International reporting

New Zealand’s Other International Obligations

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

The ICCPR is considered to be part of the International Bill of Rights along with the ICESCR and the UDHR. It commits states to respect the civil and political rights of citizens including the right to life, freedom of religion, speech, assembly, and the right to a fair trial. The ICCPR is overseen by the Human Rights Committee. The ICCPR was ratified by New Zealand on 28 December 1978.

New Zealand has made several reservations to the ICCPR which have been summarized here and set out in full on the Ministry of Justice website.

  • Reserves the right not to apply article 10(2) or 10(3) where the shortage of facilities makes the mixing of juveniles and adults unavoidable.
  • Reserves article 10(3) where the interests of other juveniles or the offender may be better served by moving that juvenile to a mixed facility.
  • Reserves article 14 (6) to the extent that it is not satisfied by the existing system for ex gratia payments to persons who suffer as a result of a miscarriage of justice.
  • Reserves the right not to introduce further legislation on racial hatred with regards to article 20 as New Zealand legislation already takes adequate measures.
  • Reserves the right not to introduce further legislation for the existence of trade unions with regards to article 22 as New Zealand legislation already takes adequate measures.

New Zealand has also made the following declarations:

  • New Zealand recognizes the right of the Human Rights Committee to consider communications received by state parties who also recognize the Committee under article 41 except where the declaration of the party was made less than twelve months prior to the submission of a complaint relating to New Zealand.

New Zealand ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on 26 May 1989. The Optional Protocol provides an individual complaints mechanism. The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was ratified by New Zealand on 22 February 1990 and abolished the death penalty.

Convention Against Torture

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) requires states to prevent torture and degrading treatment within their borders and forbids the return of people to their home country if they are likely to be tortured. It also creates a reporting procedure for the Committee against Torture to hear individual complaints.

The CAT was adopted by General Assembly resolution 39/46 on 10 December 1984. New Zealand ratified the CAT on 10 December 1989 with the following reservation:

The Government of New Zealand reserves the right to award compensation to torture victims referred to in article 14 of the Convention Against Torture only at the discretion of the Attorney-General of New Zealand.

Learn about the Commission's work in this space here.

Making a submission to the Committee Against Torture

State NGOs and NHRls are encouraged 10 submit written reports to the Committee Against Torture. These reports will be reviewed and the submitting parties will have an opportunity to meet with the Committee before the examination of the State’s report. Note: NGOs do not need to be accredited with the ECOSOC to make submissions

NGOs and NHRls may engage with the Committee in the following ways:

Written information for List of Issues

The Committee compiles a list of issues (LOls) the session before it is due to examine the states report. Sessions are usually held in May and November of each year so LOls adopted in May will be reviewed during the November session.

Information that NGOs and NHRls wish to submit to the Committee for consideration in the LOls must be received by the Secretariat no later than two months before the opening of that session. LOls and state replies will be posted on the CAT website.

Written information for the examination of the State Party’s report

Written information that NGOs and NHRls wish to submit to the Committee preceding the state report must be received no less than two weeks before the opening of that session.

Briefings with the Committee and country Rapporteurs before the examination of the State’s report

NGOs that have submitted written information may meet with the Committee before the dialogue with the State Party.

NHRls that have submitted written information may meet with the country’s rapporteurs and members of the Committee before the dialogue with the State Party. If NHRls are unable to attend the session they can contact the International Coordinating Committee for a member to represent their interests.

NGO and NHRI representatives may be present at the dialogues with the State as observers. In order to participate they must fill out the accreditation form and submit it to the Secretariat two weeks before the session.

Follow-up

NGOs and NHRIs are also able to submit reports to the Committee on the State’s implementation of the Committee’s recommendations.

Further information on the submission process is available here.

Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT)

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) was ratified by New Zealand on 14 March 2007. OPCAT created a subcommittee to oversee “a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

In New Zealand, the independent mechanism is made up of the Human Rights Commission (Central National Preventive Mechanism, or CNPM) and four National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) tasked with monitoring detention facilities: the Independent Police Conduct Authority, the Inspector of Service Penal Establishments, the Office of the Childrens Commissioner and the Office of the Ombudsman.

To learn more about OPCAT view this section.

Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees

The United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees was adopted by the General Assembly in 1951. The Protocol to the Convention was adopted in 1967. New Zealand ratified the Convention in 1960 and has also ratified the Protocol.

