New Zealand showed some leadership on human rights in the past year but needs to do much more, an annual report card by Amnesty International says.

The "State of the World's Human Rights" report, released this afternoon, applauded New Zealand's work on the international stage as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

It had shown "glimpses of ... leadership" by lobbying for humanitarian access to Syria and in urging permanent members to be restrained in their use of veto powers, the report said.

However, this positive work was "dampened" by the Government's decision not to raise its relatively small refugee quota. There were also concerns about asylum seekers being detained alongside remand prisoners in New Zealand.


"New Zealand's own announcement to take an emergency intake of 600 Syrian refugees over three years was a welcome and life-saving response but didn't come anywhere close to doing its fair share in the global refugee crisis," Amnesty International New Zealand's executive director Grant Bayldon said.

"The time has passed for token gestures, New Zealand must take its global responsibilities seriously."

The report also criticised New Zealand's record on domestic violence, children's rights, privacy issues, and the over-representation of Maori in New Zealand prisons.

Maori make up 51 per cent of the prison muster, despite only being 15 per cent of the total population.

Amnesty said New Zealand's "full-take" collection of data in the Pacific Region -- which is being investigated by the Government's independent spying watchdog -- was "questionable".

The annual report coincided with Prime Minister John Key's trip to Sri Lanka.

Mr Bayldon said Amnesty had grave concerns about Sri Lanka's human rights record, and he urged Mr Key to represent more than just New Zealand's trading interests during his visit.

Sri Lanka's report card showed significant improvement on human rights issues over the past year but also highlighted ongoing abuses, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, enforced disappearances and other matters.