekers or refuges, on the basis that they have made a request for asylum. The 2009 Act specially provided that refugees and protected persons who cannot be deported cannot be detained. However, foreign nationals were detained where there was a risk to New Zealand’s citizens, or to the integrity of the immigration system. Further, New Zealand did not have a reluctance to grant visas to persons with disabilities. But, it did have a health and screening policy. Applicants for entry were screened to ensure they could fulfil the reasons for being granted entry.
He went on to say that New Zealand’s settlement strategy contained a range of measures to counter discrimination. Relevant actions included, among other things, supporting ethnic women’s groups, working to combat violence against women, and holding ethnic workshops. Funding was also provided to a national organization that focused on the prevention of violence against Asian women, who were mainly migrants.
There were very few asylum seekers who were not granted refugee status, he said, noting that the next step for these asylum claimants was to apply for residence. To do so, they first had to prove their identity. Immigration legislation prohibited complaints under certain circumstances, particularly with respect to his country’s Human Rights Commission. However, there were legislative mechanisms for making complaints through other means. Further, the Human Rights Commission could investigate certain complaints and make certain public statements. The Commission could also report to the Prime Minister on legislation and policy.
Ultimately, the Government of New Zealand held the view that it was the place of the democratically-elected Parliament to determine if a right guaranteed in the Bill of Rights had been limited. He noted that the Attorney General could offer an opinion, but it was just that: an opinion. Since 1990, 49 bills had been flagged by the Attorney General. Of these, 19 bills were enacted as introduced, despite the Attorney General’s section 7 report. However, 21 were not enacted. Further to this topic, he believed there was merit in the Committee’s suggestion that every bill should be considered in terms of its compliance with the Bill of Rights, even though only those suspected of being inconsistent were currently reviewed. He pointed out that, since 2003, all advice on parliamentary bills from the Ministry of Justice and the law journal were published online.
In terms of the Committee’s suggestion that the periodic report should be tabled in the House of Representatives, he said there was merit in the suggestion, if only to raise awareness of the issue of human rights. This would, he said, be helpful for promoting Covenant rights.
As for the Government’s commitments made during New Zealand’s universal periodic review, he said that, as a first step, the Ministry of Justice had held a number of discussions. As a result of them, the Government might consider extending the authority of the Human Rights Review Tribunal to other rights.
Turning to the Committee’s questions about targets for the recruitment of women in the private or public work force, he said the Prime Minister had launched a partnership called “Women on Boards”, which was actively advocating more women in corporate governance. A group called Global Women had also formed to push this issue. Further, it was not strictly correct to say there were no targets for women’s appointments. A 1995 Government target for greater appointments of women to statutory boards had been extended to 2010. While not a formal target, this was one of many measures that sought to promote women’s participation. The Cabinet itself also actively discussed women’s representation during its consideration of various appointments to a range of Government bodies. He assured Committee members that those discussions were “vigorous.”
On the New Zealand human rights plan, he said the Government had directed departments to consider the plan as part of normal business and to incorporate it in its mission statements. This approach allowed for dialogue, as well as for the greatest flexibility among departments.
He said that persons detained on mental health grounds had prompt access to judicial review, as specified in section 16 in the relevant mental health act of 1962. The Government believed that the inspection system currently in use complied with United Nations standards. It also recognized that a number of its prisoners had mental health issues and, as a result, the Department of Corrections worked with mental health experts to address them. The most recent audit indicated that the care of these prisoners was adequate, although there were some gaps in terms of providing in-patient beds. This was also true of the care of Maori women.
Addressing the possibility that there was systemic bias against Maori, he said the “drivers of crime” summit referred to yesterday was a first step in shifting the emphasis to crime prevention. For its part, the Government had received no evidence to support a case for institutional bias. It recognized, however, that the disproportionately high number of Maori in the justice system had to be the highlighted focus of its “drivers of crime” initiative.
