Amnesty International Report 2016/17 - The State of the World's Human Rights - New Zealand

New Zealand received criticism from the UN Human Rights Committee and Committee on the Rights of the Child for its high rates of Indigenous Māori incarceration, child poverty and domestic violence. The state’s refugee resettlement quota was marginally increased.

Justice system

Rates of Māori representation among those facing the criminal justice system remained disproportionately high. An Ombudsman investigation was launched into the circumstances in which an intellectually disabled man was held in a health facility for five years, often in isolation, in conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The government announced that it was considering a formal extradition treaty with China, where criminal suspects could be at risk of serious human rights violations.  

Refugees and asylum-seekers

The government announced plans to increase the annual refugee resettlement quota from 750 to 1,000 by 2018. As of March, two refugees were held in detention facilities alongside remand detainees. The Human Rights Committee expressed concerns over disparities in the quality of services provided to refugees who arrived under the humanitarian quota system and other categories of refugees. In June, New Zealand publicly reiterated the agreement to annually resettle 150 refugees from Nauru and Manus. The agreement was made in 2013 with the Australian government but Australia has since refused to carry out the deal.

Violence against women and girls

Sexual and other physical violence against women and girls remained high, despite wide recognition of the problem and efforts to address it. The Human Rights Committee expressed concern about low rates of reporting and prosecution of perpetrators. An overhaul of domestic violence laws was announced. After years of insufficient funding, the government announced NZ$46 million (US$33 million) will be provided to support services for victims of sexual violence.

Children’s rights

The 2016 Technical Report on Child Poverty found that nearly one in three New Zealand children live below the poverty line. The Human Rights Committee expressed concern about the significant number of children suffering physical and psychological abuse and neglect. The government announced the creation of a Ministry for Vulnerable Children, to be implemented in 2017.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

By the end of the year, the government had still not formally responded to recommendations by the 2013 Constitutional Advisory Panel to improve the Bill of Rights Act 1990. Economic, social and cultural rights continued to lack full protection in domestic legislation, as recommended by the Advisory Panel.

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