This report provides an overview of activity in 2013 by the FCO and its diplomatic network to defend human rights and promote democracy around the world. It also sets out the analysis on country situations and thematic issues which directs that work.
An important new focus in 2013 was the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), which will reach another milestone on 10-13 June 2014, when the Foreign Secretary and the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie, will co-chair a global summit on ending sexual violence in conflict. Other initiatives prioritised in 2013 were:
- the defence of freedom of religion or belief worldwide;
- agreement on the world’s first treaty to control the arms trade;
- the UK’s election and return to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC); and
- the launch of the UK Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.
Our work to underpin democracy, defend freedom of expression, and promote wider political participation has included contributions through election observer missions and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. In conjunction with many NGOs and civil society organisations, we have supported human rights defenders - courageous people who often face repression and harassment.
The UK has championed the rule of law overseas, working with national and international NGOs and through the UN on torture prevention initiatives. We have campaigned for states to ratify the Convention Against Torture and its Optional Protocol. Abolition of the death penalty remains a top priority, and we continue to lobby against its use in any circumstances, anywhere. Support for international criminal justice continues to be a fundamental element of our foreign policy. We support the International Criminal Court and other tribunals.
Freedom of religion or belief remains under threat. We have taken action, through project work in several countries, at the multilateral level (UN resolutions, EU advocacy), and by bringing together faith and political leaders to extol the benefits of pluralism.
At the Commission on the Status of Women, we took its 2013 theme, “the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”, and worked for agreed standards against which civil society can hold governments to account.
We promoted children’s rights through the UN, by co-sponsoring the omnibus resolution and, in this and other fora, strove to ban child labour. Bilaterally, we pressed countries to end forced and early marriage, and sexual exploitation.
We advocated a UNHRC resolution to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights internationally and, alarmed by reactionary legislation in several countries, including in the Commonwealth, combined lobbying with funding and working on practical projects to help protect communities at risk. In the EU we have supported the development of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) guidelines, which will be used by EU Delegations globally to promote LGBT rights.
The UK’s counter-terrorism work focuses on capacity building with the police and the judiciary, in ways which protect human rights and respect for the rule of law, thanks to our Overseas Justice and Security Assistance Guidance.
The adoption of a legally-binding Arms Trade Treaty was the culmination of seven years of work within the UN. On 3 June, the UK was amongst the first to sign. Underpinning our counter-proliferation efforts is our stringent export licensing regime.
We remain concerned by the number of conflicts worldwide. The UK National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security will help us reduce the impact of conflict on women and girls, and include them in conflict resolution. We continue to work through the UN on the protection of civilians and children in armed conflict.
Widespread implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights is an important and achievable goal. In 2013, the UK became the first country to publish its own Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. We also work through other organisations, such as the EU, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the UN, to promote responsible business practices and combat corruption.
Protecting the human rights of the British community overseas is a priority for us. UK officials work with British nationals on a wide range of issues with human rights implications, from imprisonment to forced marriage, female genital mutilation and child abduction.
The UK takes seriously its responsibility for the security and good governance of the UK Overseas Territories. In 2013, the UK and territory governments pursued their programme to extend core UN human rights conventions to territories where this had not yet happened.
The final section of the report contains a review of the human rights situation in 28 countries where the UK government has wide-ranging concerns. We will continue to report on the countries of concern on a quarterly basis.
Foreword by Foreign Secretary William Hague
This report sets out the steps we have taken to promote and protect human rights over the course of 2013. It was a tumultuous year, with setbacks, as well as successes. Human rights opportunities and obligations inspired our diplomats in every corner of the world, and shaped our policies in every forum. For that reason, though long, this report is far from comprehensive. It marshals information from across the Foreign & Commonwealth Office network, partner governments, international organisations and civil society, seeking to highlight themes, trends and priorities.
A key UK human rights objective is to end impunity for sexual violence in conflict, so we have added a new chapter on our efforts in this area. At a global summit in June, we will set out to turn the tide of global opinion so that we make accountability for these crimes the norm. We have expanded last year’s chapter on the Human Rights and Democracy Programme Fund to look more widely at the impact of our human rights initiatives: for example, our work on the Arms Trade Treaty and on freedom of religion or belief, publication of our Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, and the UK’s election to the UN Human Rights Council.
As before, the report contains a section on “countries of concern”. It follows a careful review of all countries with serious human rights problems, and was tested against criteria which are objective and widely-used. Our evidence base is robust. As a result of this analysis, we have added the Central African Republic to the list of “countries of concern”.
We have seen more turbulence in the Middle East, with Egypt suffering particular upheaval. South Sudan and Ukraine also stand out as examples of countries where the path to full democracy continues to be difficult. Most tragically of all, we will soon mark the third anniversary of conflict in Syria. A regime that claims to be fighting terrorism is terrorising its own people, using starvation and hunger as weapons of war. The UK has committed £600 million in humanitarian aid, our biggest ever contribution to a single crisis, and has been one of the most active countries in helping to push forward the “Geneva II” process.
I am deeply troubled by reactionary legislation and increasing persecution of the LGBT community in many parts of the world. The UK will remain active, both in close cooperation with expert NGOs and local communities. We will speak up, in public and in private, to protect individuals from discrimination and violence. And we will keep on working to build tolerant and pluralist societies in the long run, which is core business for our diplomatic and development strategies worldwide.
There were some positive developments in human rights during 2013. In January, the Burmese government signed a historic initial peace agreement with the Karen National Union after 63 years of conflict, although we continue to be concerned by the treatment of the Rohingya population in Rakhine state. Tunisia has sustained its democratic transition, and the Prime Minister’s decision to go to November’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka helped shine a spotlight on the situation there. We will work through the UN Human Rights Council to ensure that the search for lasting peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka benefits from an appropriate international investigation.
As promised during our campaign for re-election to the Human Rights Council, in 2014 the UK will protect those most vulnerable in society, promote human dignity for all, respond proactively to evolving challenges, and keep human rights at the heart of all our multilateral work. I am also determined that 2014 should see progress on what I believe is the greatest strategic prize of the 21st Century: full political, economic and social participation for all women everywhere. Events in many countries show that we can never take for granted the hard-fought gains in gender equality. They must be defended and expanded constantly.
On these and many other pressing issues, I look forward to working in 2014 with the members of my Advisory Group on Human Rights, who provide me with invaluable expertise and frank advice. I and my ministerial team hope this year’s report will help make support for action to promote and protect human rights as universal as the rights themselves. They are the most precious thing we have in common.
Foreword by Senior Minister of State Baroness Warsi
Since my appointment as Minister with responsibility for Human Rights at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in September 2012, I have been constantly torn between pride at what we have achieved, and frustration at how much more needs to be done.
Over the course of 2013, we have made good progress on our six global thematic priorities: women’s rights; torture prevention; abolition of the death penalty; freedom of expression on the internet; business and human rights; and freedom of religion or belief.