On whether the Government was monitoring the profits of private providers of prison services, he said the performance of private contractors would be strictly monitored, although profit measures would not be evaluated.
Finally, he said the Government had no plans to review the age of criminal responsibility, which stood at 10 for murder and manslaughter and 14 for most other offences. He noted that recognition of a child’s maturity required that the child knew the act was wrong.
Expert’s Comments and Questions
On the status of the Human Rights Action Plan, MICHAEL O'FLAHERTY, expert from Ireland, said he wasn’t thoroughly convinced by Mr. Powers’ answer. He believed that New Zealand had a real chance to bolster human rights by integrating its Action Plan at the heart of Government projects.
CHRISTINE CHANET, expert from France, appreciated the information provided on the use of tasers. At the same time, she believed that the Committee would, nevertheless, be hearing news of yet more injuries and deaths in New Zealand, as the full extent of the effects of using of tasers continued to unfold, she feared, beyond the intentions of the original inventors of the weapon.
Next, ZONKE ZANELE MAJODINA, expert from South Africa, said that while she was satisfied with the answers on the status of the Covenant in New Zealand, she was concerned that the Bill of Rights Act was not a set of entrenched constitutional rights, but merely ordinary legislation. On matters regarding the Chapman case, she said the Government had indicated in its written replies that remedies could be made in cases of a breach of rights. But yesterday, Mr. Power had said the opposite in his presentation. Did the Government believe that there were certain categories of breaches for which no monetary remedies were available? Did the Government believe that view was consonant with the Covenant?
Returning to the issue of tasers, HELLEN KELLER, expert from Switzerland, said she was impressed by the legal framework in place to monitor their use. Still, she asked for more information on how those weapons were delivered, transferred and otherwise handled by the authorities. On the Maori, she said that the “consultation process” regarding land and water rights legislation was not the same as seriously integrating the views and concerns of the Maori in the decision-making process.
RAJSOOMER LALLAH, expert from Mauritius, asked for further clarifications on the ways in which New Zealand was carrying out its obligations under Security Council resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1730 (2006), respectively on Al-Qaida sanctions and de-listing of individuals or entities with suspected links to that group. He had studied those resolutions carefully and was quite certain that neither text gave Member States the right to breach human rights in carrying out their Council-mandated obligations. As such, he wondered whether the Government had considered taking interim measures to ensure its ant-terrorism legislation protected human rights?
Delegation’s Response to Written Questions
After having provided answers regarding New Zealand’s compliance with Covenant articles 2-13 yesterday, Mr. POWER picked up today with article 8 (trafficking in persons). He said that during the current reporting period, one important development in that area had been the release last July of the National Plan of Action to Prevent Trafficking in Persons, which sets out a range of work to be completed by Government agencies in the short-, medium- and long term. The specific focus was on preventing such trafficking, protecting victims and prosecuting offenders.
The action plan also included measures aimed at training officials who interacted with migrant communities on ways to identify and respond to incidents of trafficking. He said that, overall, the Plan represented a formalized response to trafficking and equipped the country with tools to help fight against that international crime and protect its victims. He added that, while “shadow reports” had suggested that human trafficking was not taken seriously in New Zealand, that was far from true. Although no cases had been detected, the police thoroughly investigated all allegations of trafficking, and he reassured the Committee that, should a victim of trafficking be identified, the Government had the means to respond.
Turning next to the rights of aliens (article 13), Mr. Power said New Zealand’s Immigration Bill had recently been enacted, but had not yet come into force. The Committee has asked whether the Bill was consistent with the principle of non-refoulement, and had also asked specific questions about the screening process of people travelling to New Zealand. On that matter, that process was used by the Department of Labour to check the immigration status of travellers checking in to board planes to New Zealand. Those who did not have an entitlement to travel to the country were denied boarding by the respective airline.
