New Zealanders pride themselves on striving to be a fair, humane and just society, and taking part in
international efforts to ensure those same values across the world. Currently, New Zealand is a party
to seven core international human rights treaties of the United Nations and has implemented various
domestic laws in order to give the rights contained in these instruments explicit legal expression and
But in the face of changing political and legal landscapes here and abroad, the presence of New Zealand forces overseas and new 21 century challenges to human rights protections, it is crucial that
the obligations New Zealand has assumed under international law are honoured and fulfilled.
For this reason, a group of young lawyers have teamed together to establish an organisation focused
on advancing human rights issues and promoting effective legal protection of human rights in New
Zealand. The creation of the Aotearoa New Zealand Human Rights Lawyers Association follows the
recent launch of the New Zealand Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy and Practice at the University
of Auckland. “Having a Human Rights Lawyers Association alongside the Centre lends the
considerable weight of the legal profession to those most fundamental freedoms and provisions”, says
Chris Mahony, the Deputy Director of the Human Rights Centre. “It sends a clear message – ‘this is
not theory, where ever these rights are threatened or breached, lawyers, and the legal profession, will
The Association aims to increase awareness of human rights issues through education and advocacy
and to place respect of the country’s human rights obligations at the forefront of judicial and legislative
decision making. The Association and Centre will work together in order to support the education of
both the public and legal practitioners on human rights issues and to critically engage with human
rights issues in New Zealand.
The Association intends to be actively involved in assisting individuals and organisations to make use
of remedies and mechanisms in international human rights law, but also presenting human rights
arguments in the New Zealand courts. Kris Gledhill, the Director of the Human Rights Centre, noted
that “New Zealand led from the front in enacting the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 to allow
human rights arguments to be advanced in domestic litigation. The model has been adopted by the
UK, Ireland, and now the ACT and Victoria. We hope that the Centre and the Human Rights Lawyers
Association can work together to ensure that these arguments are put forward when they should be.”
Similar lawyers’ associations are already well-established in a number of other countries, including
the United Kingdom and Canada. It is hoped that the NZ Association can foster cooperation and
collaboration with these organisations and other legal practitioners internationally so as to better
further the Association’s goals and facilitate a broader understanding of human rights.
The Association is to be governed by an advisory council of eminent academics and practitioners in
the New Zealand human rights legal community. Membership to the organisation will be open to all
admitted barristers and solicitors in New Zealand who are interested in human rights law and the
The Human Rights Lawyers Association is being formally launched on Tuesday 26 June at a public
lecture by Judge Jonathan Moses on the importance of being a lawyer active in human rights, to
which Grant Illingworth QC will add words of support. The lecture will be held at 6.30pm at the Stone
Lecture Theatre at the Faculty of Law, Level 3, 9 Eden Crescent. Drinks and nibbles from 6pm, Staff
Common Room, Faculty of Law.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.