We have worked hard, with international partners, to end the impunity that surrounds the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war. In April, during our G8 Presidency, we secured an historic G8 Declaration that recalled that rape and serious sexual violence in armed conflict are war crimes and also constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Convention. In June, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2106, strengthening the UN’s capability to tackle this issue, while in September, at the UN General Assembly, we put forward a new Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, which has to date been endorsed by 141 countries.
On 26 June, I launched a campaign for increased ratification of the Convention Against Torture and its Optional Protocol. During 2013, Vietnam signed the Convention and both Norway and Burundi ratified the Optional Protocol. We will continue to persuade more states to do likewise in the months ahead.
We have worked with civil society and international organisations to influence those states that still use the death penalty. The most recent vote at the UN reinforced a global trend towards abolition, with 111 states voting in favour of a worldwide moratorium.
We continued to defend freedom of expression, online as in traditional media, and issued a toolkit and guidance to all our embassies about how to support human rights defenders further.
We also became the first country to publish an action plan to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human rights. By working seamlessly across government and business to show how “human rights due diligence” is good for the bottom line, we will encourage other countries to follow our lead.
As the UK’s first Minister for Faith, defending and promoting freedom of religion or belief remains a personal priority for me. The rising tide of persecution across the world has been a particular focus. On 15 November, speaking in Washington, I called for a cross-continent, cross-religion response to a pattern of intolerance and sectarianism which has led to the persecution of minority communities, including a mass exodus of Christians from places where they have co-existed with the majority faith for generations.
In January and September, I brought together foreign ministers and senior diplomats from across the world, to deepen and strengthen the political consensus on Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18. We achieved that. Now is the time to see 16/18 implemented.
Violent episodes around the world have strengthened my conviction that freedom of religion or belief increasingly represents a frontline for promotion and protection of human rights. I am determined to use my position in the UK government and my network of expert advisers and international colleagues to stem the tide of violence committed in the name of religion.
In July 2013, working with “Remembering Srebrenica”, the UK became the first county to mark Srebrenica Memorial Day. Srebrenica was a stark demonstration of what can happen when hatred, discrimination and evil are allowed to go unchecked. Our commemoration of this genocide underlies our commitment to learn from the past, and to help ensure Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future as a stable, inclusive and peaceful country.
In addition to my responsibilities on human rights throughout the world, three countries where we have significant human rights concerns feature in my portfolio.
When I visited Afghanistan in March and November, I was struck by how far it has come since 2001 and the determination of the Afghan people to hold on to the gains made in all areas of society. However, the Afghan people, particularly women and girls, continue to face many challenges in the realisation of what are fundamental human rights. But the UK will remain committed to helping Afghanistan consolidate the progress made over the last ten years.
With regards to Pakistan, I congratulate the Pakistani people for placing their trust in democratic institutions in 2013. However, I am mindful of the wide-ranging and serious human rights issues the country still needs to tackle. I have not shied away from raising difficult human rights issues with the Pakistani government, and we will continue to support the people of Pakistan in their fight against terrorism and violent extremism.
In Bangladesh, it was hugely disappointing that the January 2014 elections were marred by political violence throughout 2013 and on elections day itself. I have also been deeply concerned by the negative impact labour strikes, protests and disruption have had on Bangladesh’s economy. We continue to encourage political dialogue, greater democratic accountability, and capacity building for participatory elections in the future, without the fear of intimidation or reprisals.
In the battle to translate international obligations and commitments into practical action, I am privileged to work with a wide range of human rights experts through the Foreign Secretary’s Advisory Group on Human Rights, and the sub-groups I chair on torture prevention, abolition of the death penalty, and freedom of expression on the internet. To strengthen this network, we have created a Sub-Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, which I will also chair. These groups bring together NGOs, academics, parliamentarians and business representatives to ensure that our policies benefit from the best external expertise.
The start of 2014 presented major challenges for human rights, not least in Syria, the Central African Republic and Ukraine. But we remain committed to defending human rights because any violation is a threat to global peace and security. I want to pay particular tribute to the work of the brave women and men who risk their own lives to defend the rights of others. Their voices must be heard, in their own countries, and in every corner of the world.
Section I: Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative
Sexual violence in conflict is widespread. It affects not only large numbers of women, but also men and children. In addition to the physical and psychological trauma suffered by survivors, sexual violence adds to ethnic, sectarian and other divisions, further entrenching conflict and instability. It destroys lives, creates refugees and is often just one of a number of human rights abuses individuals and communities face.
The UK government believes that combating sexual violence in conflict is an issue of common humanity and an issue of conflict prevention. The culture of impunity that exists for sexual violence in conflict feeds conflict, and undermines peace and security in post-conflict countries. The Foreign Secretary believes that the UK has the moral obligation and the diplomatic power to change this. That is why, on 29 May 2012, he launched the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) with the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie.
What does the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative seek to achieve?
PSVI aims to address this culture of impunity - and to increase the number of perpetrators held to account - by raising awareness, rallying global action, promoting more international coherence, and increasing the political will and capacity of states to prevent and respond to these crimes. It complements wider government work on women, peace and security and violence against women and girls.
The Foreign Secretary undertook to use the UK’s Presidency of the G8 in 2013 to ensure greater international attention and commitment to tackling the use of sexual violence in conflict, and to secure a clear political statement from the international community of its determination to make real, tangible progress on combating the use of sexual violence in conflict. This political campaign has been supported by a range of practical measures, including continued deployments of the UK Team of Experts, established as part of PSVI in 2012, and further support to the UN and other organisations.
What progress has PSVI made in 2013?
International commitment to tackling sexual violence in conflict
During 2013, the UK has worked to build political commitment and global momentum to tackle sexual violence in conflict. On 11 April, G8 Foreign Ministers adopted a historic Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict. The declaration contained a number of key political and practical commitments. This included agreement from G8 governments that there should be no peace agreements that give amnesty to people who have ordered or carried out rape; that all UN peacekeeping missions should automatically include provisions for the protection of civilians against sexual violence in conflict; that there should be no safe haven for perpetrators of sexual violence; that rape and serious sexual violence in armed conflict constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, meaning that there is an obligation for states to prosecute suspects regardless of nationality; and that there should be new efforts to ensure support and justice for survivors of rape. G8 Foreign Ministers also endorsed the development of a new International Protocol, which will improve global standards in documenting and investigating sexual violence committed in conflict.
Building on the G8 Declaration, the Foreign Secretary sought to generate wider support for the campaign at the UN and in other multilateral and regional organisations. On 24 June, during the UK’s Presidency of the UN Security Council, the Foreign Secretary hosted a debate on tackling sexual violence in conflict, which focused on the need to challenge the culture of impunity and hold perpetrators to account. A new UN Security Council Resolution (2106) was adopted during the debate. This was the first resolution on the subject in three years, was co-sponsored by 46 states, and contained action to improve the UN response to sexual violence in conflict.