He acknowledged that the Human Rights Commission and shadow reports had expressed concern about that process. “We emphasize that this programme just checks a passenger’s name and other identifying details against the record of their immigration status to ensure that they will be allowed to enter New Zealand on arrival,” he said, stressing that his country was under no legal obligation to let passengers without the rights of entry to travel to New Zealand. If a passenger who was denied boarding a plan expressed the desire to claim asylum, he or she was then referred by airline agents to the closest United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office.
Moving on to matters regarding articles 14 and 26 (rights to fair trial and equality before the law), he said that yesterday he had discussed New Zealand’s anti-terrorism regime. The Terrorism Suppression Act did not remove or narrow the presumption of innocence in any way. If any charges were brought under the Act, the burden would be on the Government to prove all elements of the offence beyond reasonable doubt -- the usual standard of proof in a criminal case.
He next turned to the Hansen case, which he had discussed in detail yesterday, and in which the Supreme Court had found the Misuse of Drugs Act to violate the presumption of innocence under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. The New Zealand Law Commission had released an issues paper on control and regulation of drugs, which addressed, among others, the problems of proof that the presumption of supply sought to remedy. He said the Commission had suggested various options for consideration and the Government would prepare a formal response and submit it later in the year. Meanwhile, a rewrite of the Misuse of Drugs Act was not a priority for the Government.
On the right to privacy and freedom of speech (articles 17, 19 and 21), Mr. Power said that various shadow reports had expressed concern that the collection of DNA samples and profiles would place an unjustifiable limit on privacy rights. “We acknowledge these concerns, but stress that measures have been put in place in order to minimize the [Criminal Investigation Amendment] Bill’s intrusion on individual rights,” he said, adding also that Parliament had taken note of such concerns, especially regarding unreasonable search and seizure measures, and had made a number of amendments to that Bill.
He went on to highlight a number of other measures to minimize intrusion on individual rights, including the retention of limited DNA profile information only, rather than the sample itself, and deletion of information upon acquittal or discontinued proceedings.
In relation to article 24 (rights of the child), he said the Committee had noted that New Zealand had recently repealed a defence that existed under the crimes act to permit the use of reasonable force against a child for the purpose of parental protection. Since then, the repeal of that defence had been the subject of an official, but non-binding, citizens initiated referendum, in which a majority had voted for the reinstatement of the defence. Notwithstanding that result, in the present circumstances, the Government did not intend to reinstate the defence. However, he would like the Committee to further note that, in acknowledgement of the results of the referendum, the Government had asked the Social Development Ministry to look into the matter.
On child abuse in New Zealand, he acknowledged that the rates of such abuse were “unacceptable”. From 2004 to 2008, the reported number of substantiated child maltreatment findings for children 16 and younger had risen from 8,500 to 16,000. During that time, the total number of children in that age range remained at about 1 million. The Government had, therefore, taken several legislative and non-legislative steps to eradicate child abuse, including the enactment last year of the Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Act, which allowed police to issue, on the spot, protection orders to address the immediate safety of victims.
He also said that, in December 2008, Parliament had amended sentencing laws to hold adults more accountable for violence against children. In addition, the Government had recently agreed to make changes to the Crimes Act, and a new provision would make it a criminal offence to fail to act where an adult member of a household knew that a child was being sexually abused, or was at risk of serious injury or death.
Among the non-legislative initiatives, he highlighted a national public information campaign to ensure parents and other caregivers were aware that they must never shake a baby, and the setting up of an Independent Experts Forum to identify ways to prevent child abuse and to stop the recurrence of that abhorrent practice. “These initiatives reflect the Government’s commitment to making a difference in the rates of child abuse in New Zealand,” he added.
Turning to the rights of persons belonging to minorities (article 27), he said the 1840 Waitangi Treaty continued to be the central focus for the ongoing and evolving relationship between the Maori and the Government. He acknowledged that the Treaty had been the subject of “much public and political discussion”, but stressed that the place of the accord within New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements was not static and was subject to continued debate and judicial interpretation.
