Ombudsman’s investigations will ensure the voices of people with learning disabilities are heard

Source: Human Rights Commission

The Ombudsman’s investigations into the oversight of facilities and services for people with learning disabilities is timely says Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero.

The voices of people with learning disabilities have often been unheard or silenced for too long, says Ms Tesoriero.

“This is particularly so when people are living in secure residential facilities and have limited access to independent advocacy,” she says.

Ms Tesoriero says it is vital to evaluate whether the current arrangements protect the rights of people when they were detained or living in controlled environments.

We particularly welcome the Ombudsman’s statement referencing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This will ensure the investigation considers the extent to which people with learning disabilities:

  • maintain the right to give and withdraw consent to any medical treatment
  • can exercise  maximum personal autonomy, choice and control when they are living in restricted environments.
  • can access the right support to express their will and preferences and ensure that these are listened to.

Ms Tesoriero says it is important to investigate whether people with learning disabilities who are living segregated from others have decent living conditions that at least meet the minimum standards set out in human rights conventions.

“A 2017 report by Dr Sharon Shalev indicated that this was not always the case,” she says.

“We need robust processes to ensure people with learning disabilities are not unlawfully detained in inappropriate facilities or detained longer than they would have been had they been through the criminal justice system.

“While this investigation is focussed on the Ministry of Health, it may also shed light on the justice sector processes and whether all the safeguards and guarantees afforded to non-disabled people are also applied to disabled people,” Ms Tesoriero says.

“We also welcome the second investigation examining the data collection about deaths within services. This will be an important contribution to improving practice,” she says.

Details of the Ombudsman’s investigations can be found here.

Dr Shalev’s report can be found here.


Australia: Medivac Bill a welcome step towards humanity for refugees

Source: Amnesty International NZ

In response to the Medivac Bill passing the senate and the Prime Minister’s announcement that Christmas Island will be reopening Amnesty International Australia Refugee Coordinator Graham Thom said:

“The passing of the Medivac Bill is a welcome step towards humanity for the refugees on Manus and Nauru. It is reassuring that public opinion is finally being reflected in parliament through the many people that fought so hard to get the bill through.

“The passing of the Medivac Bill is a welcome step towards humanity for the refugees on Manus and Nauru. It is reassuring that public opinion is finally being reflected in parliament.”

Graham Thom,  Amnesty International Australia Refugee Coordinator

“In Hakeem’s case the Australian government recognised this and worked hard to ensure he was returned to Australia. But many other people with the same recognised refugee status as Hakeem remain detained in terrible conditions on Manus and Nauru.

“Most of the people on Manus Island and Nauru are recognised refugees who have proven their lives would be in danger if they were returned to their countries of origin. You can’t demonise the refugees on Manus and Nauru on one hand while welcoming others and praising their contribution to Australia.

“We are disappointed by the announcement today that Christmas Island is to reopen. We have seen time and time again that offshore processing is broken and creating yet another offshore centre for sick refugees will not fix the issue. Re-opening Christmas Island is nothing short of a cruel and unnecessary political stunt.”


17 recommendations from the United Nations Universal Periodic Review on disability

Source: Human Rights Commission

Earlier this month, United Nations member states made recommendations to improve human rights in New Zealand. There were 194 recommendations. Seventeen of the recommendations were specifically about disability. 

The recommendations have been published in a draft report. These will be finalised and presented to the New Zealand Government to accept or note. Once accepted they will become part of New Zealand’s National Plan of Action.

Here are the recommendations made to the New Zealand Government about disability. The country that made the recommendation is listed at the end of each recommendation. 