This political campaign culminated in the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, which the Foreign Secretary launched on 24 September in the margins of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly.
The declaration was drafted with a range of countries, who also worked alongside the UK to build wider support for the text. It is action-oriented and ambitious, and expresses a shared commitment and determination to see an end to the use of rape and sexual violence as weapons of war. It has a clear focus on accountability and tackling impunity, but also contains a set of wider political and practical commitments. States also reaffirmed in the declaration that rape and serious sexual violence in armed conflict are war crimes, and constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The declaration has been endorsed by 140 UN member states to date, and we continue to encourage other states to endorse it.
The UK government has also worked with other multilateral organisations to build international support and coherence. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Baroness Ashton, supported the G8 Declaration, and has since underlined her continued support to exploring areas for coordination and closer cooperation on PSVI. In response to the African Union’s (AU) political commitment to address sexual violence in conflict, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been working closely with the AU’s Peace and Security Department, providing technical advice and funding the position of gender advisor; and through the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka in November, the UK obtained commitment from the Commonwealth Secretariat and member states to take action to tackle sexual violence in conflict.
Supporting political commitments with practical action at the national level
Our efforts to generate international political support for tackling sexual violence in conflict have been complemented by engagement and action at the national level to deliver the ambitious set of declaration commitments.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office has been working with the Department for International Development (DFID), the UN, and others at national level to deliver these commitments. Work with individual countries varies according to the context, and for each we have assessed where the UK can add value to existing efforts. In particular, we have focused on combining political and diplomatic opportunities at national levels with technical support through the use of international and UK expertise, including deployments of the PSVI UK Team of Experts. We have continued to work closely with the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Sexual Violence (UNSRSG) and the UN Team of Experts on the Rule of Law to ensure that country engagement is both coherent and sustainable, including through focusing on strengthening national ownership and responsibility, and building local capacity.
Throughout 2013, we have carried out country work in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kosovo, Libya, Mali, Somalia and Syria.
The FCO is also working closely with DFID on their work to improve international action to protect girls and women affected by violence in humanitarian emergencies. On 13 November, Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, co-hosted a high-level Call to Action with the Swedish Minister for International Development to secure greater commitment from UN agencies, international NGOs and donors to improve the international response to protecting girls and women in emergencies. They agreed to act, or fund action, to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls from the first phase of an emergency, without waiting for evidence of specific instances of violence to emerge. Ms Greening also announced £21.6 million in new funding to help protect women and girls in emergencies.
Support to grassroots organisations working to tackle sexual violence in conflict
At the launch of the G8 Declaration in April, the Foreign Secretary announced new FCO funding of £5 million over three years to support grassroots and human rights projects on tackling sexual violence in conflict. This funding is part of the FCO Human Rights and Democracy Programme.
In 2013, we allocated nearly £2.7 million to support projects to be carried out in financial years 2013-14 and 2014-15. We used this to support 13 projects working to tackle sexual violence in a number of countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burma, Colombia, DRC, Guatemala, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Syria. These projects are aimed at supporting the work of civil society organisations, including women’s organisations and human rights defenders and networks, to improve community-level protection against sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict environments; to help survivors of sexual violence to get better access to justice; and to promote greater accountability by national institutions responsible for tackling sexual violence.
International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict
A key element of PSVI has been the development of a new International Protocol on the documentation and investigation of sexual violence in conflict. G8 Foreign Ministers endorsed the development of the Protocol in April, and this was reinforced through the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. The UK is leading the development of the Protocol, drawing on the knowledge of experts from around the world.
The Protocol aims to set out ideal standards for the documentation and investigation of rape and other crimes of sexual violence in conflict. The application of these standards will help to ensure that information collected in conflict and post-conflict settings can support future investigations and prosecutions of sexual violence at the national and international level. These standards will aim to ensure that information is collected in such a way as to increase and preserve its evidentiary value, that survivors receive sensitive and sustained support, and – critically – that those involved in collecting information and working with survivors are doing so in a coordinated and mutually supportive way. It will build on existing local, regional and international guidance and be open to states, the UN system, regional bodies and NGOs for use in training and capacity building programmes.
To develop the Protocol, we have established a number of expert working groups according to thematic areas of expertise. These groups met in May, June and July and have begun working together to draft the Protocol. We also hosted a conference in Geneva in September to discuss the Protocol and to raise awareness of the challenges to documenting and investigating sexual violence in conflict with states, UN agencies, regional organisations and NGOs. In addition to these formal meetings, we have continued to engage informally with key experts on all aspects of the draft. In early 2014, we will carry out grassroots field testing of the Protocol and regional consultation which will feed into the drafting process.
Working through the UN
A central element of our approach has been close cooperation and support for the work of the UNSRSG, Mrs Zainab Hawa Bangura, and her Team of Experts (ToE) on the Rule of Law. In early 2013, we provided £1 million to support work of the ToE, and have also conducted joint assessment missions with them to the DRC and Somalia. We have also seconded a member of the PSVI UK Team of Experts to enhance the UN team’s knowledge of the Middle East and North Africa region, including on aspects of Sharia law. We strongly support the UNSRSG’s efforts to build coherence and coordination in the UN’s response to sexual violence in armed conflict through the cross-UN initiative, UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, as well as her focus on national ownership and responsibility.
We have also continued our support for the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Trust Fund for Victims, which aims to address directly and respond to victims’ physical, psychological, or material needs. In November 2013, the Foreign Secretary announced a UK contribution of an additional £300,000 to the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims. This brings the total UK support to the ICC Trust Fund for Victims since 2011 to £1.8 million.
Looking ahead to 2014: the Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict
The focus of our efforts in 2014 will be on turning the political commitments secured so far into concrete action on the ground, thereby creating irreversible movement towards ending the use of rape and sexual violence in conflict.
On 10-13 June 2014, the Foreign Secretary and the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie, will co-chair a global summit on ending sexual violence in conflict. The UK will invite each government that has endorsed the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, along with representatives from civil society, judiciaries and militaries from around the world.
We want the summit to deliver practical and ambitious agreements that will once and for all shatter the culture of impunity for rape and sexual violence in conflict. It will deliver a set of practical agreements that bring together and focus the efforts of conflict and post-conflict affected countries, donors, the UN and other multilateral organisations, NGOs and civil society.
We want the summit to identify specific actions by the international community in the four areas where we believe greater progress is necessary. These four areas are:
- to improve investigations/documentation of sexual violence in conflict;
- to provide greater support and assistance and reparation for survivors, including child survivors, of sexual violence;
- to ensure sexual and gender based violence responses and the promotion of gender equality are fully integrated in all peace and security efforts, including security and justice sector reform; and
- to improve international strategic co-ordination.