He said consideration of the Treaty was built into New Zealand’s law-making process. All ministers who sought cabinet approval to introduce bills into Parliament must indicate whether such bills were consistent with the principles of the Treaty, which were said to be partnership, active protection, and redress. Where they did not, ministers must provide reason for such inconsistency. Moreover, the Treaty was incorporated into a range of domestic legislation, and particular statutes required decision-makers to give effect to or acknowledge the Treaty. Other statutes recognized and respected the Treaty by providing specifically for Maori involvement in statutory processes or functions.
He told the Committee that, regardless of where a particular act or law referred to the Waitangi Treaty, the courts had, in recent times, interpreted relevant legislation in a manner that was consistent with it, whenever possible. He said the 35-year-old Waitangi Tribunal was charged with, among other duties, investigating claims from Maori that the Government had taken actions inconsistent with the Treaty. The Tribunal then made recommendations to the Government.
“The Crown has accepted an obligation to take steps to redress the historical wrongs visited upon the Maori in respect of their land and their resources in breach of the Treaty of Waitangi,” he continued, adding that actions included commercial, cultural and historical redress and could range from a public apology to financial settlement. In the last year, the pace of such settlements had accelerated, and, since February 2009, the Government had entered into 11 agreements-in-principle and had signed five Deeds of Settlements.
Turning next to New Zealand’s work with civil society on human rights matters and its efforts to disseminate information about the Covenant, he said that the fifth periodic report had been disseminated for public comment in October 2007. The Justice Ministry had specifically sought feedback from non-governmental organizations with an interest in human rights. Justice Ministry officials had also met with members of the national Human Rights Commission to discuss the draft report, and had provided them with a second draft. Subsequently, the Ministry had received 14 submissions, which had been considered in the final drafting of the report.
“We nonetheless acknowledged that New Zealand could make improvements in the involvement of civil society,” he continued, noting that, in light of the universal periodic review, the Government was considering ways to enhance consultations with civic actors. Finally, he said that information on the Covenant was available from the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. There was also a handbook containing the texts of all the core human rights treaties available through both ministries. Links to those treaties could be found on relevant Government websites.
Experts’ Comments and Questions
Mr. O’FLAHERTY said that, on the matter of trafficking, he welcomed the development of the national action plan. However, he was startled to hear that the Government was not aware of any incidence of trafficking. Indeed, he had never heard a comment like that from any country and it had prompted him to undertake an immediate electronic investigation. This initial search had uncovered reference in reports from trafficking experts that New Zealand was a destination country for women trafficked from south Asia. The report indicated New Zealand also had internal trafficking.
Given this, he asked if trafficking had not been labelled by the Government as such. Were distinctions made between prostitution and trafficking? What was New Zealand’s definition of trafficking? Was it co-terminus with the Palermo Protocol or co-terminus with the International Labour Organization’s convention on the worst forms of child labour? What was being done to identify and address internal trafficking? How was it being policed? Did the action plan allow for and ensure the delivery of support to victims who did not participate in criminal proceedings? For what period of time was support provided?
While welcoming the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Amendment Bill, he noted that, in its replies to the Committee’s questions, the Government of New Zealand referred to the manner in which problems in the bill would be allayed by development of operational guidelines for the police to follow. Why were the elements of those guidelines not included in the statute? Moreover, did the reference to “statistical modelling” in its reply mean the Government was relying on a profiling approach? If it was, did the Government consider such an approach to be consistent with its obligations under the Covenant? How? In that regard, he pointed specifically to the communiqué recently issued by the Committee which indicated that racial profiling was a violation of the Covenant.
He noted that the Government’s written replies to the Committee’s questions acknowledged a problem and the resulting need to find better solutions in partnership with civil society. To that end, what were the fruits of the dialogue with civil society and the Human Rights Commission? Was thought given to integrating the dialogue in a coherent way in order to arrive at a single human rights dialogue?
