Apirana Mahuika et al. v. New Zealand

Comm. No. 547/1993, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/70/D/547/1993 (2000)

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Apirana Mahuika et al. v. New Zealand

United Nations Human Rights Committee
Comm. No. 547/1993, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/70/D/547/1993 (2000)

Facts

In 1980 New Zealand (defendant) implemented measures to combat the overexploitation of its inshore fisheries. These measures included a moratorium on new commercial fishing permits and the elimination of part-time permits for commercial fishing. Most of the part-time commercial fishers belonged to the Maori, a minority group composed of 81 tribes and around 500,000 people. The unintended effect of eliminating the part-time permits was that Maori fishers were no longer able to fish commercially. When the government also implemented a quota-management system for commercial fishing a few years later, the Maori tribes received an interim injunction. Fishing was a critical feature of Maori religion and culture, in which there was little distinction between commercial and noncommercial fishing. Maori negotiators met with government officials to develop a settlement. It was proposed that the government would assist the Maori in acquiring 50 percent ownership of New Zealand and Australia’s largest fishing company, and the Maori could secure quotas and participate in fishing policies. The Maori negotiators took the proposals to the tribes. Fifty of the 81 tribes, representing over 200,000 Maori, supported the settlement. New Zealand then implemented the agreement via a settlement act. Per the settlement, Maori fishing rights would be accounted for in regulations but were not enforceable through litigation. The Maori’s noncommercial fishing rights would continue to be protected pursuant to an earlier treaty with the British Crown from 1840. However, Apirana Mahuika and 18 other Maori individuals (plaintiffs) authored a communication alleging that the government's actions had hindered their way of life and the expression of their culture through fishing in their territories in violation of Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

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