The government indicated a willingness to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Asylum-seekers were put at risk of persecution by the passenger screening process of the new Immigration Act. Maori were disproportionally represented both among those arrested and processed by the criminal justice system and among prisoners.
Indigenous Peoples’ rights
In its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in July, the government stated that it “would like to move to support” the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as long as it did not interfere with the current domestic framework for resolving Indigenous Peoples’ rights claims.
Concerns were raised that Maori were being discriminated against by the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, which was passed to settle Maori’s claim to foreshore and seabed title. These concerns prompted the establishment of an independent Ministerial Review Panel which recommended that the Act be repealed and new legislation drafted. Maori rights under the Treaty of Waitangi required new legislation to be enforced.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
In November, the Immigration Act came into force, incorporating the passenger processing system. The Act empowered the chief executive of the Immigration Department to refuse a person permission to board an aircraft to travel to New Zealand without giving a reason. This could expose asylum-seekers to harm if they were at risk of persecution in their own countries. The Act also denied failed applicants access to judicial review.
In September, the Department of Corrections announced that it would be introducing bunk beds in 2010 on a permanent basis even though they already had 21 per cent of beds in shared cells, in contravention of international standards on the treatment of prisoners. In July the Department of Corrections announced that prison cells built from modified shipping containers would be incorporated into the prison system from March 2010 to cope with rising prisoner numbers.
The Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Act 2009 allowed for the privatization of prisons. Concerns were raised about the possible reduction of accountability that could occur within privately managed prisons.
There were disproportionately high numbers of Maori arrested, processed by the criminal justice system and imprisoned.
Legal, constitutional or institutional developments
During its UPR, the Government indicated that it would ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and become a party to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (BORA) did not have protected legal status, which allowed for the possible enactment of legislation contrary to its provisions. The BORA did not incorporate all the rights provided in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.