“No reference was made to the enactment of Bill of Rights-inconsistent legislation, to the issues with the reporting mechanism, nor to any of the Law Society’s rule of law concerns”
In Law Talk, the NZLS Committee members Andrew Butler, Joss Opie and Peter Barnett also complained that the government had failed to highlight the issues they had raised around the rule of law:
“Disappointingly, the Law Society’s concerns were not addressed in the final report. For example, no reference was made to the enactment of Bill of Rights-inconsistent legislation, to the issues with the reporting mechanism, nor to any of the Law Society’s rule of law concerns.”
“Part of the means by which that improvement can occur is through the quality of the process of talking about human rights issues. While the Government is, of course, entitled to disagree with the Law Society’s views, recognising those views, engaging with them, and setting out the Government’s position on them would improve the quality of the domestic and international conversation.”
So does this mean that the Government has been trying to cover up the Law Society’s criticisms? Well, no. The Law Society itself says:
“The UPR process provides for input by and consultation with non-governamental organisations. As part of this, on 17 June 2013 the New Zealand Law Society submitted a shadow report to the UN Human Rights Council.”
This is very important. The UNHRC already had a copy of their report and its concerns. Their concerns weren’t ignored by the New Zealand government – they were ignored by the United Nations. The Government responds to queries raised by member states after they have read all the submission from NGOs.
A reader has e-mailed an explanation:
“The process for these reports is that submissions to the Office of the High Commission of Human Rights, including the NZLS shadow report and other matters raised, are summarised by OHCHR in the stakeholder report. Then it’s up to the members of the HRC to raise or not raise those matters through the question and/or recommendation procedure. In this case – of all the criticisms they chose to raise – the NZLS’s rule of law concerns didn’t interest the Council members enough to raise the matter once during their questions.”
So the Law Society’s shadow report was provided to the UN directly and summarised by the High Commission to the Council in preparation for New Zealand’s statement. Out of the 105 individual points raised by council members during New Zealand’s appearance, none were following up the Law Society’s shadow report.
Chris Finlayson was understandably unimpressed with the Law Society’s comments about being ignored:
“The Law Society has an important role to play in contributing to the creation of quality legislation,” he said in a statement.
“But it diminishes its standing by continually crying wolf over non-existent human rights issues that really just reflect the personal taste of some of its members.”
Given the rest of the advice that the members of the Council gave New Zealand, I think if there had been any human rights issues in the Law Society’s report, they would have been seized on eagerly. It is rather sad that the Law Society takes a cheap shot at the Government when the ones they should be blaming is themselves for writing a submission so lacking in effectiveness that they couldn’t get a single member of 47 strong UN Human Rights Council to think their issues were worth raising.