Ms. MAJODINA said she remained concerned about the detention of asylum seekers. The Immigration Act passed last year did not give much attention to this issue. Under international law, asylum seekers should not be detained. When they were, there should be substantial grounds for doing so, and these asylum seekers should be detained separately from criminals. She asked for more comment on New Zealand’s detention practices, as well as its process for applying for asylum, particularly regarding the issue of a third country.
Mr. LALLAH said he had further inquiries on question 19 (on the right to a fair trial). He appreciated the answers given, but was slightly disappointed by them. While the Government indicated this was not a priority, he wished to point out that its obligations under article 14 (1) and article 14 (2), which established the right of the presumption of innocence and placed the burden of proof on the prosecution. He accepted the basic concept of the separation of powers in New Zealand. But, while it was in the exclusive province of the courts to examine evidence and determine burden of proof, in this case there was a legislative incursion.
Turning to the problems of child abuse, which the delegation itself acknowledged, he said there was a problem in relation to Government article 10, paragraph 3, regarding the penitentiary system’s responsibility to segregate juvenile offenders. Comments from a report issued by the non-governmental organization Peace Movement Aotearoa indicated there was a “militarization” of juvenile offenders. Considering the relevant programmes dealing with juvenile offenders, he suggested this was not a “salutary” way for a country to treat its youth.
He suggested that, with respect to the delegation’s response on the age of criminal responsibility, “this was a knife that cuts both ways”. If there were so few young offenders, why was the age not raised? He understood that it was the seriousness of the offence that compelled the age to be brought down to 10. But, it was the maturity of the person, not the seriousness of the offence, that should be primary factor in making such a determination.
As for the issue of electoral reform, he underlined the potentially “nefarious” effect electoral campaign financing could have on a person’s right to vote. Further, he underlined that following a centralization process in certain local governments, there was now an absence of Maori seats. Could the delegation respond? Also, with respect to the Waitangi Treaty, there seemed to be two English translations. In this respect, he had been surprised at the Government’s assertion that consideration of the treaty was incorporated into its law-making process. Indeed, the divergent views on translations suggested the Government might merely be paying “lip-service” to the participation of Maoris in certain centralized governments.
He was glad that, with respect to question 26, on efforts to incorporate the Treaty of Waitangi into domestic law, a solution would “some day” be found for giving real legal meaning to that agreement. New Zealand was not the type of country where its colonizers had left the country, leaving it to its people, and he looked forward to seeing progress on this front in New Zealand’s next report.
Finally, he reminded the delegation that it had an obligation to disseminate information on the Covenant. He suggested that the tabling of its report in Parliament would be a first step, adding that the Committee’s concluding observations should also be tabled. There should also be some way to make the judiciary aware of New Zealand’s work in the arena of human rights. While there was a concern with the separation of powers, perhaps an informal mechanism was acceptable?
Ms. KELLER said she was nearly satisfied by the written response and oral summary regarding question 21 concerning Police v Beggs. It was said that the case had resulted in financial settlements. If these were not confidential, could the delegation provide details on the settlements? Also, on the Treaty of Waitangi, she asked about the types of redress possible, which seemed to include financial settlements, as well as apologies. She noted that it was rather rare for human rights cases to be concluded through financial settlements, and she requested more information.
On matters related to human trafficking, Mr. POWER said that New Zealand investigated all claims of trafficking but had yet to identify a case. The Government was keen to raise public awareness of trafficking, as civil society would be key to identifying and preventing it.
He acknowledged that, while the delegation had noted its international obligations to prevent trafficking, the Government did have measures in place that could respond to internal trafficking. He also noted that the Government applied the definition of human trafficking used by the United Nations. In addition, the Government was considering formal measures to assist and protect victims of trafficking, but, in the meantime, the needs of such persons were being addressed, in line with international law.
As for New Zealand’s immigration policies, he said that, at any time, a person in the country could claim asylum. In addition, the Government took seriously its non-refoulement obligations and had measures in place to that end. On disseminating information about the Covenant, he said that, among other things, the national Human Rights Commission had met with civil society groups to discuss the outcome of the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review. He also acknowledged that the Government could perhaps make better use of online resources to disseminate information.
