Human Rights Commission listens to protesters

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt has started a conciliatory process with a section of protesters in an effort to help de-escalate the Parliament protest.

The meeting held this afternoon included representatives from Voices for Freedom and the Human Rights Commission. Others represented included the Police, Freedom and Rights Coalition and independents.

“The job given to the Human Rights Commission, Te Kāhui Tika Tangata, by Parliament is to listen, conciliate, educate and advance human rights and responsibilities for all” says Hunt.

“It’s clear that the protesters who I have met with have very real stories of loss and suffering. They feel broken and discarded due to the impact of Covid-19 health measures on their lives.

“These are people who have told us they have lost loved ones, who say they have suffered severe side-effects of vaccination and lost jobs.

“I have a duty to listen to their concerns to understand how their human rights have been impacted,” says Hunt.

“In my discussions, I make it clear that I am not affirming their views and I condemn the outrageous conduct of some protesters. I also acknowledge the harmful impact the protest has had on many in our community.”

Chief Commissioner Hunt says that listening to the claims of the protesters is an important contribution to help prevent the protests from dragging across months or turning into further violence, as other Covid-related protests overseas have.

“In such a heated, fraught moment, we have to move from fear, to hope, and that cannot be done without listening and talking.”

The conciliation being led by Chief Commissioner Hunt will continue as a multistage process, and involve a range of stakeholders, including mana whenua, the Police, the Commission’s chief mediator and the Mayor of Wellington. Hunt has asked the Prime Minister to ensure her government engages in this constructive process.

The Chief Commissioner has extensive experience engaging in difficult conflicts as a United Nations Special Rapporteur, including as an investigator into Guantanamo Bay, as well as the Lebanon/Israel conflict of 2006. 

The Commission recently provided a report on special conditions that vaccine mandates should meet to fulfil human rights requirements.

The Commission has faced an unprecedented increase in complaints and inquiries since the beginning of the traffic light system. It has also been running a campaign, Dial-it-Down, to encourage people to maintain respectful communication with each other online and in person.

The Vaccine Mandate Special Conditions report referenced is available here.

Public Statement by Guy Hatchard Ph.D. Following a meeting with the Chief Commissioner Paul Hunt of the NZ Human Rights Commission