  1. Continue to work to fully harmonize national law with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Chile) 
  2. Pursue and implement the Zero Carbon Bill and the Environmental Health Action Plan, having taken into account the special vulnerabilities, views and needs of women, children, youth, persons with disabilities, and local and marginalised communities (Fiji)
  3. Increase employment opportunities for marginalized groups, and notably Māori, Pasifika, women and disabled persons (Hungary)
  4. Address discrimination in employment against indigenous persons, individuals belonging to ethnic minority groups, and individuals with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities, and remove barriers to their participation in the labour market in addition to funding further community support services, to include post-learning opportunities (United States of America)
  5. Continue its efforts in order to further the protection of Economic and Social Rights of vulnerable persons, including persons with disabilities (Greece)
  6. Continue its efforts in increasing the availability of quality affordable housing and to ensure equitable housing for the elderly, persons with disabilities, and all ethnic groups (State of Palestine)
  7. Enhance mental health policies with a view to guaranteeing that persons with mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities have access to appropriate mental health services, including community-based care, which respect their dignity and human rights (Brazil)
  8. Take immediate steps to combat solitary and solitary confinement in medical facilities applied to juveniles, persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers in prison and in all health care institutions (Syrian Arab Republic)
  9. Continue to strengthen efforts to combat domestic and all forms of gender-based violence, including sexual violence, particularly in relation to Māori and Pasifika women and girls, as well as women and girls with disabilities (Iceland)
  10. Work to combat discrimination against vulnerable children, including Māori and Pasifika children, children belonging to ethnic minorities, refugee and migrant children and children with disabilities (Syrian Arab Republic)
  11. Continue its efforts to extend welfare services and assistance to all persons with disabilities (Bulgaria)
  12. Continue its efforts in implementing legislation and strategies to promote and protect the rights of children and young people and persons with disabilities (Philippines)
  13. Harmonize its national legislation on the rights of persons with disabilities, especially in relation to inclusive education, with international standards (Peru)
  14. Strengthen efforts to combat marginalization and discrimination of children with disabilities, especially in their access to health, education, care and protection services (Belgium)
  15. Grant children with disabilities the right to quality inclusive education and to increase the provision of reasonable accommodation in primary and secondary education in line with international standards (Portugal)
  16. Continue the development of inclusive education programs for children with disabilities (France)
  17. Respect the rights of persons with mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons A/HRC/WG.6/32/L.1 12 with Disabilities, including by combatting institutionalization, stigma, violence and overmedicalization, and by developing community-based and people-centred mental health services which promote inclusion in the community and respect their free and informed consent (Portugal)

The Human Rights Commission made their own submission to the United Nations member states in a pre-session last year alongside other civil society organisations.

Pre-sessions are a standard part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). They enable National Human Rights Institutions, such as the Commission, and civil society organisations from the countries being reviewed to talk directly with representatives of the United Nations (UN) member states conducting reviews.

At the pre-session, the acting Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero addressed delegates of UN member states in attendance.

In October, the Human Rights Commission also facilitated an in-country pre-session in Wellington. The pre-session was attended by representatives from over 30 diplomatic embassies, who heard from a panel of 13 civil society organisations, each addressing a diverse range of human rights challenges facing New Zealand. The process was observed by over 60 civil society attendees. 

A list of the panel organisations, as well as copies of their advocacy fact sheets and presentations is available here.

The full Human Rights Commission submission on New Zealand’s third universal periodic review is available here.

The full list of recommendations is available here


“It is imperative we do not lack conviction” — Chief Commissioner

Source: Human Rights Commission

By Paul Hunt, Chief Human Rights Commissioner

Friends, we live in a dangerous world.

In many countries, there’s a pushback against human rights, toleration and respect for cultural diversity.

You know the countries. I don’t need to name them. They are not few.

This pushback coincides with a time of shocking global inequalities – deep global poverty – and a burning sense of injustice felt by millions of people.

Critically important global accords are being rejected.

Disarmament treaties are being disavowed.

I hesitate to say it – but one senses a fuse is being lit.

I’m not saying this is the same as the 1920s and 1930s which led to global war and the Holocaust.

But we would be foolish if we did not recognise some resonances, parallels and similarities between those calamitous times and today.

