HRLA Condemns Murder of Filipino Human Rights lawyer

Attorney Rodolfo R. Felicio, a member of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers, was gunned down while working on a land dispute in Rizal, east of Manila. Two caretakers of the disputed land were also injured in the attack.

Attorney Felicio was involved in important legal work, such as launching a private prosecution against those allegedly responsible for the infamous 1986 kidnap, torture and murder of Filipino trade union leader Rolando Olalia and his driver Leonor Alay-ay. He also was a member of the Quick Response team, staffed by members of the NUPL and human rights organisation Karapatan, to immediately respond to cases of human rights abuses, such as extrajudicial killings of political activists committed by the security forces and paramilitary groups. He provided legal advice to clients in a number of land disputes.

HRLA has written to the National Union of Peoples Lawyers to offer our condolences to Attorney Felicio’s family, friends and colleagues.

National Union of Peoples Lawyers: In the line of fire: Attorney Rodolfo Felicio

Bulatlat: Journalism for the People: Rights Lawyers Mourn Killing of Colleague

 

Human Rights Lawyers Association (Aotearoa/New Zealand) 

To the National Union of Peoples Lawyers 

 

The Human Rights Lawyers Association of Aotearoa/New Zealand strongly condemns the murder of Attorney Rodolfo R. Felicio. We extend our deepest sympathies to Attorney Felicio’s family, friends and colleagues at the NUPL.

 

The NUPL has an impressive record of standing up for the marginalised of Philippine society and supporting human rights around the World. The murders of five NUPL members over the past decade are an injustice that should concern lawyers around the World. We call for an end to violence and intimidation against lawyers and other human rights defenders in the Philippines for simply doing their job.

 

The murder of Attorney Felicio must be fully investigated and the perpetrators held accountable.

 

Yours Sincerely

 

Andrew Britton and David Tong
Co-Chairs
Human Rights Lawyers Association Aoteoroa New Zealand

Political Panel Discussion and AGM – 4 September 2014

From 6.30 pm on Thursday 4 September 2014, the Human Rights Lawyers Association Aotearoa New Zealand will hold a political panel discussion followed by the Association’s annual general meeting. This will take place at the University of Auckland. The precise venue will be confirmed shortly.

The subject of the panel discussion is New Zealand’s key human rights priorities for the next three years. So far the following political personalities have confirmed their attendance and participation in the discussion:

Hon. Chester Borrows – National Party
Hon. Hone Harawira – Mana Party
Hon. Maryan Street – Labour Party
Hon. Jan Logie – Greens Party
Ms Laila Harre – Internet Party
Ms Susan Cullen – Maori Party

We are hopeful to also secure personalities from the Act and Conservative parties. So watch this space! The panel discussion promises to be an engaging and important event in the lead up to this year’s Election.

There will be time to mix and mingle from 6:30 to 7:00 pm, then approximately one hour of political panel discussion, and then a brief annual general meeting.

The event is open to the public, though only Association members are entitled to vote. Proxy voting forms will be available in advance of the meeting.

We will shortly be calling for nominations for the 2014-2015 Executive Board. If you are interested in joining the executive or wish to raise an agenda item for the AGM, please email chair@hrla.org.nz

Please share this event with anyone you feel will be interested!

[UPDATED: We have added Hon. Chester Borrows to the panel.]

Political Panel Discussion and AGM – 4 September 2014

From 6.30 pm on Thursday 4 September 2014, the Human Rights Lawyers Association Aotearoa New Zealand will hold a political panel discussion followed by the Association’s annual general meeting. This will take place at the University of Auckland. The precise venue will be confirmed shortly.

The subject of the panel discussion is New Zealand’s key human rights priorities for the next three years. So far the following political personalities have confirmed their attendance and participation in the discussion:

Hon. Hone Harawira – Mana Party
Hon. Maryan Street – Labour Party
Hon. Jan Logie – Greens Party
Ms Laila Harre – Internet Party
Ms Susan Cullen – Maori Party

We are hopeful to also secure personalities from the National, Act and Conservative parties. So watch this space! The panel discussion promises to be an engaging and important event in the lead up to this year’s Election.

