Monday, February 12, 2007

No plans to sign

New Zealand claims to be strong supporter of human rights on the international stage. However, last week the government refused to sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, a human rights treaty similar to the Convention Against Torture which would outlaw the practice of forced disappearance and ensure that its perpetrators are brought to justice. I was a little curious as to why, and so I asked MFAT. Their response was to reiterate New Zealand's strong support for human rights, and to note that

New Zealand joined consensus supporting the adoption of this Convention in the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee in November 2006. At this time New Zealand also gave an explanation of position which is available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.

That statement of position can be read here. The primary concerns seem to be around inconsistencies with existing international law, notably the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. However, the inconsistencies are not great (the Rome statute defines "enforced disappearance" slightly differently, to include disappearances carried out by "political organisations" rather than just states, but also requires that they be "for a prolonged period of time"), and in both the examples given, they note that the Convention can be interpreted in a manner consistent with that statute and that New Zealand intends to do so. Furthermore, it is perfectly possible - and indeed, common practice - to sign a treaty with that sort of reservation on interpretation. However, the government does not intend to do so. According to an MFAT spokesperson, New Zealand "has no immediate plans" to sign or ratify the Convention.

Whether this is consistent with our claimed "strong support of human rights" is left as an exercise for the reader.