So it is imperative we resist the pushback against human rights that we are witnessing in some countries.

We must resist the ‘othering’ of people and communities — we must resist seeing other human beings as somehow alien — because we know from history that societies can slide from ‘othering’ — to demonization.

And we also know from history that societies can slide from demonization — to genocide.

‘Othering’, demonization, genocide – this is a well-known disastrous trajectory.

So we must vigorously resist the global pushback against human rights, toleration and respect for cultural diversity.

We must advance the human rights of everybody – we must insist on the human rights of all minorities – we must find ways to reinvigorate human rights for these dangerous times.

Here’s a mighty role for New Zealand – for all our peoples – to stand up for all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights for everyone — as mandated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was drafted in the shadow of the Holocaust.

As Chief Commissioner I will do all I can to bring human rights into the everyday realities of everyday lives, with a view to fortifying the dignity, equality and wellbeing of all.

In 1919, WB Yeats, the great Irish poet, wrote an astonishingly prophetic poem.

He seemed to foresee the impending disaster — and he warned the world: ‘Do not lack conviction’.

Exactly one hundred years later, we must heed his words:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Friends, it is imperative we do not lack conviction.

This speech was made by Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt, for the United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27th January, 2019 at Makara Cemetery, Wellington.


Amnesty International Israel: Government Ministers incite with “anti-semitism” to silence war-crime allegations towards Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Source: Amnesty International NZ

Since the publication of the new Amnesty International report “Destination: Occupation” last night, ministers in the Israeli government are attacking the Amnesty International movement as “anti-Semitic”. This is wild incitement based on lies, deception and misrepresentations that are easy to debunk, with the purpose of derailing public debate from the real issue, which is war crimes and other human rights abuses of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

We would like to reiterate: Antisemitism, and any other form of discrimination – are contradictory to human rights and we, as the largest and oldest human rights movement in the world, oppose any such discrimination, racism and hate crimes of all forms, be it on the basis of religion, ethnicity, race, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation or identity, or any other basis. Amnesty International publishes 150-200 press releases, reports and position papers each month relating to human rights violations around the world.

Back to our issue, we will clarify: as detailed in the new report, Amnesty International found a close connection between Israeli settlements and the violation of human rights of Palestinians on every aspect of their lives: The right to housing, to education, to health, to water and other natural resources, to life with dignity and livelihood, and more. The four online tourism companies discussed in the report make a profit from doing so, and contrary to the claims do not only publicize “sites of national heritage”, but also and mostly places of lodging, restaurants and a variety of ‘attractions’. Also, they deceive their users with their search engines by not clearly marking entries which are in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, on lands taken from Palestinians. Needless to say, that through the archaeological findings at these “heritage sites”, run by NGO’s identified with the settler community or by settlements themselves, the Israeli Government continues to manufacture the narrative and legitimacy to continue to appropriate in the Occupied territories.

Beyond this, this is not the first report Amnesty International has issued, examining the effect of Israeli illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories on the human rights of Palestinians. In this current report, as in the past, we call on world governments and the international companies based within, to not settle for condemnations and declarations regarding the construction of illegal settlements, bot to move from words to action.

As consensus increases surrounding the illegality of Israeli settlements, and the understanding that they lead to additional human rights violations, so increase the voices calling on Israel to meet the international standards and treaties for the protection of human rights in occupied land. Israel is a party to some of these treaties. Our call, as said, is directed to governments and international tourism companies.

Regarding BDS, Amnesty does not hold a position regarding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, does not support or partake in it, nor do we oppose it. Amnesty International believes every individual or group has the right to choose a nonviolent strategy to advance human rights. This right must be protected without it’s partakers being exposed to threats, harassment and/or sanctions, which violate of limit the individual’s right to freedom of expression.