There will be time to mix and mingle from 6:30 to 7:00 pm, then approximately one hour of political panel discussion, and then a brief annual general meeting.

The event is open to the public, though only Association members are entitled to vote. Proxy voting forms will be available in advance of the meeting.

We will shortly be calling for nominations for the 2014-2015 Executive Board. If you are interested in joining the executive or wish to raise an agenda item for the AGM, please email chair@hrla.org.nz

Please share this event with anyone you feel will be interested!

AGM Announcement: 6:30 pm on Thursday 4 September 2014

The Association’s 2014 AGM is one month away.  We are hosting a political panel discussion about New Zealand’s key human rights priorities for the next three years.

  • Date: 4 September 2014
  • Time: 7:00 pm
  • Location: The University of Auckland

There will be time to mix and mingle from 6:30 to 7:00 pm, then approximately one hour of panel discussion, and then a brief annual general meeting.

The event is open to the public, though only Association members are entitled to vote. Proxy voting forms will be available in advance of the meeting.

We will shortly be calling for nominations for the 2014-2015 executive board. If you are interested in joining the executive or wish to raise an agenda item for the AGM, please email the Co-Chairs.

Look forward to seeing you on 4 September!

A public lecture by Rt Hon Helen Clark

We’ve been a bit quiet at HRLA this year, but we’re very pleased to announce this:

Clark poster JPG

A public lecture by Rt Hon Helen Clark

Tuesday 1 April 2014, 6.30pm
University of Auckland, Owen G Glenn Building, 12 Grafton Road

The Human Rights Lawyers Association and the NZ Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy and Practice presents a public lecture by Rt Hon Helen Clark. 

In her lecture, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark will explore the links between governance, rule of law, access to justice, and sustainable development, reflecting on ongoing discussions at the United Nations around the new global development agenda. She will do so by highlighting lessons learned from UNDP’s work in over 100 countries, including some 40 affected by conflict, to strengthen justice systems, enable legal empowerment of the poor, and strengthen good governance based on the rule of law.

Admission: Free. All are welcome.
Registration: Registration is essential.
http://courses.cce.auckland.ac.nz/courses/181-access-to-justice-and-the-rule-of-law-in-the-new-global-development-agenda
For telephone bookings and enquiries phone 0800 864 266.
Building, 12 Grafton Road

Submissions on the Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Bill

On 1 November 2013, the HRLA filed a submission with the Justice and Electoral Committee (“the Committee”) opposing the Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Bill.

The Bill empowers the High Court in its civil jurisdiction to issue a public protection order to detain a person in a secure facility, when, at the end of a finite prison sentence or subject to the most intensive form of an extended supervision order, they pose a very high risk of imminent and serious sexual or violent reoffending.

HRLA’s submission argued that the Bill may be inconsistent with certain rights affirmed under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We emphasised that an order under the Bill is criminal in type and not civil, because of the Bill’s very real collateral punitive character. The Bill will apply to as few as five persons over a 10 year period.  There is a lack of realistic or plausible pathways for such persons’ release. And conditions of detention may be comparable to those of sentenced prisoners.  The HRLA was critical the Attorney General’s distinguishing of like international regimes found by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in violation of certain human rights, on the basis of largely terminological distinctions between a ‘residence’ and a prison in reality and the presence in the Bill of a ‘mental or behavioural threshold requirement’.

Section 25 of the NZBORA and Article 14 of the ICCPR, which proscribe minimum standards of criminal procedure for persons “charged” with an offence, may be engaged and breached by the Bill because of the actuarial nature of the risk assessment process undertaken by the High Court and the fact that the information relied upon by health assessors under the Bill will likely include prior and unproven offending.

New Zealand case law is unsettled as to inconsistency declarations in respect of these provisions within the criminal jurisdiction.  We criticised the Attorney General’s strict reliance on European human rights case law to justify the Bill’s regime operating within the High Court’s civil jurisdiction, with its lesser standards of proof and procedure.  Such case law is not necessarily consistent with New Zealand’s common law tradition and it shows an unsettled tension between a trend for the simplification of criminal justice and a contemporary trend for judicial activism that aligns with often controversial political preferences for actuarial policies concerning public protection.

