Limitations on the government: your minimum rights
International human rights law
New Zealand is party to a number of treaties and conventions that recognise universal human rights. It’s generally expected that New Zealand will act within the limitations set by these treaties.
For example, New Zealand is party to:
- The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Each treaty has an agency that looks at how individual countries are following the requirements of the treaty. For example, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee looks after the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
What happens if New Zealand law is inconsistent with international human rights law?
New Zealand can sign treaties with other countries, but the treaties are not legally binding on the government until parliament makes a new law which brings that international law into the laws of New Zealand.
The Courts will usually try to interpret New Zealand law to align with international law even when parliament has not yet brought those treaties into New Zealand law. This is because the Courts usually think that parliament would not want to make laws that don’t match with what New Zealand should be doing under international law.