Molly Malekar, Amnesty International Israel’s Programs Director, said: “Unlike Israeli Government ministers who attacked us, we at Amnesty International believe that the facts must speak for themselves. Ministers Erdan, Regev, Levin and Elkin are underestimating and belittling the citizens of Israel when they assume they can use such cheap rhetoric. We suggest to the Israeli public to reject this incitement, meant only to silence those who protest the industry of repression and dispossession for over fifty years. International Humanitarian Law and the protection of human rights were created by the global community following the genocide and horrors of the second world war, and as humans we have an obligation to protect the treaties that Israel has been part of creating. The cynical use made by the Israeli Government in archeological sites and historic heritage of the people of Israel to further political goals of repression and expulsion does not just aid war crimes, but creates a fertile ground for delegitimization of Israel in the global arena – at its own doing.


MIL-OSI New Zealand: Kazakhstan

Source: New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Safe Travel

  • Reviewed: 22 January 2019, 14:45 NZDT
  • Still current at: 22 January 2019

Exercise increased caution in Kazakhstan due to terrorism and violent crime.

There is an underlying threat of terrorism in Kazakhstan. On 18 July 2016, a gunman in Almaty killed three policemen and a member of the public. On 5 June 2016, a number of people were killed and injured in an attack in Aktobe in northwestern Kazakhstan. New Zealanders are advised to be security conscious in public places, monitor the media for information about threats to safety and security, and follow any advice and instructions issued by the local authorities.

Violent crime
Violent crime targeting foreigners has been reported in Atyrau and Aktau in western Kazakhstan, and in Astana and Almaty. New Zealanders in Kazakhstan should avoid walking alone and be especially cautious after dark in urban centres.

Robbery, pickpocketing and assaults can occur in shopping areas, markets, public transport, and restaurants. There have also been reports of travellers being robbed by individuals posing as police officers, or unsolicited ‘meet-and-greet’ drivers at airports. Never voluntarily give your wallet to someone, and always check for identification. Do not use unmarked taxis and avoid entering a cab that already has another passenger in the car. It is advisable to avoid wearing or displaying items that appear valuable such as mobile devices and jewellery.

General travel advice
Local police often ask to see proof of identity. Foreign nationals are required by Kazakhstan law to carry their passport and visa with them at all times.

New Zealanders travelling or living in Kazakhstan should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place that includes provision for medical evacuation by air. There are shortages of even the most basic medical supplies in Kazakhstan.

Travel tips

The New Zealand Embassy Moscow, Russian Federation is accredited to Kazakhstan

Street Address 3 Prechistenskaya Naberezhnaya, Moscow 119034, Russian Federation Telephone +7 495 956 3579 Alternate Telephone +7 495 956 3580 Fax +7 495 956 3583 Email Web Site Hours Mon – Fri 0900 – 1230, 1330 – 1730 hrs

See our regional advice for Central Asia

MIL OSI New Zealand

MIL-Evening Report: Bangsamoro Islamic troops choose peace via historic Philippines vote

By Sofia Tomacruz in Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao

Battle-scarred they might be, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have faced their toughest campaign yet.

Armed with nothing but a first-time vote, young troops from the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces prayed they would win the decades-old struggle for autonomy and independence through yesterday’s ballot.

More than 150,000 former combatants of the MILF are among the 2.8 million people who have registered to vote in the plebiscite, where the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) and the creation of a new, expanded Bangsamoro region will be decided.

WATCH: Sofia Tomacruz’s video reports and live updates from Rappler

New role? MILF chairman Murad Ibrahim (left) will likely become the Bangsamoro region’s chief minister if the organic law is ratified in yesterday’s referendum. Image: Malacañang file

MILF leader Al Hajj Murad Ibrahim cast his vote for the first time in the historic referendum seeking to ratify the law that will give more autonomy to the Philippines’ Muslim minority.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) is seen as the solution to the decades of separatist conflict in Mindanao, a region plagued by poverty and violent extremism, reports Arab News. More than 120,000 people have died in the conflict.