Section 22 of the NZBORA and Article 9(1) of the ICCPR, which prohibit arbitrary detention, and section 26 of the NZBORA and Article 15(1) of the ICCPR, which prohibit retroactive criminal laws, may also be breached by the Bill.  The ordering of offenders’ continued or indefinite detention in a punitive facility at or close to the end of a finite sentence, absent the commission of a further offence, is arbitrary and retroactive.  Such is counter to fundamental common law principles, including those in favour of a subject’s knowing the type and duration of any sentence at the time of sentence, and liberty of the subject.  It also is inconsistent with sentiments expressed in the Sentencing Act 2002, including the notion that penal enactments should not have retrospective effect to the disadvantage of offenders, and it may compromise the foreseeability, consistency and proportionality of sentencing.

Sections 12 to 18 of the NZBORA, which confer specified democratic and civil rights (including freedom of religion, freedom of association and freedom of movement), may also be breached by the Bill.  While residents have the rights of persons with full capacity under the Bill, these can be significantly curtailed or removed altogether due to residence managers’ (and their delegates) broad and unchecked powers and discretions under the Bill.  If he or she considers ‘reasonably necessary’ to prevent harm or the disruption of the orderly functioning of the residence, a residence manager may monitor telephone calls of residents, monitor written communications and articles, decline visits and oral communications, place residents in seclusion, deduct from their earnings any amount required to offset the cost of their care, and restrain them (including mechanically).

Finally, the HRLA was critical of the efficacy of safeguards provided for by the Bill.  The Attorney General placed considerable and perhaps excessive weight on these in justifying the Bill’s consistency with the NZBORA.  There is a lack of detail in the Bill as to what information may be relied on in the compiling of health assessors’ reports.  There is a lack of discussion in the Regulatory Impact Statement of the theoretical or empirical research underlying characteristics indicative of a ‘severe disturbance in behavioural functioning’ and how these connect to actuarial risk assessments made under the Bill.  There are no statutory timeframes governing the complaints procedure and the only remedy for a human rights breach under the Bill is a correction of the causal deficiency by the residence manager.

Given the above, it was submitted that the status quo regimes (composed of indeterminate sentences under the Sentencing Act 2002, extended supervision regimes under Parole Act 2002 and care orders under the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003) best achieve proportionality between the Bill’s public protection objective and ensuring that the rights of persons under an order are subject to the least restrictive interventions necessary to achieve the objective.  The attention of policy should shift to a more rigorous assessment of where improvements can properly be made within the ‘status quo’ regimes so as to ‘sure up’ the public protection concerns which are the subject of the Bill.

This submission was written by HRLA Executive Board Member Andrew Britton, and can be viewed here.

Media Release: Happy World Food Day?

Wednesday, 16 October 2013
Media Release: Aotearoa Human Rights Lawyers Association (‘HRLA’)

HRLA has released a discussion paper on the right to food to celebrate world food day.

We all love to eat, but make sure that as you celebrate World Food Day today you spare a thought today for those who don’t have enough to eat.

‘Across the world 842 million people still suffer from chronic malnutrition, including a growing number in the developed world’, said HRLA chairperson Edward Miller, ‘and the latest New Zealand food security study reported that less than 6 in 10 NZ households are food secure.’

‘Access to sufficient adequate food is a human right, and New Zealand has an international obligations to work towards the progressive realisation of that right. We urge the New Zealand government to look towards ways that right could be realised, and have today published a discussion paper that looks at the content of that right and how it might better be achieved.’

‘Human rights violations are present through many of our global supply chains. We may have little scope to directly affect the plight of landless peasants in Brazil, of Indian farmers dying of pesticide exposure, or of Filipino wage labourers paid a pittance to harvest our fruit. Yet we can look towards realising the right to food here in New Zealand.’

Today HRLA have published a discussion paper on the right to food in the New Zealand context. It looks at the scope of our obligations, how other countries have interpreted the right and makes key recommendations.

