Statement delivered by Michelle McGillivray, Acting Permanent Representative, 10 July 2020

Madam President,

New Zealand is committed to the full realisation of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, which play a crucial role in promoting tolerance, diversity and pluralism.  These rights work in tandem with the right to freedom of expression to empower participation in democratic governance and enable individuals to claim the full suite of human rights.   We have seen recently, all around the world for a variety of reasons, people raising their voices, gathering peacefully, and participating in the conduct of public affairs. New Zealand is concerned however by instances where peaceful public assembly has been met with repression, including the disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials, arbitrary arrests and detention of protesters, as well as Internet shutdowns. 

We acknowledge the impact of COVID-19 on the realisation of these rights. Many governments– including New Zealand – imposed a range of temporary measures that restricted civil liberties, including on gatherings and control of peoples’ movement, to try to contain the health crisis. 

However, COVID-19 must not be used as a pretext for infringing human rights. Restrictions based on public health concerns may be justified only where they are necessary and proportionate. New Zealand urges member states to ensure a timely and full wind back of restrictions, at the earliest opportunity.

New Zealand thanks the Special Rapporteur for his valuable contribution and urges member states to recommit to the full realisation of these fundamental rights.

Thank you Madam President