“This is my first time to vote,” said Murad. “During the height of the war, we never thought that this would happen. But after the progress of the peace process, we see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

It took the leader of the MILF, formerly the biggest Muslim group in the country, only a few minutes to case his “yes” vote.

First time vote
“I am happy that at least for the first time, I have exercised my right of suffrage,” he later said, adding that his participation in the voting signals the commencement of their transition from a revolutionary into the democratic process.

Like Murad, thousands of MILF fighters, along with their families, also trooped to polling centers yesterday to take part in the voting process, many of them for the first time.

“We are hoping that with this development, we can finally achieve the aspiration of our people for peace, progress and a good life in this part of the country and in the entire country,” Murad said.

Murad said that after the plebiscite, “hopefully the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the transitional government, will be immediately established and we will start to organise our government structure and after the BTA, a regular government in 2022.”

Murad said that once the BOL is implemented, their priorities would be education, medical services, social services,and infrastructure, adding that education was their top priority.

“For more than 50 years of war, many of our people have not obtained education. We cannot really progress if our people are not educated,” he said.

Murad said that as long as the vote is conducted in a fair manner with no manipulation, intimidation or cheating, they are “determined to accept whatever is the result.”

Chief minister
A chief minister will head the BTA and this position will likely go to Murad.

Before he talked peace with the government, Murad was a fearsome MILF commander.

Murad’s decades of rebellion began in 1972 when he joined the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by former University of the Philippines professor Nur Misuari.

A group within the MILF disagreed with Nur over a peace deal with the government and broke away in 1981. This group became the MILF.

Murad became the head of MILF’s army, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF). He commanded at least 12,000 men.

When MILF’s then-leader Hashim Salamat died in 2003, Murad took the reins.

After years of fighting government forces, the MILF began peace talks with the Arroyo and then the Aquino administration.

Signing witnessed
In 2012, Murad witnessed the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which laid the groundwork for the BOL.

The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country but Mindanao has a significant Muslim population.

Many regard the region as their ancestral homeland, dating back to the 13th Century when Arab traders first arrived, and over the decades various rebel groups sprang up demanding the right to self-rule.

Mindanao has seen a huge amount of violence in recent years – mainly between the army, Muslim separatists and other rebels.

The violence has left Mindanao one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.

The entire region of Mindanao is still under martial law, which was implemented in 2017 after clashes between the army and militants linked to IS.The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country but Mindanao has a significant Muslim population.

Ancestral homeland
Many regard the region as their ancestral homeland, dating back to the 13th Century when Arab traders first arrived, and over the decades various rebel groups sprang up demanding the right to self-rule.

Mindanao has seen a huge amount of violence in recent years – mainly between the army, Muslim separatists and other rebels.

The violence has left Mindanao one of the poorest regions in the Philippines.

The entire region of Mindanao is still under martial law, which was implemented in 2017 after clashes between the army and militants linked to IS.

If a majrity of the millions of voters from Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Cotabato City voted “yes” include their areas in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), a second voting day will take place on February 6.

This time, in Lanao del Norte – except Iligan City – and 7 towns in North Cotabato.

If a majority of voters in all areas agree to their inclusion, the new BARMM will be comprised of the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Cotabato City, 6 towns in Lanao del Norte, and 67 barangays in North Cotabato.


MIL-OSI New Zealand: Human rights and well-being need to be at the centre of Government’s reform agenda

Source: Human Rights Commission

The Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt is urging the New Zealand Government to place human rights, equality and well-being in the centre of its reform agenda.

Mr Hunt made the comments in response to the Justice Minister Andrew Little’s submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last night (Monday 21 January).

For decades, successive New Zealand governments have promised to improve how civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are implemented. This week, the United Nations is holding the government accountable for these commitments, which are binding in international law.

Minister Little updated United Nations member states on the human rights challenges New Zealanders face and how the Government intends to respond.

