On human rights, New Zealand needs to clean up its act

Amnesty International’s critical report should inspire New Zealand to improve its human rights record, the Green Party says.

“The best way that New Zealand can punch above its weight internationally on human rights is by seeking to act jointly with countries such as Norway, and assist them in being an honest broker in the resolution of regional conflicts. To play that role credibly, we need to improve our human rights performance on the issues that Amnesty has identified,” the Greens’ Human Rights Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

“The Amnesty International report should be a wake-up call to do better.

“The Government for instance, can’t go on pretending all is well with the Ahmed Zaoui case when the Algerian refugee has been waiting for over four years for a hearing on the ‘security risk certificate’ issued against him on the basis of secret evidence. During the delays in bringing its case, the Government could easily have let Zaoui’s family be re-united here, without risk to New Zealand. Even though the family are UN refugees in their own right, the Government has heartlessly refused to let them come here.

“Amnesty also criticises the Police taser trial. While the Police propaganda machine may have convinced some New Zealanders about the safety of the 50,000-volt Taser stun gun, we shouldn’t ignore Amnesty’s evidence that it has caused many deaths overseas.

“The glacial pace of the proposed New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights is also worth noting.

“If its defence of human rights is to seem credible on the world stage, New Zealand cannot pick and choose who it criticises. The Clark government has rightly complained about human rights abuses occurring in the wake of the Fiji coup. However. it has timidly declined to criticise the Bush administration for its human rights abuses, that include extended detention without trial, torture and rendition.

“Perhaps New Zealand should take a lead from Amnesty, which has blasted the US practice of kidnapping and torturing suspects and transferring them from one prison to another across the world with impunity. Our Ministers have chosen to stay silent on such abuses whenever they visit Washington. Perhaps if they read the Amnesty report more closely, they would not let photo ops with US officials take precedence over the defence of human rights.

“The citations given yesterday to the 200 SAS men and women for their actions as members of Task Force K-Bar in Afghanistan also look a bit sick when the bestowing body, the US military, is hammered in the Amnesty report for its conduct of the war in Afghanistan,” Mr Locke says.