-ENDS

For more information, contact:

Edward Miller 027 548 7004
chair@hrla.org.nz

Media Release: Marine Legislation Bill strips the New Zealand public’s right to know about exploratory offshore oil drilling

Media Release: Marine Legislation Bill strips the New Zealand public’s right to know about exploratory offshore oil drilling

Wednesday, 24 September 2013
Press Release: Aotearoa Human Rights Lawyers Association

Chairperson of the Aotearoa Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) Edward Miller has expressed concerns about the process and human rights implications of the Marine Legislation Bill, which was amended yesterday and now heads toward its third reading.

The Bill amends two other pieces of law, notably the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012 which regulates offshore oil drilling. A subsequent supplementary order paper amends that legislation, allowing the Environment Minister to introduce regulations that designate exploratory oil drilling as a non-notified activity. This would mean that applications for exploratory oil drilling could be made and granted without notifying the public, granting the Minister sole discretion to assess the risk of significant environmental damage.

“The changes make it much more difficult to get information about exploratory oil drilling, giving mining companies a head-start in making their case about the purported economic benefits” said Miller. “They are being touted as necessary to reduce costs for applicants and render them proportionate to the scale of environmental risk. Yet exploratory drilling is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous parts of the commercial drilling process as risks are unclear until explored.

“This assessment gets the balance between interests wrong and is an inappropriate basis for jettisoning public interest and democratic engagement. It ignores the massively disproportionate resource advantage and political clout oil companies enjoy over environmental and public health groups; indeed, this law will act as a foghorn for that advantage.”

Miller also raised concerns around the legislative process used. “The government has allowed only one practical opportunity for consultation on the change, in a Discussion Document with a submission period that runs until 5pm today, 25 September 2013. In the meantime the government has amended the legislation without waiting for the results of that consultation.

“The right to participate in public affairs is a fundamental human right that ought not be traded for unproven economic gains. The proposed legislation flies in the face of New Zealand’s international obligations, and undermines the concept of sustainable development, which requires the involvement of multiple stakeholders to ensure that development is in the best interests of all parties concerned.

“Exploratory offshore oil drilling is an extremely contentious practice with serious implications for the surrounding environment and human health. Earlier this year the government used a supplementary order paper to remove the right to protest at sea. Documents later released show that these changes were the result of a shady deal between oil company Shell and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce. Will we find the same commercial interference into the political process has motivated these changes?”

HRLA has made a submission on the Discussion Document, recommending that the Minister refrain from regulating to make exploratory oil drilling non-notified until a full and open human rights assessment has been undertaken.

-ENDS

For more information, contact:

Edward Miller 027 548 7004
chair@hrla.org.nz

David Tong 021 250 6375
chair@hrla.org.nz

Media Release: Right to know about oil exploration

Media Release: Right to know about oil exploration

Wednesday, 4 September 2013
Press Release: Aotearoa Human Rights Lawyers Association

The government is planning to make the New Zealand public’s right to know about offshore oil drilling strictly discretionary.

The release on Wednesday from Environment Minister Amy Adams of a supplementary order paper (SOP) to the Marine Legislation Bill that makes the notification obligations under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Act discretionary, meaning the question of notification it will be up to the discretion of the Environmental Protection Agency.

By removing the obligation to notify oil exploration it makes it much more difficult for the public to have a say over the environmental and economic management of New Zealand. There are also significant concerns over the process by which this has been handled.

“The expanding use of supplementary order papers is an extremely worrying trend, especially when it concerns peoples’ fundamental rights,” said HRLA co-chair David Tong.

“Public opposition to the so-called ‘Anadarko amendment’, which was clearly in breach of section 14 of the Bill of Rights Act, has inspired the government to pursue other avenues to pass potentially unpopular legislation.”

“Using a supplementary order paper to change the content of a Bill once it has already gone through the Select Committee process is a cynical move that subverts the democratic process, and is arguably a breach of Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to take part in the government.”

“Environmental regulation must be part of the democratic agenda, rather than shifting control of our natural resources into fewer and fewer hands.”

The move follows a decision by the Gisborne District Council not to notify resource consent applications from TAG Oil Ltd and Apache Corporation NZ relating to a proposed exploratory on-shore well.

HRLA will be submitting on the SOP, and will be encouraging its members to do the same.

