Cameron Walker

The term “terrorism” is problematic because it is both descriptive and pejorative.  It can be used to describe horrific behaviour that ought to be widely condemned, such as the indiscriminate attacks of 9/11 or the 2002 Bali bombing. But it also has been used to denounce groups who have engaged in armed struggle, without regular resort to killing civilians, in countries where peaceful protest has been thwarted by state repression.

During solidarity campaigns to oppose Apartheid and the Indonesian occupation of East Timor, New Zealand human rights activists supported groups denounced as terrorists by New Zealand and other Western countries. (more…)

An interview with Peter Williams QC (Part Two)

Peter Williams QC is New Zealand’s most recognisable criminal lawyer. Since being admitted to the bar in 1960, Peter has undertaken some of the most significant trials in New Zealand’s history, which has included representing figures such as Arthur Allen Thomas, Terry “Mr Asia” Clark, and the Bassett Road machine gun murderers. He has also been a relentless campaigner for prisoner rights, trying to ensure that prisoners have decent conditions whilst incarcerated. We sat down with Peter to discuss the state of prisons today, miscarriages of justice, and what is needed to prevent the most vulnerable people in our society being victimised. (more…)

An interview with Peter Williams QC

Peter Williams QC is New Zealand’s most recognisable criminal lawyer. Since being admitted to the bar in 1960, Peter has undertaken some of the most significant trials in New Zealand’s history, which has included representing figures such as Arthur Allen Thomas, Terry “Mr Asia” Clark, and the Bassett Road machine gun murderers. He has also been a relentless campaigner for prisoner rights, trying to ensure that prisoners have decent conditions whilst incarcerated. We sat down with Peter to discuss the state of prisons today, miscarriages of justice, and what is needed to prevent the most vulnerable people in our society being victimised. (more…)

Sam Jeffs

Kim Dotcom’s battle through the courts continues, with the Court of Appeal recently delivering a blow to Dotcom’s campaign. In Attorney-General v Dotcom, the Crown appealed the High Court decision that found the search warrants served on Dotcom, during the raid on his mansion, were illegal.[1] The Crown also appealed the High Court ruling that forensic copying (known as “cloning”) of data by the FBI from seized computers was illegal. Dotcom has expressed his intention to appeal this decision, given the Court of Appeal accepted that the search warrants were valid despite a number of deficiencies.

Background

Dotcom’s story has become infamous. The Megaupload founder and internet mogul was arrested on 20 January 2012 after a dawn raid, at the behest of the United States, that featured two helicopters and 76 police officers. Three associates of Dotcom were also arrested.[2] What followed — and continues to follow — has been a series of legal skirmishes. The United States seeks to have Dotcom extradited to face copyright and money laundering charges,[3] while Dotcom parries back with allegations of illegality and a claim for damages.

This judgment pertained to a narrower set of circumstances; the search warrants executed during the raid and the subsequent plight of seized computer data. The search warrants led to “more than 135 electronic items … containing an estimated 150 terabytes of data” being taken by the New Zealand police (at [1]). The FBI subsequently made clones of some of the electronic data on the seized computers — with the consent of the Commissioner of Police — and took some of those clones back to the USA. (more…)

Anna Crowe

While domestic debates around the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) have focused on its role in spying on New Zealanders, more questions need to be asked about its involvement in mass surveillance of the electronic communications of people living outside New Zealand. Now the European Parliament, a body directly elected by the citizens of the 28 countries of the European Union (EU), is taking New Zealand to task for spying on Europeans’ communications.

The European Parliament’s powerful Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (the “LIBE” Committee) yesterday condemned New Zealand for its involvement in mass surveillance as part of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing network that comprises signals intelligences agencies of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The LIBE Committee voted to refer a motion to the Parliament regarding the US National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance of European communications (a draft was first made public over a month ago, but appears to have escaped the notice of the New Zealand media). This motion includes the following statement:[1]

 “[A]ccording to the information revealed and to the findings of the inquiry conducted by the LIBE Committee, the national security agencies of New Zealand, Canada and Australia have been involved on a large scale in mass surveillance of electronic communications and have actively cooperated with the US under the so called ‘Five eyes’ programme, and may have exchanged with each other personal data of EU citizens transferred from the EU.”