We will also use the summit to launch the new International Protocol on the Investigation and Documentation of Sexual Violence in Conflict. In addition, we hope to secure agreement to: revising military doctrine and training; improving peacekeeping training and operations; providing new support to local and grassroots organisations and human rights defenders; developing the deployment of international expertise to build national capacity; improved support for survivors; and forming new partnerships to support conflict-affected countries.
There will be a large accompanying “fringe” of events alongside the formal meetings, which will take place across the world as well as in London. We hope this will be used to discuss a broader range of issues related to sexual violence in conflict, including conflict prevention, women’s rights and participation, men and boys, children affected by conflict, international justice, and wider issues of violence against women and girls. These will be an opportunity to showcase programmes and policies from around the world that have been successful.
Section II: UK Human Rights Initiatives, 2013
Human rights work across the world is never easy, and progress is often measured in decades rather than months or years. Within the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), much of our human rights work is integrated into the day-to-day operations of our embassies and high commissions overseas and our teams in the UK, sometimes through discrete human rights projects or activities, often through the wider work they do to promote our political, security and prosperity objectives.
In this year’s annual report we want to highlight four human rights initiatives which the FCO prioritised in 2013: action to defend freedom of religion or belief around the world; agreement on the world’s first treaty to control the trade in arms; our election and return to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC); and the launch of the UK Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. These four initiatives marked a successful year for our human rights work, and show the tangible difference that sustained and focused effort can make.
In addition to these initiatives, the Human Rights and Democracy Programme Fund continued to fund a portfolio of human rights projects to catalyse change, support democratic development, and help improve specific human rights situations in over 40 countries worldwide. The Department for International Development (DFID) also continued its work to support the human rights of poor and marginalised people in developing countries with the objective of ensuring that everybody can enjoy the economic, social, civil, political and cultural rights defined in internationally agreed human rights treaties.
Freedom of Religion or Belief
2013 has seen a rising tide of restrictions on freedom of religion or belief. Baha’is, Shias, Sunnis and Alawites, Hindus, Sikhs, atheists, Christians and many others have fallen victim to a new sectarianism that is breaking out across continents. For that reason, the FCO has ramped up its activities to promote freedom of religion or belief across the world.
We have done this in several ways. First, through multilateral organisations. We have continued our programme to support implementation of UNHRC Resolution 16/18 in individual countries. This resolution lays the foundation for combating discrimination against people based on their religion or belief. Political consensus is crucial in this area, so Senior Minister of State, Baroness Warsi, has brought together ministers and senior officials, from the Foreign Minister of Canada to the Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, starting in London in January. She then held a further meeting in New York during UN General Assembly week in September. Follow-up meetings are planned in 2014, with an emphasis on building support for widely applicable practical solutions to sectarianism and violence, including the social, economic, and other benefits of pluralism.
Second, through bilateral engagement. Baroness Warsi has made freedom of religion or belief an FCO priority, and now every minister at the FCO is an ambassador for religious freedom, raising and promoting these issues in the countries with which they engage.
Third, through projects. We have worked hand-in-hand with NGOs, and human rights and faith-based organisations across the world. For example, we have helped to strengthen a network of human rights defenders working on this issue in South East Asia.
And fourth, training and expertise. The FCO is equipping its diplomats with the tools to appreciate and influence the role religion plays in global politics today. In addition, the Foreign Secretary has established a sub-group of his advisory group on human rights, which will focus on freedom of religion or belief. It will meet every six months and bring together a range of experts in the field, chaired by Baroness Warsi. It will make recommendations to the FCO to help us sharpen our work in this area.
In 2014, by these means and others, the FCO will strengthen the role and capacity of political, community and faith leaders to tackle religious intolerance. We will seek to build a cross-faith, cross-continent response to the problem, with a positive, practical focus on promoting the benefits of religious tolerance, pluralism, mutual respect and understanding.
Arms Trade Treaty
After seven years of work, the Arms Trade Treaty was adopted on 2 April 2013 at the UN General Assembly. An overwhelming majority of states (156) voted in favour of the treaty. Only three voted against (Iran, Syria and North Korea). This was a significant achievement for British diplomacy. The UK was one of seven countries that launched the campaign for the treaty, and we were one the first countries to sign the new treaty. At the time of writing, 116 states had signed the treaty and nine had ratified. The UK government signed on 3 June, and we expect to ratify the treaty early in 2014.
The Arms Trade Treaty now needs to be implemented effectively and globally. It contains the building blocks for a safer, more secure world. It requires states to refuse to export arms if there is an unacceptable risk that they will be used in serious violations of human rights. For the first time, it imposes legally-binding rules on the small arms that cause the greatest harm to innocent civilians. It will increase transparency and create a framework for calling the irresponsible to account. The UK has already pledged more than £400,000 to help other countries meet these standards.
UK election to the UN Human Rights Council
The UNHRC is an intergovernmental body within the UN system responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. It is the premier world body on human rights, and has proven its ability to address mass atrocities and human rights violations and abuses across the world. The UNHRC is made up of 47 UN Member States, elected for three-year terms. Membership of the UNHRC brings the opportunity to influence the international human rights agenda, both by speaking and voting on issues brought before it by others, and by promoting within the UNHRC issues important to the UK. Election to the HRC for the term 2014-2016 was a priority for the UK government in 2013.
Baroness Warsi launched our election campaign in December 2012. During 2013, we used our diplomatic network to seek support from as many countries as possible, talking to them about our human rights policy pledges and commitments, which outlined our approach to human rights in the UK and our aspirations for the UNHRC. Our campaign was global, as illustrated by the Foreign Secretary’s specially recorded YouTube message.
The elections took place in November in New York. The UK was elected with 171 votes; which gives us a strong mandate as we take our seat on the UNHRC in January 2014.
During 2014, the UK will be active at the UNHRC on country-specific resolutions, and in thematic areas including freedom of religion or belief, preventing sexual violence, and business and human rights.
Publication of UK Action Plan on Business and Human Rights
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) were endorsed by the UNHRC in 2011. This framework comprises a three-pillar structure, distinguishing the state’s duty to protect human rights, the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and access to remedies. On 4 September 2013, the UK published its national action plan, “Good Business”, becoming the first country to have such a plan for the implementation of the UNGPs. The UK Action Plan was launched jointly by the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable.
The UK Action Plan embodies our commitment to protect human rights by helping UK companies respect human rights wherever they operate, in pursuit of respect for people’s human rights and sustainable business environments the world over. We want to help British companies to succeed, and for the UK to continue to show a lead on business and human rights, given the global reach and impact of UK business. The plan was developed in consultation with companies, trade unions, civil society organisations, academics and colleagues across government.
