|New Zealand's human rights credibility questioned after report to UN
Legal experts and opposition parties have accused the New Zealand government of omitting some of the countries' main human rights failings in its report to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Justice Minister Judith Collins, who presented the report to the UNHRC for the universal periodic review (UPR) on Monday, said in a statement Tuesday that New Zealand was "internationally recognized" for its long-standing commitment to improving human rights and had much to be proud of and to celebrate.
The UPR process had given New Zealand the opportunity to reflect on the challenges it had to address to continue to be a world leader in human rights, she said.
In her presentation, Collins outlined some of New Zealand's achievements, including work on protecting vulnerable children, and the challenges, such as people's rights during the recovery from the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.
However, the New Zealand Law Society said Tuesday it was concerned that the report did not advise of what were considered to be significant and "serious" human rights issues in the New Zealand context.
The society said submitted a shadow report as part of the UPR process in June last year and the concerns it raised had not been acknowledged or addressed in the government's UN report.
The shadow report referred to the enactment of five laws that appeared to be inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights, said a statement from the society.
Concerns about other legislation, the Bill of Rights reporting mechanism, use of Parliamentary urgency procedures, and conflicts with fundamental aspects of the rule of law were also raised in the Law Society's report.
"No reference was made to the enactment of Bill of Rights- inconsistent legislation, to the issues with the reporting mechanism, nor to any of the Law Society's rule of law concerns," law society spokesperson Austin Forbes said in the statement.
The opposition Green Party said Tuesday the UPR process had exposed major problems with human rights in New Zealand, particularly in the areas of child poverty and domestic violence.
"New Zealand is slipping when it comes to protecting human rights, and the international community is taking note," Green Party human rights spokesperson Jan Logie said in a statement.
The UPR report was New Zealand's second report, with the first in 2009. All 193 UN member countries are required to be examined and report on their human rights performance every four and a half years. --Xinhua