The motion damningly states that the revelations “seriously affect trust in the legal systems of these countries [New Zealand and Canada] as regards the continuity of [data] protection afforded to EU citizens”. The draft motion is the result of a six-month long inquiry the LIBE Committee conducted into NSA mass surveillance, involving hearings with representatives of civil society organisations, parliamentarians from across the EU, members of the US Congress, journalists, IT experts, former members of the intelligence community, and others. The European Parliament will consider the motion in mid-March; seasoned observers consider that a majority of the members of that body will vote in favour of it. (more…)

- Sam Bookman

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As is fashionable at this time of year, we take a look back at the past year and see what it meant for human rights in New Zealand. While a relatively quiet year for human rights in the courts (particularly the Supreme Court), 2013 will be remembered for two pieces of legislation with major human rights implications: the passage of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act 2013, and the Government Communications Security Bureau Amendment Act 2013, along with its related legislation. This post will examine 2013 human rights developments in a number of key areas. (more…)

- Sam Bookman

Proponents of human rights are all too often accused of giving insufficient regard to the rights of victims. Part of this perception lies in the emphasis that human rights advocates place on fair trial rights, and the need to ensure criminal defendants are treated fairly by the court process. Yet, increasingly human rights advocates are turning their attention to the rights of victims and the need to make sure that they are also protected by the criminal justice system.

The urgency of this need has once again been emphasised by the appalling revelations of the “Roastbusters” episode. The media and politicians have expressed shock at police statements that the victims of this alleged behaviour did not come forward. In highly objectionable language, the police claimed that they were simply “not brave enough”. It has revealed what rape prevention advocates have known for a long time: that the spectre of the court process can be, for many victims, tantamount to a “second rape”.[1] Being required to provide a detailed description of highly intimate and stigmatised activities, and having to face an alleged perpetrator in court – who in many cases may still wield significant power over the victim – are understandably traumatising experiences for many people. For this reason, it is estimated that the vast majority of sexual crimes – up to 90% – go unreported.

Without wishing to comment specifically on the “Roastbusters” episode – to do so would be to unnecessarily dredge up distressing material, and compromise possible justice outcomes – this article will examine the difficulties experienced by sexual victims in relation to the criminal justice system, and attempt to draw on some possible solutions. It is acknowledged that this article is limited in its contribution: ultimately, the best-placed voices to address this issue are the victims of such crimes, and this post is in no way intended to drown out those perspectives. Readers are encouraged to explore those contributions further. (more…)

AlexMacKenzie

Introduction

Because human rights are a fundamentally individual phenomenon, at first glance one would assume that even in the case of children, “the simple fact that they are human beings means that they have rights that dictate what others may or may not do to them”.[1] While this sounds acceptable in theory, in practice it is odd to think of a child as having freedom when it comes to rights. On the one hand, it is “meaningless to speak of a baby or a very young child exercising autonomy and self-determination”.[2] But on the other, freedom implies some notion of conscious control, so freedom without choice doesn’t make sense. This article argues that it is fallacious to move from the premise that the conventional conception of rights does not fit children perfectly to the premise that children do not have rights. Rather, the better conclusion is that the nature and justification of children’s rights differs to those of adults, and it is the job of the legal scholar to clarify this murky area of the law. It then explores the concept of religious freedom and how it applies to children in a legal context at international law.

(more…)

- Sam Jeffs

Introduction

The High Court of Australia recently heard Bugmy v R, where an Aboriginal man had assaulted a Correctional Officer by throwing a number of pool balls at him and his colleagues (the judgment is yet to be released). The essence of the appeal fell to the role of Mr Bugmy’s Aboriginal ethnicity, particularly in light of Hoeban JA’s comments in the Supreme Court of New South Wales that, “with the passage of time, the extent to which social deprivation in a person’s youth and background can be taken into account, must diminish” (at [50]).

 In light of our neighbour’s highest court hearing this matter, it is useful to reflect upon our own response to Maori offenders and the degree to which ethnicity may be relevant at sentencing. This will primarily involve a discussion of ss 8(i) and 27 of the Sentencing Act 2002, both of which give recognition to an offender’s cultural background. (more…)

Cameron Walker

At the end of May, Oxfam New Zealand’s report on labour and environmental conditions in the Philippine banana plantations, that supply the large fruit importing company Dole, received widespread media attention.  The report documented a number of serious abuses of workers’ rights including the use of child labour, workers being paid below the local minimum wage and planes spraying noxious pesticides overhead as workers toiled in the fields below.  One section of the Oxfam banana report provides alarming details of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) intimidating workers who wanted to join a union.  A worker described being held at gunpoint by soldiers and told to leave the union.  Others reported that during an industrial dispute soldiers visited the homes of union members and threatened their families that the workers should leave the union and accept the company’s contract that offered poorer pay and working conditions than the one the union could negotiate.  The soldiers claimed the union was a front of the Communist Party of the Philippines, whose armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA) has been fighting the government since the 1960s.  The AFP’s behaviour in this situation is emblematic of a wider wave of killings, disappearances and other serious human rights abuses that have targeted left wing organisations over the past decade. (more…)