The action plan sets out our commitment to:
- implement UK government intentions to protect against human rights abuse involving commercial enterprises within UK jurisdiction;
- support, motivate and incentivise UK businesses to meet their responsibility to respect human rights throughout their operations, both at home and abroad;
- support access to effective remedies for victims of human rights abuse involving businesses within UK jurisdiction;
- promote understanding of how addressing human rights risks and impacts can help build business success;
- promote international adherence to the UNGPs, including for states to assume their duties to protect human rights and assure access to remedies within their jurisdiction; and
- ensure policy consistency across the UK government on the UNGPs.
We will report back each year on progress in the Annual Human Rights Report, and we commit to bring out an updated version of the action plan by the end of 2015.
The Human Rights and Democracy Programme Fund
The Human Rights and Democracy Programme (HRDP) is a dedicated source of funding within the FCO for human rights work overseas. In the financial year 2013-14, we allocated £6.5 million of funding to support 83 projects (with 26 of them running into financial year 2014-15), ranging in scale from £9,000 to £517,000. Most projects are delivered by civil society implementers working in coordination with the local British Embassy or High Commission.
In 2013, the HRDP had eight specific target areas, aligned with the FCO’s human rights priorities. These included preventing sexual violence, after the Foreign Sectary announced on 11 April that the FCO would spend £5 million over three years on projects tackling sexual violence. By focusing our efforts in this way, we believe we achieve greater impact. The areas were:
- discrimination against women;
- freedom of expression;
- business and human rights;
- abolition of the death penalty;
- global torture prevention;
- freedom of religion or belief;
- democratic processes; and
- preventing sexual violence in conflict.
Projects were required to focus on one or more of these issues and dovetail with the human rights work of the local British Embassy or High Commission. We gave priority to projects in countries of concern, or in countries where there were particular opportunities to promote and protect human rights. We encouraged bidding for projects in these countries, and 54% of funding was eventually committed to them.
An underlying objective of the HRDP is to promote the development of local civil society organisations. Even when we work with international implementers, we therefore strongly encourage them to use local partners in order to help expand their experience and develop their capacity.
Examples of HRDP-funded projects can be found throughout this report. Below are some case studies of work the programme supported in 2013.
Tackling violence against women
In Colombia, the British Embassy worked with local NGO Corporación Excelencia en la Justicia (Excellence in Justice Corporation) and the Attorney General’s Office to strengthen its capacity to prosecute crimes of sexual violence, and to increase awareness of the services available to survivors. The project delivered to government agencies a diagnosis of the obstacles in the justice system for victims of sex crimes in two main cities of Colombia. This diagnosis fed into a handbook for prosecutors, providing a practical tool to public officers investigating and prosecuting sexual violence, who regularly face a multiplicity of protocols and long manuals. The project outputs feed into a wider reform process led by the Attorney General, who is developing a new protocol for investigation and a future capacity-building programme for prosecutors, which the HRDP will support in 2014-15.
In the Kurdish region of Iraq, we funded the training of police and civilian staff from Family Protection Units to deliver an introductory course on “an effective police response to violence against women”. The curriculum and training manual was developed in partnership with local police, and is being incorporated into its academy’s own training programmes. The integrated EU rule of law mission (EUJUST LEX) also used the manual in its domestic violence prevention training with the Ministry of the Interior, reinforcing and multiplying the manual’s messages. Through this project we have been able to influence the police training curriculum, strengthening the content covering the response to violence against women.
In Anguilla we funded training for all frontline police officers and the Department of Probation on handling domestic violence cases. Selected officers were trained as trainers, who then facilitated comprehensive, high-quality training for the rest of their colleagues. A domestic violence “pocketbook” for officers was also produced. The course has improved the quality and sensitivity of the response to victims, provided specific guidance for officers, and increased awareness of a largely ignored issue. In press events promoting the training, the Minister for Home Affairs in Anguilla committed to passing domestic violence legislation.
Ensuring women’s participation in policy making
Women are under-represented in decision-making and public life in Burma. Through Action Aid and the British Council, we funded an empowerment project which supports and encourages Burmese women to take up leadership roles, promote women’s rights, and participate fully in the decisions that affect them. Participants belonged to different ethnic groups, and came from states and regions across the country. The project also successfully trained 100 senior government officials from a number of departments, including the Department of Social Welfare, on “Gender and the UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women”. This increased their understanding and capacity to implement Burma’s first “National Strategic Plan on the Advancement of Women”, which was officially launched in October, and sets out the country’s priorities in this area from 2013-22.
In Colombia, we are helping the Organisation of American States’ Mission with supporting the Victims’ Unit to improve the participation of female victims in policy-making related to services and reparation for victims. The project designed a methodology for capacity building that has been adopted by the Victims’ Unit, and that will be replicated nationally. Action plans with specific commitments by local governments will be delivered in March 2014.
Supporting freedom of expression
The space for political debate has grown in Burma over the last couple of years, but existing legislation relating to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly still falls short of international standards. Through Article 19, a London-based international NGO, we funded a project to develop the capacity of legislators, civil society, media and ministries to amend and draft new legislation in this area. By bringing together stakeholders with an interest in promoting freedom of expression, such as media and civil society, a network has been formed to agree an “agenda for change”, which outlines the laws and policies needing reform in the years ahead. Article 19 also provided an analysis of existing laws which civil society can use for further advocacy activities.
In Russia, we are supporting a project aimed at contributing to greater freedom of expression, promoting equality and fighting discrimination, by equipping journalists with the skills to report ethically, responsibly and inclusively on ethnic, race and religious diversity in their regions. The project is being implemented in four Russian regions where there is a high level of ethnic tension: Dagestan, Stavropol, Saratov and Sverdlovsk. As part of the project, the Media Diversity Institute and the Russian Union of Journalists organised a number of training sessions on inclusive journalism and tolerant reporting on diversity for young journalists. One of the most important ways to overcome negative trends, including “hate speech” and labelling, is working together with experts and journalists towards improving the quality of reporting in the Russian media.
In summer 2013, Kazakhstan adopted a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) law, which should make it easier to prevent and detect torture within the justice system. However, there was concern that implementation would be delayed, as the capacity of the Ombudsman Institution and civil society organisations to form the NPM still needed further development. Through our Embassy, we funded a project implemented by Penal Reform International, based on a partnership between the Ombudsman Institution and civil society. It provided expert support in drafting specific regulations and rules for the formation and operation of the NPM, facilitated the election of its Coordination Council, and contributed to the training of potential NPM members (nearly 100). The Coordination Council, approved in January 2013, largely consisted of civil society representatives and academics, making the council stronger and helping to ensure its independence.
Freedom of religion or belief
In 2013, the British Embassy in Indonesia funded a project that focused on raising awareness amongst religious leaders of women’s rights. Human rights activists have reported that some recent by-laws have abrogated certain women’s and minority rights (particularly religious minorities). The project sought to ensure that, through training and awareness-raising, future by-laws will better comply with human rights standards.