Mr Hunt noted that many of New Zealand’s human rights challenges arise from social and economic discrimination. Despite efforts by previous governments, Māori, Pacific peoples, women, migrants, refugees and disabled people experience markedly worse outcomes across a range of key indicators, such as housing, health, income, employment and education.

“I welcome the Minister’s frank acknowledgement to the United Nations of the need to urgently address systemic discrimination across many areas of New Zealand society, including health, employment, education and justice.

“I also note that many of the United Nations member states made recommendations regarding family violence, reducing discrimination – particulary in respect of Māori – and addressing a wide range of social and economic inequalities.

“We have almost 30 percent of New Zealand children living in households whose income falls below the income poverty line. As the United Nations has said for many years, poverty is a human rights issue.”

“And with New Zealand facing a housing crisis, the rising housing costs are hitting the poor hardest and the lack of accessible housing is affecting disabled people,” said Mr Hunt.

He acknowledged that the Government has committed to a reform agenda in several key areas, including budgetary planning, physical and mental health services, education, housing, welfare, tax, and historical abuse in State care and in the care of faith-based institutions. 

“These reforms have the potential to reduce inequalities, improve human rights outcomes for all and ensure that New Zealand complies with its international human rights obligations, including economic, social and cultural rights,” said Mr Hunt. 

“In particular, we welcome the introduction of the first “Wellbeing Budget” this year. This signifies the start of a movement towards a more holistic approach to measuring social, economic, cultural and environmental outcomes for New Zealanders. 

“We were also very encouraged by the cross-party support for the child poverty reduction legislation passed by Parliament late last year and the Government’s focus on family violence.” 

However, Mr Hunt observed that the Government does not take a consistent approach when integrating human rights, equality and well-being into policy and service delivery.  

“I strongly encourage the Government and all MPs to ensure that human rights, equality, well-being, fairness and dignity are placed at the centre of new law, policy and practice.”

“A human rights approach to the Government’s reform agenda will help to improve social, economic, cultural and environmental outcomes, and lead to a healthier society for all,” said Mr Hunt.

MIL OSI New Zealand

MIL-OSI New Zealand: Why it matters that New Zealand could receive its first LGBTI+ recommendation before the UPR

Source: Human Rights Commission

By Katharine Woolrych

Geneva — Worldwide, the rights of people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and sexual characteristics are under threat. Same-sex sexual activity is a crime in 72 countries, and can be punished with the death sentence in eight countries.  

Transgender people, whose gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth, and intersex individuals, those born with sex characteristics that differ what are typically seen as female or male traits, face barriers to having their gender identity recognised and respected. They are often are forced to endure the humiliation and long-term trauma of psychiatric diagnosis and non-consensual sterilisation or surgery. 

New Zealand’s third Universal Periodic Review, a five-yearly process whereby a state’s compliance with international human rights treaties and norms is assessed at the United Nations, may feature our first ever recommendation on these issues. On January 21st, representatives from the New Zealand Government will report to the UN on the status of human rights in New Zealand and any action (or intended action) by the government to ensure the full enjoyment of rights in New Zealand.   Following the presentation of the government’s report, UN Member States will make recommendations specific to areas in which New Zealand must improve. 

Despite receiving 228 recommendations over the past two cycles of the UPR, New Zealand has never received a recommendation related to LGBTI+ rights.  At the UPR Pre-Session in Wellington last October, representatives from the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Sexual Characteristics (SOGISC) Coalition and the Intersex Trust of Aotearoa New Zealand urged diplomats present at the Pre-Session representing 33 different countries to make bold recommendations to safeguard the rights of our rainbow communities.  

New Zealand has made progress on LGBTI+ rights. It decriminalised homosexuality in 1986, legislated protections against sexuality-based discrimination in our Human Rights Act, and adopted marriage equality in 2013.  Indeed, today New Zealand is proud to welcome many asylum seekers fleeing persecution on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation.  Yet the battle is far from won, particularly for intersex and transgender New Zealanders.  

