Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2017, 15:10 GMT

Amnesty International Report 2002 - New Zealand

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2002
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2002 - New Zealand , 28 May 2002, available at: [accessed 11 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Covering events from January-December 2001

New Zealand
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Dame Silvia Cartwright (replaced Michael Hardie Boys in April)
Head of government: Helen Clark
Capital: Wellington
Population: 3.8 million
Official language: English
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
2001 treaty ratifications/signatures: Optional Protocol to the UN Children's Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict

An inquest into a fatal police shooting during 2000 began but was postponed indefinitely. Immigration officials expanded their powers to detain asylum-seekers.


The government started to implement a program of improvements to New Zealand's system of human rights protection and promotion, especially on discrimination. In September, human rights were made a central criterion and a priority goal for New Zealand's program of overseas aid.

In December, parliament passed the Human Rights Amendment Act, based on a long-term review into New Zealand's compliance with its international obligations, called "Consistency 2000".

Under the new legislation, the government was obliged to comply fully with human rights standards, including those on discrimination based on age, disability or sexual orientation. The Act clarified and extended government responsibilities, reformed the national Human Rights Commission and strengthened human rights dispute resolution mechanisms and made them more accessible.

New bodies were established, including an Office for Human Rights Proceedings, with powers to pursue litigation in cases not resolved through mediation, and a Human Rights Review Tribunal, whose decisions are legally binding. The law also gave the Human Rights Commission limited monitoring and inquiry powers on government decisions affecting immigration, including the rights of asylum-seekers and refugees.

Police shooting inquest

In June, the Coroner's inquest into the fatal police shooting of Steven Wallace at Waitara in 2000 was adjourned, and in September indefinitely postponed, because his family started a private murder prosecution against a police officer. Under New Zealand law, inquests can only resume after the completion of such private prosecution. The shooting had prompted public debate about police use of lethal force and an inquiry was held, headed by a retired judge. In April, he recommended greater investigative powers for the Police Complaints Authority in serious cases, so that its investigations become less dependent on the police itself. An internal police review commissioned in June in response to Steven Wallace's death reportedly warned of an increasing reliance of officers on their guns.


In August, Prime Minister Helen Clark committed New Zealand to accept up to 150 mostly Afghan refugees who had been rescued from an Indonesian boat by a Norwegian ship and denied the right to claim asylum in Australia. After their registration by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on the Pacific island of Nauru, where they had been taken by the Australian authorities, New Zealand officials transferred 131 men, women and children to the Mangere Refugee Centre at Auckland, where they were held until granted refugee status in December.

In September, the immigration service increased its powers to detain asylum-seekers, including children and juveniles, for prolonged periods – possibly beyond those permissible under international norms. They appeared to be in conflict with the governmentpublic assertions that the detention of asylum-seekers was not a solution to concerns about refugee applicants expressed by some politicians following the attacks in the USA of 11 September.

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