Since 2011, our Embassy in Iraq has supported the Grassroots Religious Reconciliation Initiative, run by the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East. The initiative promotes reconciliation in Iraq through dialogue between religious leaders across the sectarian divide at grassroots level. The leaders have established a monthly Peace Council and have had wide outreach, engaging with audiences across the country in key areas of instability. The relationship between the council members from different religious backgrounds is becoming stronger. They are making regular use of each other’s contacts to promote each other’s messages for peace, and to issue joint statements. The religious leaders are continuously working on increasing the reach of their messages endorsing peace, including by expanding grassroots networks.
Business and human rights
We continue to see an increase in numbers of extractive companies and other businesses operating in more isolated regions of Colombia. Through HRDP Funds, we have built a three-year relationship with the Colombian government, companies and civil society to implement the UNGPs in the country. The process has led to the development of a draft national Public Policy on Business and Human Rights, which will be incorporated into Colombian national policy on human rights in 2014. Our project work has also resulted in a system for public servants to monitor implementation of the policy and state grievance mechanisms, which will be launched in April 2014.
Abolition of the death penalty
Morocco has a de facto moratorium on executions; abolition of the death penalty would be a landmark achievement in the region. HRDP funding, in partnership with the NGOs International Bar Association and Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort, enabled the practical training of over 80 lawyers across Morocco, and the formation of Morocco’s first Network of Lawyers against the Death Penalty. It also supported the Moroccan Network of Parliamentarians against the Death Penalty - the first network of its kind in the North Africa region - which has raised the level of media and parliamentary debate about the death penalty. In 2013, the network prepared a draft law on abolition. A recent seminar at the Moroccan Parliament, organised by the Parliamentary Network, was well-attended by MPs from across the Arab World, from Jordan to Mauritania. With UK support, the Moroccan campaign for abolition of the death penalty is not only breaking new ground domestically, but also setting an example for the rest of the region.
Supporting peace, development and women’s rights
In the Philippines, Bangsamoro (Muslim Mindanao) is one of the most disadvantaged regions in the country. The transition period ahead of the establishment of a system of devolved government for the region in 2016 provides a window of opportunity to embed strong human rights and democratic values in the new government. Over the last year, HRDP-funded work has focused on strengthening the party system for the ministerial form of governance in Bangsamoro, and entrenching women’s participation in its Basic Law.
The latter project involves a series of consultations with groups of women representing the Bangsamoro region. Once complete, the consolidated findings will be translated into provisions in the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, thus enhancing women’s participation in politics and governance in the region.
Protection of journalists and their access to public information
In 2013, the HRDP funded projects in Vietnam that aimed to build a safer working climate for journalists and improve access to information: work by the “Centre for Research on Development Communications” with local authorities in central Vietnam, improving officials’ understanding of journalists’ rights and strengthening media and government cooperation; a study from the “Centre for Media in Educating Community”, revealing that the government acted on less than 10% of public complaints raised through the press, and providing follow-up media training for officials to improve the situation; and a project by The Asia Foundation, strengthening investigative journalism into the environmental impact of construction projects. Media regulation has also improved because of UK development assistance. New legislation now includes an offence of obstructing reporters, protecting for the first time more than 5,000 unregistered journalists, and official penalties for government spokespersons who provide incorrect information, or do not answer press questions.
The Department for International Development’s Work on Economic and Social Rights
The realisation of all human rights underpins sustainable development. Through its development programmes, the UK supports civil society and governments to build open economies and open societies in which citizens have freedom, dignity, choice and control over their lives. UK Aid also works to ensure that all segments of society, including the persistently poor, women, ethnic minorities and other marginalised groups, can gainfully participate in growth processes by tackling the specific barriers they face in accessing economic opportunities.
In 2013, the Department for International Development (DFID) continued to implement a range of programmes that protect and promote human rights. Some of these are highlighted throughout this report, for example on strengthening the rule of law, promoting democratic governance, and security, peace and justice. Other major achievements during 2013 included the following.
Girls and women
DFID has put girls and women at the heart of international development. The DFID Strategic Vision for Girls and Women committed us to improving access to financial services for over 18 million women, providing secure access to land for three million women, and helping ten million women to access justice through the courts, police and legal assistance by 2015. In 2012-13, DFID provided at least 8.9 million women with access to financial services, and helped two million women and girls to access security and justice services.
Every year around seven million children under five die needlessly, from malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other infectious diseases. Complications during pregnancy and childbirth kill 1,000 girls and women every day. DFID’s work focuses on reaching the poorest with health services, by funding the provision of good-quality, cost-effective, basic health services by public, private and NGO providers. In 2012–13, DFID helped 3.4 million additional women to use modern methods of family planning, ensured that 500,000 births took place safely, distributed 9.8 million insecticide treated bed nets, and fully immunised 48 million children against polio.
Education enables people to live healthier and more productive lives, allowing them to fulfil their own potential, as well as to strengthen and contribute to open, inclusive and economically vibrant societies. Yet more than 57 million children are still out of school, of which 31 million are girls, and at least 250 million children cannot read or count, even if they have spent four years in school. DFID’s focus is for children not only to be in school, but also to be learning. In 2012-13, DFID supported 1.5 million children in primary and lower secondary school, of which 700,000 were girls, and 1.7 million teachers were trained through multilateral programmes supported by the UK.
Water and sanitation
Across the world, 2.5 billion people do not have access to sanitation and 780 million people do not have access to clean water. Inadequate access to water and sanitation is the principal cause of diarrhoeal disease, which kills 4,000 children every day, and is the leading killer of children under five in Africa. During 2012, the UK recognised the right to sanitation as an element of the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, as provided for under Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This is the same basis under which the UK recognised the right to water in 2006. In 2012-13, DFID provided 3.1 million people with sustainable access to clean drinking water, and 3.8 million people with sustainable access to improved sanitation.
Around 900 million people are in “working poverty”, defined as living under US$2 a day, predominantly in Africa and Asia, and 79% of jobs held by women are vulnerable, compared to 63% for men, in Africa. Economic development is key to enhancing economic opportunities and eradicating poverty. Growth is the main driver of long-term poverty reduction through the creation of jobs and higher incomes. More inclusive growth, particularly for girls and women, also requires action to tackle the structural barriers that deny poor people the chance to raise their incomes and find jobs. This includes improving access to finance, land and property markets, and employment opportunities. In 2012–13, DFID improved access to financial services for 19.5 million people, including at least 8.9 million women, helping enable them to work their way out of poverty.
Section III: Democracy
Democracy is fundamental to human rights, the rule of law and good governance. A democratic political system represents the will and interests of the people, sustained by and propagating the principles of transparency, participation, inclusion, and accountability.
