Friday, March 20, 2009

A threat to our good name

Select committee hearings have begun on the government's draconian "three strikes" law, and MFAT has pointed out the obvious: that the law is a threat to our international reputation. New Zealand is a party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which outlaws arbitrary detention, and to the Convention Against Torture, which outlaws cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. In addition, we are parties to individual complaints mechanisms for both, which allow prisoners subjected to such treatment to complain directly to the relevant monitoring body. passing the law will eventually result in a complaint under one or other Convention, and almost certainly in an adverse report.

This matters. Our reputation as a strong advocate for human rights is a core underpinning of our mana-based foreign policy. Destroying it with this law won't just result in complaints - it will result in a direct loss of influence on the international stage.

ACT is of course outraged, highlighting the poor human rights record of some members of the UN HRC (the joys of international democracy) - but its not those countries we are concerned about. Rather it is the key upholders of human rights - the EU, Canada, and increasingly South America - which we will lose influence with. And given that influence is the only thing we have, that is serious.

(Oh, and someone needs to tell David Garrett that the US is not regarded as an international model for human rights - precisely because it practices the sorts of cruel punishments he advocates)