UPDATE: New Zealanders in Australian detention centres, and Australia’s UPR

UPDATE: New Zealanders in Australian detention centres, and Australia’s UPR

November 10, 2015

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission reiterates that the matter of New Zealanders in Australian detention centres is an Australian human rights issue affecting New Zealanders in Australia. It is therefore the duty of the Australian Government to ensure the human rights of all people in detention are protected.  The Australian Human Rights Commission has jurisdiction over the matter.

The New Zealand Human Rights Commission’s jurisdiction is limited to human rights abuse in New Zealand so it has no jurisdiction over the matter. The New Zealand Government is responsible for taking steps to ensure other states in the UN system respect the human rights of people in detention.  

New Zealand (and other states including Mexico and Denmark) at Australia’s 2009 UPR recommended that Australia “as a high priority” sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) which would have meant greater protection in Australia of the human rights of people in detention but not necessarily that New Zealanders would not be held in detention centres. Australia agreed to ratifying OPCAT but has not implemented it. New Zealand has made the same recommendation about ratifying OPCAT this time.

Because the issues relating to New Zealanders in detention in Australia have arisen since the Australian Government, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other stakeholder reports were filed with the UN Human Rights Council, the issue of New Zealanders and people of other nationalities in detention in Australia would only have come up in Australia’s UPR review if member States brought it up in recommendations they made at the UPR review. Some States did raise the broad issue of asylum seekers in Australian detention centres but not one specific to New Zealanders.

So what can the New Zealand Human Rights Commission do? 

We cannot do anything directly for the people in detention in Australia because our jurisdiction is limited to New Zealand. We are maintaining regular contact with the Australian Human Rights Commission. We have referred and will refer individuals who contact us to the Australian Commission. We have advised MFAT of our approach and noted the past UPR recommendations and the Human Rights Council’s UPR review of Australia. MFAT has responded amongst other things noting that concerned New Zealanders should contact consular officials in Australia.

So what can New Zealanders do?

They can contact the Australian High Commission in New Zealand to express their general concern. If they are New Zealanders or people concerned about individual New Zealanders in detention in Australia they can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission and New Zealand consular officials in Australia.

Of note is that Australia is also campaigning to be a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

NZ Government’s statement on Australia’s Universal Periodic Review

The New Zealand government delivered its statement on Australia’s United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of its human rights record on 9 November 2015.

New Zealand made the following recommendations:

1.       New Zealand recommends that Australia continue to address inequalities affecting human rights in the areas of health, education, employment and income that disproportionately affect indigenous peoples and other minority groups.

2.       New Zealand recommends that Australia ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) and implement a National Preventative Mechanism.

3.       New Zealand recommends that Australia introduce measures to address issues related to the treatment of persons with disabilities, including considering the implementation of recommendations from both the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report on Equality, Capacity and Disability in Commonwealth Laws, and the Senate inquiry into high levels of violence and abuse of persons with disabilities in institutional and residential settings.

Watch video of New Zealand delivering its statement here (1.23.30 into the video). Read New Zealand’s statement here.

Learn More

Read our original statement here

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UPDATE: We've published an updated statement on Australian detention centres. In this we cover what the Commission can...

Posted by New Zealand Human Rights Commission on Tuesday, 10 November 2015

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