The UK works to support democracy in individual countries, taking account of the individual characteristics of each, its history and its culture. Even in countries with significant challenges around the rule of law, it is possible to work to promote democratic values in a way that supports human rights and promotes development.
Democracy rests on foundations that have to be built over time: strong institutions, responsible and accountable government, a free press, the rule of law, and citizens who have a say in how they are governed. We do not seek to promote one particular model of democracy, but we recognise that these elements are valuable in themselves and critical building blocks of development. The way we act to support democracy in each country will differ, depending on the context and needs of the country concerned. Our approach is practical, and recognises where we can have most impact. In 2013, the Human Rights and Democracy Department funded democracy projects in Cambodia, Nepal and the Philippines.
In Cambodia, voter education is a key part of the multimedia civic education initiative known as “Loy9” which aims to increase youth access to information about civic life and opportunities for participation. The project, with BBC Media, included TV and radio public service announcements (PSAs) at peak times in the build-up to the National Assembly election in July 2013. The PSAs reached over 2.5 million young Cambodians, who received clear, relevant, practical information about the election procedures, and an explanation of the role of the Members of the National Assembly for whom they were about to vote.
The UK government also gave funding to the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL), which worked to strengthen public confidence before and after the Cambodian National Assembly election on 28 July. Election observers were deployed to polling and counting stations countrywide to monitor whether registered voters were able to exercise their right to vote, and whether election officials performed their duties effectively, including accurate publication of the results. After the election, COMFREL continued to lobby the Cambodian government to implement third-party recommendations on election reform, particularly the 2008 EU Election Observation Mission recommendations.
In November, the FCO funded a visit to Nepal by four MPs to observe the Constituent Assembly elections. The long-awaited elections followed a period of political stalemate, when the first Constituent Assembly was dissolved after failing to agree a constitution. Alongside our diplomatic efforts and significant funding from the Department for International Development (DFID) to provide technical support, the MPs’ visit demonstrated the UK’s commitment to a democratic election process in Nepal. The elections were seen by all international and domestic observers as credible, free, fair and largely peaceful.
In the Philippines, we continued to share British expertise in conflict resolution and political devolution. This diplomacy was underpinned by small UK government-funded projects on the ground. Over the last year, these projects focused on political party building, women’s participation, and drawing on the UK experience of the Patten Commission. The chief negotiators on the Philippines government side and the Malaysian facilitator were valuable contributors at our Wilton Park conference on Conflict Resolution in South East Asia in November.
Looking ahead to 2014, we will continue our work with the EU, UN, the Commonwealth, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), embassies and diplomatic colleagues. Together with DFID, we will continue to fund projects aimed at strengthening democratic processes in key countries of concern using the Human Rights and Democracy Programme Fund, Arab Partnership Fund, and Confliction Prevention Pool. We will monitor the impact of such programmes closely.
Elections and Election Observation Missions
The FCO supports election observation missions (EOMs) since they build voter confidence, deter violence, and support the credibility of the electoral process. There is also a clear correlation between peaceful transition of power through elections and longer-term prospects for development. The FCO, along with DFID, provides financial and technical assistance to international organisations that carry out EOMs, particularly the EU, OSCE, and the Commonwealth.
Election observation helps to increase the legitimacy of elections, reducing the risk of fraud and violence in the transfer of power. EU EOMs took place in Jordan, Pakistan, Paraguay and Kenya. The EU selected 39 UK observers for EOMs. In 2013, the FCO provided UK observers for OSCE EOMs to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Albania, Georgia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Mongolia and Tajikistan. The OSCE also played a crucial role in supporting Serbian presidential elections in Kosovo. The Commonwealth sent missions to observe elections in Cameroon, Grenada, Kenya, the Maldives, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sri Lanka and Swaziland.
In 2013, Pakistan reached a crucial milestone. For the first time, power transferred democratically between one civilian government and another, after a full term. This is a vital step on the path to a strong, stable and democratic Pakistan. Some 50 million people went to the ballot box on 11 May to make a statement about the future they want for their country, based on accountable, democratic government. They clearly rejected terrorist violence and intimidation.
Following an invitation from the Pakistan authorities, the British High Commission established a UK EOM. Consisting of eight teams of observers, it was one of the largest international observation teams and deployed throughout Pakistan. Our teams observed elections in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Murree, Faislabad, Jhang, and Karachi.
Our work on democracy in Pakistan will remain one of our key aims in 2014. The people of Pakistan can be certain of the UK’s support for their democratic future. The UK has been a long-term friend of Pakistan, and these elections have strengthened our commitment to work together, based on mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual benefit. These values have underpinned our relationship in the past, and we will do our utmost to ensure they continue to do so for the future.
The UK EOM was in addition to both the UK’s support for the EU EOM and our part-funding of the Commonwealth’s election observers. Complementing the EU, the UK EOM observed the electoral process, including the work of the election administration, campaigning activities, the conduct of the media, the process of voting and counting, and the announcement of the results.
These elections were among the most credible in Pakistan’s history, with a strong electoral register and the highest ever number of women and new voters. To protect that credibility, we hope that all allegations of malpractice will be thoroughly investigated.
Following the impeachment of President Lugo in June 2012, Paraguay held presidential elections on 21 April 2013. The poll was the most observed in the country’s history, with more than 300 international and 1,200 national monitors. The EU mission, with 111 accredited observers, had the biggest presence. After the elections, observer missions noted that the elections passed off peacefully, and were judged to have been largely free and fair.
National elections were held in Cambodia on 28 July. The EU welcomed their peaceful conduct and high public participation. The opposition made significant gains, but observers noted a number of significant irregularities in the electoral process. These included names missing from voter lists, duplicate names and manipulation of the count. More broadly, observers highlighted flaws in the campaign environment; notably unequal media access and the misuse of state resources. The opposition rejected the election result and a political standoff resulted which is still ongoing. The UK, along with other international partners, continues to push for dialogue between the two sides, with the aim of securing agreement on long-term political and electoral reforms, which will strengthen the democratic process in Cambodia.
Kenya held elections on 4 March. The determination of the Kenyan people to express their political will was demonstrated by the impressive turnout and the way in which many Kenyans waited patiently for hours to vote. The elections were largely peaceful, in stark contrast to the violence of 2007-08. The courts resolved disputes swiftly and fairly. This is an important part of the checks and balances put in place by the new Kenyan Constitution, namely to ensure that disputes are taken to the courts.
Most UK aid (around £16 million) in Kenya was delivered through the UN Development Programme’s elections basket fund. The support contributed to production of a more accurate voter register using secure optical mark technology, and put in place an independent parallel vote-counting system. This helped ensure that over 14 million Kenyans were registered to vote, and had greater confidence that their vote counted.
