Protection Against Slavery in New Zealand

Author: Heesterman, Katja

Date: 2014

Type: Scholarly text

Link to this item using this URL:

Victoria University of Wellington


The European Court of Human Rights decision in CN v The United Kingdom highlighted that slavery remains a modern problem. It may no longer resemble the traditional picture of slavery dramatically presented by Hollywood but it is no less on an issue. Modern slavery is less visible; it is hidden away within homes, normal workplaces or in overseas factories. This paper argues that New Zealand’s current treatment of slavery is inadequate exemplified by the absence of prosecutions. Thorough protection of slavery requires clear definitions that courts can easily apply. This paper explores how the Bill of Rights could be used to remedy this situation. This paper argues for the application of the Drittwirkung concept to give a horizontal effect to a right against slavery. Furthermore it is argued that New Zealand is under positive obligations to actively prevent rights violations, not merely avoid them. These positive obligations are a key component of modern human rights jurisprudence and can be read into the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. This paper speculates that one action courts could take is to undertake the development of a tort action against slavery.

Subjects: New Zealand Bill of Rights 1990, Positive obligation, Slavery, New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, Drittwirkung, European Court of Human Rights