5. Civil and Political Rights
Nga tika a iwi me ngā tika tōrangapu

In accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights.
The individual, having duties to other individuals and to the community to which he belongs, is under a responsibility to strive for the promotion and observance of the rights recognized in the present Covenant.
Preamble, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

5.1 Introduction /
Timatatanga

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Many of the challenges identified in Human Rights in New Zealand Today / Ngā Tika Tangata O Te Motu relating to civil and political rights have been addressed in the preceding sections on children, disabled people and race relations. Further priority actions relate to democratic rights and responsibilities, the right to justice, safety and security of person, and the rights of people who are detained.

5.2 Right to freedom from discrimination /
Te tika kia wātea mai i ngā mahi whakaparahako

Outcome: All people in New Zealand respect the rights of others and have their rights respected without discrimination.

Human Rights in New Zealand Today / Ngā Tika Tangata O Te Motu concluded that New Zealanders value fairness and that New Zealand law generally meets international standards for protecting the right to freedom from discrimination. Specific concerns about legislative protection against discrimination are addressed in the section of this plan on the legal framework.

Better data collection is needed to measure accurately the extent of discrimination. However, there is evidence that people who experience mental illness, transgender people, and intersex people are three groups who face discrimination in New Zealand . This section focuses on improving the human rights of these specific groups.

(The framework section of this plan proposes some priorities for action to improve data collection about discrimination generally, and the race relations section proposes priorities for action to address discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or race.)

Priorities for action:

5.3 Democratic rights and responsibilities /
Ngā tika me ngā kawenga manapori

Outcome: Democratic participation is increased.

Human Rights in New Zealand Today / Ngā Tika Tangata O Te Motu found that while New Zealand generally complies with the international standards for democratic rights, there appears to be a risk that confidence in the benefits of democratic participation is waning. In particular, the declining rate of voter turnout in parliamentary and local authority elections was identified as a significant concern. The status report also found disparities in democratic participation levels between different sectors of New Zealand society. Addressing disparities in participation is as important as increasing participation levels overall, because political equality is a cornerstone of democracy.

None of the three bodies that make up New Zealand ’s electoral administration currently have a specific responsibility or mandate to promote and encourage voting in elections. More generally, the report showed significant gaps in public awareness and understanding about constitutional structures and democratic rights and responsibilities.

(An action to increase education about democratic rights and responsibilities in schools is included in the section on children and young people.)

Priority for action:

5.4 Safety for all /
Te whakatupatoranga mo te katoa

Outcome: Every person in New Zealand is safe and violence is not tolerated.

Human Rights in New Zealand Today / Ngā Tika Tangata O Te Motu identified the presence and tolerance of violence and racial harassment in too many of New Zealand ’s homes and communities as a key human rights concern. Some outcomes and priorities for action to reduce violence affecting children and disabled people are contained in the respective sections of this plan. All forms of family violence, including partner and elder abuse, were identified in the report as a priority for improvement. The status report also found that ethnic minorities experience harassment and bullying. Gay, lesbian and transgender people are also at risk of high rates of bullying, violence and suicide.

In the strategic framework Opportunities for All New Zealanders, the Government has identified family violence and the abuse and neglect of children and older persons as a critical issue to be addressed through improved inter-agency collaboration, building on existing work and developing new ways to work together. Existing Government strategies and work programmes include Te Rito – New Zealand Family Violence Prevention Strategy, and the Action Plan for Community and Sexual Violence, which includes a proposed nationwide public education programme. The Government’s Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Programme was reviewed in 2004 and recommendations were made to strengthen it. There is an urgent need to progress implementation of these strategies and programmes.

Priorities for action:

5.5 Justice /
Te tika o te ture

Outcome: All people in New Zealand have equal access to justice.

Human Rights in New Zealand Today / Ngā Tika Tangata O Te Motu highlighted that people often experience barriers to equal participation in the justice system. These barriers include processes that are costly and difficult for many people on low incomes. The recent Law Commission report Delivering Justice for All: A Vision for New Zealand Courts and Tribunals, published in March 2004, noted that access to justice results from the satisfactory balance of a number of contributing factors, including legal information and advice, representation, cost, and acknowledgement of diversity.

Restorative justice has the potential to address a wide range of the issues identified in the status report, including access to justice, victims’ rights and their involvement in justice processes, high rates of re-offending and dislocation of offenders from their communities and families. The Ministry of Justice and community restorative justice providers are working collaboratively towards the continued development of restorative justice in New Zealand .

Priorities for action:

5.6 Places of detention /
Ngā whare herehere

Outcome: Where people are lawfully detained, they are safe and their human rights are respected.

Detention raises fundamental human rights issues. Human Rights in New Zealand Today / Ngā Tika Tangata O Te Motu emphasised the importance of independent review of the use of non-voluntary segregation and lock-down in particular, and the health and safety of prisoners more generally. The detention of asylum seekers was identified as an issue requiring particular attention. The status report also noted that there is currently no external monitoring of detention by the Defence Forces.

The New Zealand Government has signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and has taken steps to establish the Human Rights Commission as the central national preventive mechanism under the protocol, so that the OPCAT can then be ratified.

Priorities for action:

5.7 Human rights and terrorism /
Ngā tika tangata me mahi kōhuru whakatumatuma

Outcome: Security protection measures are consistent with the principles of transparency, proportionality, and fundamental human rights.

Human Rights in New Zealand Today / Ngā Tika Tangata O Te Motu identified the potential for subordinating human rights in the interests of national security as an area of concern. It is in the interests of national security to ensure that measures to prevent terrorism comply with New Zealand ’s human rights obligations. The Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions Advisory Council of Jurists made specific observations and recommendations on this subject in its 2004 Reference on the Rule of Law in Combating Terrorism. The following priorities for action are drawn from those observations and recommendations.

Priorities for action: