Statement by Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt and Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon:
The Human Rights Commission is required by law to advance human rights within Aotearoa New Zealand.
As the Human Rights Act 1993 puts it, the Commission is established “to provide better protection of human rights in New Zealand”.
In exceptional cases, we may comment on issues inextricably associated with human rights in other countries.
The terrible harm and suffering being experienced in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Gaza is one of those exceptions.
This violence is causing enormous distress in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Our heartfelt sympathies go to everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand -- and in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Gaza -- who are affected by the hostilities.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, everyone has the right of peaceful protest, but the exercise of this right must never incite hostility. Antisemitic and anti-Arab statements have no place in our inclusive, diverse and democratic country.
We urge all affected communities to do everything they can to foster respectful relationships.
Our leaders have a particular responsibility to use their positions of power to promote harmonious relations across Aotearoa New Zealand.
We agree with Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta: “All sides have a responsibility to de-escalate, stop the violence and prevent further suffering and loss of life.”
We commend her assurance that the Government is ready to assist in any constructive way it can to support urgent de-escalation.
History teaches that, in times of conflict, it is always the innocent, including children, who suffer the most.
In this spirit, we urge the Government to provide humanitarian assistance as soon as practicable.