The report is a comprehensive look at human rights work of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) around the world in 2010. It highlights the UK’s human rights concerns on key issues and countries of concern and is a further concrete demonstration of the Foreign Secretary’s commitment to strengthening the FCO’s work on human rights at home and overseas.
The report is more comprehensive than previous years and is being hosted online to make it much more accessible to the public. We will publish updates every three months to highlight key human rights events and actions that take place in each of the featured countries of concern. The update for the first three months of 2011 will also be published online. People will be able to comment on the report and read, share and host the sections of the report that interest them. The report informs Parliament, NGOs and the general public about our work on human rights and enables them to hold us to account for our policy and activities. Read the Foreign Secretary’s speech in full.
Speaking at the launch at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office today, the Foreign Secretary said:
“Our government promised from the outset a foreign policy that will always have support for human rights and poverty reduction at its irreducible core. It is not in our character as a nation to have a foreign policy without a conscience, and neither is it in our interests: The belief in political and economic freedom, in human rights and in the rule of law, are part of our national DNA. Where human rights abuses go unchecked our security and our prosperity suffers.”
“We have to work with the grain of other societies, while always standing up for universal human rights. This will continue to be our approach. It is one that is fully consistent with our efforts to strengthen links between our economy and those of the emerging economic powers. We have to persuade such governments to change, we have to make the case that it will become ever harder for undemocratic governments to deny their people basic freedoms… The uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa demonstrate the huge consequences of suppressing people’s basic and fundamental rights, and are just the start of a process which will no doubt lead to similar demands elsewhere in the world. This is therefore an important hour for these issues.”
“Britain and its allies have intervened in Libya to save lives, to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and to give the Libyan people a chance to determine their own future. It is action that is legal, necessary and right. We led the drive to refer Libya to the International Criminal Court and to suspend it from the UN Human Rights Council, so that those responsible for atrocities know that there will be a day of reckoning. Today, we are pressing for full and immediate access to Libya for ICC investigators and the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry. The Qadhafi regime has lost all legitimacy, and today, I renew our calls for those remaining around him to abandon him and to unite in support of a better future of their country.”
On Musa Kusa:
“I can confirm, as we did last night, that the Libyan Foreign Minister, Musa Kusa, arrived at Farnborough Airport yesterday from Tunisia. He travelled here under his own free will, he said that he is resigning his post. We’re discussing this with him and we will release further details.
“We encourage those around Qadhafi to abandon him and embrace the better future for Libya that allows political transition and real reform, that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people.”
On the uprisings in the Middle East:
“The torrent of change, hope and optimism flooding large parts of the Middle East today puts paid once and for all to the myth that the Arab world is the one region immune from these aspirations. Their voices must be heard.
“Our message to all governments of the region is that without change, legitimate grievances and demands for human rights and political freedom will not go away.
“If change can be achieved peacefully in the Middle East it will be the biggest advance of democratic freedoms since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. If it cannot, we are likely to see turmoil and unrest which sets back the cause of democracy and human rights. That is why our response to these events must be bold, ambitious and historic, in its nature and scale…The eyes of the world are on the Arab world today. But this must not diminish our efforts to defend human rights elsewhere, in countries flagged up by this report.”
“Our report concludes that the human rights situation in Iran is bleaker now than at any other time in the last decade; with more executions per capita than any other country and more jailed journalists than anywhere else in the world. We continue to work hard with other countries to highlight and take action against human rights abuses in Iran. Last week, the EU announced that it will seek swiftly to impose sanctions against individuals in Iran responsible for egregious human rights abuses, and the UN created a new Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran.”
“In Burma, the welcome release of Aung San Suu Kyi has not led to an improvement in the human rights situation there or greater political openness. Britain played an important role in securing the toughest and most comprehensive human rights resolution on Burma to date at the UN General Assembly in November.”
On North Korea:
“In 2010 serious human rights violations continued in North Korea; defectors from the country paint a picture of a place where torture, inhumane treatment and severe restrictions to freedom of speech, movement and assembly are routine.”
“The report finds that there was no significant progress on civil and political rights in China in 2010. We remain committed to engagement with China on human rights. China has made progress on improving economic and social conditions, lifting nearly half a billion people out of poverty between 1990 and 2005. But the development of independent civil society and application of human rights under the rule of law are essential prerequisites for China’s long-term prosperity and sustainable growth.”
“The inclusion of Belarus is a reminder that we cannot be complacent about the human rights situation closer to home. The human rights situation there is probably the worst it has been since the breakup of the Soviet Union. After December’s flawed Presidential elections hundreds of protestors were detained including several presidential candidates. Many allege torture at the hands of the security service.”