He went on to say that the Government’s position on the age of criminal responsibility had been stated before. That age had been set at 10 since the 1960s. On the gathering of DNA, he said that he had authored the specific legislation dealing with safeguards to protect the rights of individuals, and he believed the Government had worked hard to address contentious issues and to limit circumstances in which a sample could be taken. He added that racial profiling did not bear on DNA collection.
Turning to quotas for Maori participants in legislative process in Auckland, he said that, just because there were no dedicated seats for Maori, did not mean that they could not participate in the decision-making processes in that region. On matters regarding the presumption of innocence, he said New Zealand’s Law Commission was actively addressing that matter, especially in light of the outcome of the Hansen case.
On types of redress regarding the Waitangi Treaty, he said that, as part of settlements, the Government would broadly acknowledge wrongdoing. As for redress, including payment of lands, property and return of money, that figure was at about $1.75 billion, as of last year. Cultural redress was also very important, he said, stressing that the overall issue was one of abiding concern for the New Zealand Government. And while there might remain much to do, he would nevertheless stress that many concrete steps had been taken and the Government would continue to remain focused on the situation of the Maori.
Wrapping up the two-day discussion, Mr. Power said he was very grateful for the Committee’s suggestions. Human rights and broad awareness of them remained a critical part of New Zealand’s agenda. The challenge was for the Government to make such rights relevant in the daily lives of citizens and bolster the application of internationally-agreed human rights instruments, including the Covenant.
A Government must work hard so that its citizens did not believe such treaties -- and discussion of their application -- were the remit of high academic and international bodies. Indeed, the core human rights treaties were relevant to the daily lives of all people. While that would be a challenge, it was one that New Zealand would continue to take very seriously.
Experts’ Comments and Questions
Mr. O’FLAHERTY said there might be some misunderstanding on internal trafficking, since it was not correct to say the Palermo Protocol did not apply to the issue. While it was attached to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, it made no reference to crossing borders. Nonetheless, he found the Government’s will to engage with trafficking where it was found to be encouraging. He also accepted the delegation’s clarification that the reference to statistical modelling was to a scientific process. Yet, he wanted the delegation to clarify that where the Government uncovered instances of racial profiling, it would seek to correct them.
Mr. LALLAH said he was grateful for the answers given and was encouraged by the Government’s attitude toward the Treaty of Waitangi. However, he wished to note that one group in the country’s north-west had been negotiating with the Government for some time and, while that group remained unsatisfied with the terms of settlement, it seemed the Government intended to go forward and enact it into law. In light of this, he brought the Committee’s general comment 27 to the delegation’s attention and urged the Government to consider further negotiations, rather than merely “clinching the deal”.
Ms. MAJODINA said she looked forward to the delegation’s written responses within the two-day deadline on her questions regarding: the Attorney-General v Chapman case; judicial review for persons detained on mental health grounds, as well as the procedures involved in that review; and the process of asylum applications, particularly regarding the safe third country issue.
Indicating that, in view of the time, he would respond to these last questions in written form, Mr. POWER said he had intended the tail end of his response to the last round of questions to be concluding remarks. But, having presented both New Zealand’s universal periodic review report in Geneva last year and its fifth periodic report to the Commission over the last two days, he found the process to be “robust and detailed”. The level of knowledge that the Committee brought to New Zealand’s own record was welcome and he thanked Committee members for their reception of his delegation. One of the core values to which New Zealand ascribed in its approach to human rights was coming to forums such as these with a sense of integrity about its need to improve. “We are determined, as a country, to make human rights relevant in the daily lives of New Zealanders and of citizens around the world.”
In closing, he thanked the members of his delegation, particularly Ambassador Jim McLay, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, as well as the representatives from non-governmental organizations who had participated throughout the reporting process and attended the two-day dialogue.
* *** *For information media • not an official record