Section 123 of the New Zealand Crimes Act 1961 is a clear breach of international law, declarations, covenants, and conventions, and the New Zealand Bill of Rights and Human Rights Acts. The right to freedom of expression is customary international law (see International/Legal Recommendations for further details).
Section 123 is incompatible with:
- The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1948) Article 18 that guarantees the right to freedom of religion and belief and Article 19 that guarantees freedom of opinion and expression.
- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976) (ICPPR) is binding on signatory countries. It was ratified by New Zealand in December 1976. Article 18 of the Covenant guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and opinion and Article 19 guarantees the right to hold opinions and to freedom of expression.
- The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981). Articles 1,2, and 4 of this Declaration guarantee everyone the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and freedom from coercion regarding their religion or belief, subject only to the limits of law that is necessary. It guarantees freedom against discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief and calls on all states to prevent and eliminate discrimination and to rescind legislation to prohibit any such discrimination.
General Comment 34 of the Human Rights Committee dated 12 September 2011 on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights explains how blasphemy laws are incompatible with the covenant (see International/Legal recommendations).
Section 123 is incompatible with the following New Zealand Acts:
- The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 section 13, Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; section 14, Freedom of expression; and section 15, Manifestation of religion and belief (see International/Legal recommendations).
- The New Zealand Human Rights Act 1993 section 21 that prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religious belief; or ethical belief, which means the lack of a religious belief, whether in respect of a particular religion or religions or all religions.