United Nations officials have sent a "please explain" letter to the Government asking for information about aspects of last year's high-profile police raids in the Bay of Plenty.
The letter is understood to raise specific issues about the surveillance operation that led to raids in Ruatoki, and to ask about people being removed from their cars to be photographed.
The UN officials are believed to be interested in the human rights aspects of the raids and particularly New Zealand's adherence to various international treaties it has signed up to.
Duty Minister Rick Barker confirmed yesterday that a letter had been received and it would be replied to "in due course" by the Government through the correct channels.
A spokesman said that the UN letter was not an investigation in itself, but simply a request for information.
But the Maori Party quickly tried to seize on the letter as "another incident of international humiliation" for the Government.
Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell cited previous criticisms by the UN of indigenous rights in New Zealand.
"The Government cannot keep blaming the UN Committee, the UN officials, and Maori themselves for the shocking reputation they have acquired in the way in which they treat the indigenous peoples of Aotearoa," Mr Flavell said.
"The people of Tuhoe did not deserve to be treated with such contempt."
The raids sparked controversy in October when the police sought to charge people under the Terrorism Suppression Act, only to have Solicitor-General David Collins decide they couldn't because it was too difficult to apply the "incomprehensible" law to the evidence that had been gathered.
Sixteen people faced weapon charges resulting from the police investigation and some cases are continuing.
Moana Jackson, a spokesman for the lawyers representing those affected by the raids, said yesterday a complaint had been laid with the UN about the raids but the letter to the Government did not relate to that.
Asked what the people involved in the complaint hoped to achieve by approaching the UN, Mr Jackson said it gave the people another avenue to tell their story.
In addition, he saw value in the diplomatic questions and "international embarrassment" he felt the Government would be subjected to.
UN TO NZ GOVT
* Aspects of the Terrorism Suppression Act.
* Aspects of the surveillance operation that led to the raids.
* People being taken out of their cars to be photographed.
* Certain issues around the searches that were carried out.