Amnesty International Report 2012 - The State of the World's Human Rights

New Zealand
Head of state
Queen Elizabeth II represented by Jerry Mateparae (replaced Anand Satyanandin August)
Head of government
John Key
Death penalty
abolitionist for all crimes
4.4 million
Life expectancy
80.7 years
Under-5 mortality
6.2 per 1,000

Indigenous Peoples’ property rights were partially recognized by the Marine and Coastal Area Act. The Minister of Defence admitted he could not guarantee that detainees captured during joint operations in Afghanistan had not been tortured. Levels of child poverty remained high, disproportionately affecting Māori and Pacific communities.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

Economic, social and cultural rights were not included in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. The Act did not explicitly give the judiciary the power to issue remedies for breaches of its provisions. New Zealand still had not ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

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Indigenous Peoples’ rights

In March, the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 was passed, repealing the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, which had prevented Māori property claims to these areas. However, the 2011 Act did not allow Māori to apply for exclusive occupation in these areas or to claim lands in private ownership; and all claims to traditional rights had to be made within six years.

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Workers’ rights

In June, crew members of South Korean chartered fishing vessels Oyang 75 and Shin Ji refused to reboard their vessels, docked in the ports of Lyttelton and Auckland. The government subsequently launched a ministerial inquiry in July to investigate allegations of mental, physical and sexual abuse of crew members, and that they had not received their wages.

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Counter-terror and security

In October, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) released a report into NZDF’s potential complicity in torture in Afghanistan. The report confirmed that one person detained since September 2009 by the New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS) was being monitored to ensure his well-being. In contrast, the Minister of Defence admitted that the NZDF were not monitoring detainees captured during joint operations between the Afghan National Police Crisis Response Unit and the NZSAS, and could not guarantee that they had not been tortured.

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Children’s rights

In February, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern that 20 per cent of children in the country lived below the poverty line and that abuse and neglect of children within the family remained prevalent. In July, the government released a discussion paper on how the country could better protect abused, neglected and disadvantaged children. It acknowledged that child poverty afflicted Māori and Pacific communities more than other groups in New Zealand. In September, New Zealand ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

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Associated documents