HRLA OPEN MEETING: HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN THE PHILIPPINES

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Bills for Submission

One of HRLA’s core objectives is to ensure that human rights are kept at the forefront of legislative and governmental decision-making. A practical way that we can do this is to make submissions on new Bills where human rights issues are implicated.

Currently, the Advocacy Team of HRLA is seeking enthusiastic and capable individuals to assist in the research and drafting of submissions by HRLA on the bills below.

If you are interested in assisting with any or all of these projects please send an email to advocacy@hrla.org.nz and we will be in touch. Also, keep an eye out on our website and in our newsletters for more opportunities to assist with interesting advocacy opportunities.

Parole Amendment Bill
(Currently awaiting first reading)

The objective of this Bill is to amend the Parole Act 2002 in order to improve efficiency and reduce stress for victims by making it easier for the Parole Board to prevent hearings where there is no prospect of release.

The Bill will increase the maximum interval between parole hearings from one to two years for all offenders. The maximum period for postponement orders (made by the Parole Board to postpone certain prisoners’ hearings) would be extended from three to five years.

As a result of these changes, automatic annual parole hearings would no longer be the norm. This raises concerns about potential breaches of section 22 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and article 9(1) and (4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (that no person should be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention).

Social Security (Fraud Measures and Debt Recovery) Amendment Bill
(Currently awaiting first reading)

The objective of this Bill is to strengthen the approach to relationship fraud by making spouses and partners, as well as beneficiaries, accountable for fraud.

The Bill amends the law to create a new offence targeting partners or spouses of beneficiaries whoare convicted of fraud. The Bill will also enable the Ministry of Social Development to investigate complains of fraud without informing the beneficiary and increase information sharing between departments.

The Bill raises questions regarding New Zealand’s compliance with its domestic and international human rights obligations not to discriminate on the basis of employment status without justification. The Bill may also raise human rights issues in terms of the right to be free from discrimination on the grounds of family and marital status.

Current legislation requires a beneficiary to be informed of allegations unless there is ‘reasonable cause’ to believe that to do so would be ‘likely to prejudice the maintenance of the law’. There is a risk that these changes to the Social Security Act may effectively amount to a presumption of guilt. The changes may also create prejudice and concern about an individual with other agencies without justification and raise human rights and privacy considerations.

Human Rights Amendment Bill
(Currently awaiting first reading)

The Human Rights Amendment Bill proposes to enable the establishment of the position of a full-time Disability Rights Commissioner within the Human Rights Commission. The Bill also makes changes to the composition, governance arrangements, and functions and powers of the
Commission. The current number of 3 full-time Commissioners and up to 5 part-time Commissioners will be changed to a total of 4 to 5 full-time Commissioners.

The Bill will remove the designations of the Race Relations Commissioner and Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner. All of the Commissioners will be re-named ‘Human Rights Commissioners’.

The changes to the structure of the Human Rights Commission raises concerns as to whether the main priority areas will retain the specialist knowledge and dedication that they were previously given. There is also a concern that with the reduced number of Commissioners, the diversity of New Zealand will not be reflected in those appointed to the roles. The appointment of Commissioners and other roles within the Human Rights Commission must be transparent and representative of New Zealanders.

Public Safety (Public Order Protection) Bill
(Currently awaiting first reading)

The Bill empowers the High Court to issue a public protection order, in the case of offenders that pose a “very high risk” of imminent serious sexual or violent offending. The Bill would allow for detention of a subject in a secure facility indefinitely. The Bill would not only target offenders who are soon to be released from prisoners but also though who are “subject to an extended supervision order and is, or has been, subject to a condition of full-time accompaniment and monitoring”. This proposal would effectively allow individuals who are already out in the community under supervision to be detained again.

The Department of Corrections conceded in its Regulatory Impact Statement that the introduction of a continuing detention order “is likely to be found inconsistent with both the BORA and New Zealand’s international obligations, and may result in complaints to the UN Human Rights
Committee. Despite this, the Attorney-General has released a Section 7 report on the Bill and has reached the conclusion that the Bill is consistent with BORA.

The Bill raises clear concerns about its consistency with New Zealand’s domestic and international human rights obligations, particularly the longstanding rights against arbitrary detention and double jeopardy affirmed in sections 22 and 26 of the Bill of Rights Act.

 

If you are interested in assisting with any or all of these projects please send an email to advocacy@hrla.org.nz and we will be in touch. Also, keep an eye out on our website and in our newsletters for more opportunities to assist with interesting advocacy opportunities.

Public Meeting: United Nations Treaty Body Reporting – Making it relevant to all New Zealanders

Public Meeting: United Nations Treaty Body Reporting – Making it relevant to all New Zealanders

Date and Time: 26 March 2013, 1.30 – 4.30
Venue: Small Lecture Theatre, Building 803, University of Auckland Law School 9-17 Eden Crescent

This seminar aims to provide participants with the knowledge and skills to effectively engage with UN treaty bodies and to garner real change for New Zealand.