The Human Rights Action Trust Aotearoa/New Zealand is a Charitable Trust that was registered as a charity (Reg. No. CC37775) with the Charities Commission currently on 30 June 2008. In its Trust Deed, available on the Commission’s website (www.charities.govt.nz), the Trust states its key Principles to include:
2.1 Pursuing social justice in Aotearoa/New Zealand through the promotion of, and respect for, the human rights of all persons, including the promotion of New Zealand’s obligations under international human rights law [e.g. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Humans Rights – to which the New Zealand government is a signatory].
2.2 Promoting an understanding of the inalienability, interdependence and universal application of all human rights laws.
2.4 Promoting the importance of human rights in the development and implementation of policy.
All three laudable principles designed to advance and promote community standards, clearly undergird an intended programme of political advocacy spelt out in the Trust’s statement of purposes, that include:
3.2 Provide policy advice to Government agencies, Parliamentary committees and such other legislative or Executive organs on the content of draft Bills proposed from a human rights perspective.
3.3 Provide a high quality, legal advice and advocacy service to bring litigation on matters relating to human rights or other issues of significant public interest.
It appears that the Charities Act 2005, as interpreted by the Charities Commission, permits registered charities to have such laudable principles and purposes as outlined above, involving a degree of “political advocacy” in the form of “advice” advanced to Parliamentary Committees by charity members or their representatives.
This advice may involve human rights lawyers commissioned by the Trust seeking to have legislators pass laws that embody a “correct” (i.e. the Trust’s) understanding of “a human rights perspective”. It may involve a charity such as Animal Rights Advocacy lobbying a Parliamentary Committee on behalf of ducks and geese to ensure that French restaurants such as Wellington’s Le Canard, are unable to serve up starter dishes (e.g. foie gras) that have allegedly involved perceived cruelty to these animals in the procuremenmt of their bloated livers as food delicacies (refer to SPCS posting on Animal Rights Advocacy).
It is laudable that registered “animal rights” and “human rights” charities are granted the “right” in law by the Charities Commission to lobby MPs on the critical “rights” issues noted above.