For more information, contact:
David Tong 021 250 6375
chair@hrla.org.nz

Edward Miller 027 548 7004
tech@hrla.org.nz

Annual General Meeting

Kia ora koutou

We are just two weeks away from our Annual General Meeting, and the Association has a lot coming up, including an address by Frances Joychild QC and a fundraiser film screening on Act of Killing.

Frances Joychild QC talk on human rights litigation in New Zealand

 
Frances Joychild QC will be speaking at our annual general meeting on 7 August 2013 about the environment of human rights litigation in New Zealand. In particular, Frances will share her recent experiences in significant discrimination cases in the Court of Appeal: representing the Child Poverty Action Group in their challenge of the government’s In-Work Tax Credit scheme (Court of Appeal decision expected in the coming months); and representing Atkinson in the Family Caregivers Case (Ministry of Health v Atkinson [2012] 3 NZLR 456 (CA)), where the government policy that excluded family members from payment for providing various disability support services to their disabled children was found to be unjustified discrimination.
Frances Joychild QC is one of New Zealand’s leading human rights lawyers. She has 15 years experience as a barrister sole working in civil litigation, and has spent 3 years as a Law Commissioner.
  • WHEN: Wednesday 7 August 2013 at 6:00 pm for drinks and nibbles for a 6:30 pm start
  • WHERE: University of Auckland Conference Centre, 26 Symonds St, Auckland
Annual General Meeting
 
At the conclusion of Frances Joychild QC’s speech, the Association will hold its second Annual General Meeting (AGM).  We expect that it will take approximately 30 minutes, and the Association will provide further drinks and nibbles at its conclusion.  All members are welcome.
Election of officers
The AGM will elect the Association’s executive for 2013-2014.  We have received several nominations for executive board members.  Biographies of each of the candidates are available here, and job descriptions for each role are here.
 
Agenda and remits
A copy of the AGM’s agenda is here , including the motions proposed by the 2012-2013 executive.  The proposed constitutional amendments are technical, designed to correct small errors only, and may be viewed here.
If you wish to propose another motion or remit or raise any other business at the AGM, please email chair@hrla.org.nz before 31 July 2013.
Annual report
 
The 2012-2013 executive will also deliver the Association’s annual report at the AGM.  A copy of the report, detailing what the Association has achieved in its first year, is available here.
 Proxy voting

If you wish to authorise another person to vote on your behalf at the AGM, a proxy voting form is availablehere.

Fundraiser film: the Act of Killing

In conjunction with the International Film Festival, the HRLA is hosting a fundraising movie event on Sunday 4 August 2013 at 1:00 pm at Event Cinemas Queen Street.  If you want to come along, email membership@hrla.org.nz now, as tickets are selling fact.

Part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, winner  of the Berlin Film Festival Panorama Audience Award and winner of the Aung San Suu Kyi Award for Best Documentary Film at the Human Rights, Human Dignity Film Festival in Myanmar, as well as many others, The Act of Killing has been described as:

“A true cinematic experiment, The Act of Killing explores a chapter of Indonesia’s history in a way bound to stir debate—by enlisting a group of former killers, including Indonesian paramilitary leader Anwar Congo, to re-enact their lives in the style of the films they love. When the government of President Sukarno was overthrown by the military in 1965, Anwar and his cohorts joined in the mass murder of more than one million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals. Now, Anwar and his team perform detailed re-enactments of their crimes with pride, holding numerous discussions about sets, costumes, and pyrotechnics. Their fixation on style rather than substance—despite the ghastly nature of the scenes—makes them mesmerising to watch. But as movie violence and real-life violence begin to overlap, Anwar’s pride gradually gives way to regret. And we see a man overwhelmed by the horrific acts he has chosen to share with the world.”  

The massacre has been described by the Indonesian government as “justified”.

For more information on the film see http://theactofkilling.com/ or for more information on human rights abuses in Indonesia seehttp://www.hrw.org/asia/indonesia.

Tickets are only $20.

To buy a ticket for Sunday 4 August 2013 at 1:00 pm at Event Cinemas Queen Street, send your name and contact details to membership@hrla.org.nz. Numbers are strictly limited so register your interest ASAP to avoid missing out!

We look forward to seeing you at our upcoming events.