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Source: Human Rights Commission

The Government must listen to the Muslim community to rectify its failure to act in the past, says the Human Rights Commission.   

The Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand (IWCNZ) submission to the Royal Commission of Inquiry was released this week.  

Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon said the IWCNZ submission details shortcomings by government and several public entities when exercising their duties and obligations. 

“The IWCNZ submission is a stark reminder that the Government and public sector agencies failed to listen to the Muslim community in the past. We urge the Royal Commission to seriously consider the points raised by the IWCNZ and listen closely to the Muslim community,” said Foon. 

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said IWCNZ’s submission was a timely reminder that the human rights responsibilities of the public service need to be briefly and explicitly recognised in new public service legislation. The Public Service Legislation Bill is before the Committee of the House.  

IWCNZ’s submission calls for government to take a human rights approach to policy development stating: “If a human rights approach had been adopted by the Departments with whom IWCNZ was engaging, it is likely there would have been very different outcomes in the delivery of the respective and much-needed public services to the Muslim community.” 

In March, Hunt wrote to the State Services Minister Chris Hipkins, recommending that the public service’s human rights responsibilities are briefly and explicitly acknowledged in the Bill. 

“As the IWCNZ’s submission confirms, our state services play a pivotal role in the delivery of New Zealand’s national and international human rights commitments,”said Hunt. 

“The Bill has vital implications for human rights in New Zealand. The state has the primary responsibility to promote and protect communities’ human rights and freedoms. Calamites like 15 March can be avoided if the Public Service Legislation Bill briefly and explicitly affirms the constitutional role of the public service in delivering the country’s national and international human rights commitments.”

The Chief Human Rights Commissioner has previously urged the Royal Commission of Inquiry to ramp up its efforts to include the Muslim community in its work. 

“The Human Rights Commission will continue to work with IWCNZ and the Muslim community when the inquiry releases its report this month to ensure their voices are heard, and it is also ready and willing to work with the government,” says Meng Foon.