A landmark report by the Human Rights Commission in 2008 outlined the extent to which trans people continue to face discrimination in all aspects of their lives, thus limiting their rights to dignity, equality and security. While some trans people are comfortable with the expression of their gender identity without some form of surgery, for others surgery is essential to live fully and authentically in their gender. These procedures have a 30-year plus waiting list in New Zealand for both trans feminine and trans masculine people, with access to publicly-funded surgeries limited to four surgeries every two years by the previous government. The new Government has committed to improving access by making this number the minimum rather than the maximum to be performed. However, many trans people continue to be forced to seek unsafe treatments overseas, sometimes with damaging consequences. 

During their presentation at the UPR Pre-Session, the SOGISC Coalition and the Intersex Trust took the opportunity of Intersex Awareness Day to highlight the fact that many doctors around New Zealand continue to perform non-consensual surgeries on intersex children. Speakers Aych McArdle and Elizabeth Kerekere called for legislative protections to comprehensively protect the rights to bodily autonomy of intersex and trans people, and for gender identity and sexual characteristics to be added as prohibited grounds for discrimination in the Human Rights Act.  The impassioned presentation on these issues at New Zealand’s UPR Pre-Session was met with an equally passionate audience response even featuring an impromptu standing waiata. This undoubtedly impressed upon the diplomats in attendance the importance of these issues for New Zealanders. 

Not only were diplomats prompted to consider these issues by the powerful civil society presentation, LGBTI+ rights featured for the first time in New Zealand’s National Report under ‘New and Emerging Issues’. In their report, the Government acknowledged the elevated risk of mental health issues and suicide risk in New Zealand’s LGBTI+ population, as well as issues of discrimination, access to appropriate health services, long waiting lists for surgery, and the treatment of transgender individuals in prison. 

With all these issues on the table, activists and community organisations, as well as members of the rainbow community and their whānau, will be watching closely to see which recommendations and by which States are made on this topic.  Should New Zealand receive its first recommendation on SOGISC issues, the Government then may choose to either ‘support’ (accept) or ‘note’ (reject) the recommendation. If New Zealand supports a recommendation for instance, to include gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics in the Human Rights Act at our next UPR in 2024 the Government would be expected to report on progress made towards this recommendation. Supporting recommendations does not equate to a legally binding commitment, but the regular UPR process is intended to hold States accountable. While States may still choose to dismiss any recommendation made to them at the UPR, international norms dictate that real consideration should be given to recommendations out of respect for other States.  

New Zealand in particular is eager to be seen as an upstanding participant in the ‘rules-based’ international system, and in 2014 accepted 121 out of 151 recommendations it was given in the second UPR cycle – a 78% acceptance rate.

While the UPR is criticised by some as a convenient means for self-aggrandisement on the part of States, recommendations also allow civil society organisations and activists huge leverage to hold their governments accountable and provoke real change.  Even recommendations that have been ‘noted’ may provide impetus for later implementation in response to public debate or civil society pressure. 

At this UPR, both Recommending States and our government must make clear that the discrimination, violence, abuse, and lack of access to services currently faced by New Zealand’s rainbow communities is unacceptable.  Recommendations at this UPR session have the potential to create real change in the form of legislation, public awareness campaigns, and funding for LGBTI+ support groups and services that allowing our rainbow communities the fundamental rights they deserve. 

Katharine Woolrych is a delegate with the Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute to the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva.

MIL OSI New Zealand

MIL-OSI Australia: Suspicious email warning

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

The Australian Human Rights Commission is aware of a suspicious email circulated on January 18, falsely claiming to be from Commission staff.

The email is sent from the address legalright @, which is not an email address used by the Commission.

Recipients are advised not to open any attachments and to delete the email.

The Commission has reported the email to relevant law enforcement.

Information on how to identify scam emails, and what to do, is available at

If you need to contact the Commission please find our legitimate contacts at

MIL OSI Australia