The Convention is the guiding statute for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, an international organisation set up in 1950. The Convention as amended by the 1967 Protocol defines who are refugees and New Zealand’s responsibilities on granting asylum. It also codifies the principle of non-refoulement, which means refugees cannot be forcibly returned to countries where they face persecution.

This principle is part of international customary law meaning it applies to all states, not just parties to the Convention. The Convention is primarily intended for those fleeing life threatening hardship and persecution, not economic refugees.

Currently the Immigration Act 2009 is the key piece of legislation regarding the implementation of the Convention in New Zealand. New Zealand is obliged by international law and domestic law to protect persons who have a well-founded fear of persecution if returned to their country of nationality or habitual residence. A person recognised as a refugee or protected person in New Zealand, or who is a claimant, may not be deported under the Act unless specifically allowed for under the Act or the Refugee Convention.

Currently, New Zealand accepts about 750 refugees each year as part of the UNHCR quota programme. Refugee Services is the agency primarily responsible for their resettlement.

More information

  • Key facts relating to the Convention can be found here
  • A more detailed discussion of the Convention and Protocol can also be found here.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) defines universal principles and standards for the status and treatment of children worldwide. UNCROC was adopted by the UN in 1989 and defines universal principles and standards for the status and treatment of children worldwide. It is overseen by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

UNCROC is made up of 54 articles that set out a range of human rights standards for the treatment of children and young people. Four articles capture the general principles underpinning the Convention. These are:

  • all children have the right to protection from discrimination on any grounds
  • the best interests of the child should be the primary consideration in all matters affecting the child
  • children have the rights to life, survival and development
  • all children have the right to an opinion and for that opinion to be heard in all contexts.

Click here to read the full text of the UNCROC

New Zealand ratified the UNCROC in 1993, along with all United Nations member states except for the United States and Somalia. The NZ government entered three reservations to UNCROC:

  • Children whose parents do not have a legal right to be in New Zealand are not entitled to education, health and welfare benefits. ‘Nothing in this Convention shall affect the right of the Government of New Zealand to continue to distinguish as it considers appropriate in its law and practice between persons according to the nature of their authority to be in New Zealand including but not limited to their entitlement to benefits and other protections described in the Convention, and the Government of New Zealand reserves the right to interpret and apply the Convention accordingly.’
  • There is no minimum age or agreed conditions of employing children. ‘The Government of New Zealand considers that the rights of the child provided for in article 32 (1) are adequately protected by its existing law. It therefore reserves the right not to legislate further or to take additional measures as may be envisaged in article 32 (2).’
  • Children in custody can be held with adult prisoners in some circumstances.’ The Government of New Zealand reserves the right not to apply article 37 (c) in circumstances where the shortage of suitable facilities makes the mixing of juveniles and adults unavoidable; and further reserves the right not to apply article 37 (c) where the interests of other juveniles in an establishment require the removal of a particular juvenile offender or where mixing is considered to be of benefit to the persons concerned.’

State parties are obligated to report on UNCROC every five years. New Zealand last appeared before the Committee in September 2016. The Committee’s concluding observations included recommendations that the New Zealand Government:

  • Withdraw its reservations to the Convention
  • Ensure that its mechanism for co-ordinating the implementation of the Convention is provided with the resources necessary for its effective operation
  • Strengthen its efforts to combat the discrimination of children with disabilities in their access to health, education, care and protection services
  • Set up comprehensive measures to develop inclusive education and implement anti-bullying programmes in schools
  • Develop and implement a child rights-based health-care protocol for intersex children
  • Introduce a systemic approach to addressing child poverty, including the establishment of a national definition and substantial increases in allocations
  • Take immediate action to reduce the prevalence of preventable and infectious diseases, especially for Maori, Pasifika and children living in poverty
  • Strengthen its social protection systems to ensure that all children are provided with safe and adequate housing
  • Amend legislation to address children’s vulnerability to workplace injury and ensure that their rights are respected in any type of contract for work, including casual contracts
  • Strengthen its efforts to address the overrepresentation of Maori and Pasifika children and young people in the juvenile justice system

The Committee’s 2016 Concluding Observations can be found here.

The Commission's 2016 submissions to the Committee can be found here.

The Commission’s 2016 thematic report to the Committee on housing issues, jointly prepared with He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme, University of Otago, can be found here.