The Westminster Foundation for Democracy
The Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) is the UK’s leading democracy-building foundation. Established in 1992, WFD is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the FCO. It works globally to support the institutions of democracy – principally parliaments, political parties and civil society in post-conflict countries and emerging democracies. It is uniquely placed to draw on the expertise of all the UK’s principal political parties which work with their overseas counterparts (“sister parties”), in order to develop the skills of politicians and political parties. The overall goal of WFD is to strengthen the institutions of democracy and good governance, including respect for human rights.
During 2013, WFD continued its work on supporting parliaments, multi-party systems and civil society in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Central to WFD’s work is the development of more democratic, representative and inclusive governance systems, and strengthening of human rights. Responding to citizen-led demands for more democratic governance and rights in MENA, WFD has significantly expanded its programmes in the region. These include a MENA-wide initiative to support the engagement of women in political life, and develop the leadership skills of women politicians, enabling them to pursue reforms and legislation that protect women’s rights. Prevalent among these reform efforts are those to introduce legislation outlawing domestic violence against women.
This programme complements a range of other interventions in the region to secure greater inclusivity by forging closer links between legislators and their constituents and supporting civil society groups in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Tunisia and Yemen. Common to these civil society initiatives is the pursuit of greater accountability on the part of governments to uphold the rights of all citizens. WFD has been advising the Moroccan parliament on the creation of a public accounts committee, which was established in late 2013 in the parliament’s rules of procedure. The committee is the first of its kind in an Arab parliament.
WFD undertakes similar work in Central Asia, where it established a programme in Kyrgyzstan after uprisings and the eruption of ethnic tensions which resulted in hundreds of deaths. Designed to support greater inclusivity and better representation of citizens, the Kyrgyzstan programme supports stronger engagement between civil society, local councils, and parliament. Two pilot initiatives have been established in Naryn, central Kyrgyzstan, and in Osh, the country’s second city and centre of ethnic violence in 2010. Through the programme, the Jogorku Kenesh Committee on Human Rights, Constitutional Law and State Structure (the Kyrgyz Parliamentary Human Rights Committee) initiated the first hearings on torture and migration in Osh.
Support for more representative governance and closer links between legislators and their constituents also forms the core of WFD’s programme in Kenya. The 2010 constitutional provisions for devolving powers to Kenya’s 47 counties followed a highly divisive period of unrest and post-election violence in 2008. WFD supports the new county assemblies to perform their oversight roles in pursuit of a more equitable distribution of resources, and a transition from a centralised unitary government to a devolved one.
Strengthening democracy, human rights, and the rule of law is also the goal of WFD’s programme in Georgia, where it supports a range of civil society organisations to advocate and engage effectively with legislators on a range of policy issues, addressing the needs of all sectors of society, including poor and marginalised groups. The Georgian programme has assisted civil society organisations to lobby for reform on internal displacement, protection for defendants’ rights within the criminal code, women’s access to paternity testing, and health care for prison inmates.
In 2013, WFD completed a five-year programme, the Westminster Consortium for Parliaments and Democracy, which worked with six parliaments in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, resulting in a range of self-sustaining initiatives to strengthen democratic procedures. These included the establishment of parliamentary study centres in Lebanon, Uganda and Mozambique, greater representation and inclusivity of civil society, more rigorous parliamentary reporting by the media, the establishment of freedom of information legislation, and a dedicated human rights committee in the Ugandan parliament. The programme significantly contributed to WFD’s reputation as a result- and learning-oriented organisation delivering quality programmes that can strengthen democracy, good governance and citizen engagement – a legacy on which WFD intends to build in 2014.
More information on the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and its programmes is available on their website: www.wfd.org
Freedom of Expression
Freedom of expression on the internet remained one of the FCO’s key human rights priorities in 2013. As the UK stated in an address at the November Council of Europe Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age, freedom of expression and the media are essential qualities of any functioning democracy. People must be allowed to discuss and debate issues freely, to challenge their governments, and to make informed decisions. The vital role of the media in providing people with reliable and accurate information must also be protected.
2013 saw the threats to freedom of expression being increasingly extended beyond print media to the internet, with increases in blocking and censoring, which either directly restricted freedom of expression or created a broader chilling effect. There was an increase in the number of online journalists, bloggers and others who were obstructed in their work by being harassed, monitored, detained or subjected to violence and threats. Too often, countries referred to the need for “professionalism” and “responsibility” as pre-conditions for the enjoyment of the universal right to freedom of expression. The UK strongly believes that human rights apply online as they do offline, including freedom of expression, and that in the digital age the definition of “journalist” has expanded beyond traditional print media to include other media actors, including bloggers, netizens and citizen journalists.
In an address at the Seoul Cyber Conference in November, the Foreign Secretary argued that a free and open internet, one that allows for and enables freedom of expression, and benefits from collective oversight between governments, international organisations, industry and civil society, is the only way to ensure that the benefits of the digital age are expanded to all countries. State control of the internet often comes from a desire to control expression and curtail political freedom, and not only impedes the free flow of ideas, but also holds back economic growth and development.
To mark World Press Freedom Day this year, the FCO hosted the “Shine a Light” campaign, an online digital campaign to highlight the safety of journalists through the personal testimonies of journalists and bloggers from around the world who have faced harassment and other restrictions to press freedom. The stories, videos and pictures were collated on a bespoke World Press Freedom Day blog, and included material from Sudan, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Burma, Nepal, Hong Kong (SAR), Tunisia, Lebanon, Philippines, Iran, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Jordan, Egypt, Vietnam and Bahrain. In his statement on the day, the Foreign Secretary highlighted the “debt of gratitude” we owe to the courageous journalists, including citizen journalists, who risk imprisonment, injury and death to report from repressive countries or conflict zones around the world. In parallel, our embassies around the world hosted their own events, including two debates on press freedom co-hosted with the Universidade de Brasilia and Federal University of São Paulo in Brazil, as well as a reception for journalists and bloggers hosted by the British High Commission in Singapore.
Freedom of expression remained a key priority of the Human Rights and Democracy Programme Fund in 2013. The FCO funded 11 projects around the world, totalling over £800,000. These included a project in Kazakhstan aimed at strengthening the expertise of media NGOs, journalists and media lawyers to defend the rights of journalists more effectively; one in Vietnam aimed at increasing access to information and broadening public policy debate through strengthened investigative environmental journalism; one in Russia to build journalists’ capacity to report on ethnic, race and religious diversity; and one with BBC Media Action in Zambia focused on improving the capacity of the media in Zambia to facilitate dialogue and debate between ordinary Zambians and their leaders.
The UK continued to work to promote freedom of expression online through multilateral institutions including the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the UN. The UK co-sponsored two resolutions on the Safety of Journalists at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in September and at the UN General Assembly in November. In July, during a Security Council debate on the Safety of Journalists, the UK deplored the murder of journalists as an attack on democracy and free speech, and reaffirmed its commitment to the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, encouraging all member states to work together with the UN to implement its provisions. The UK also successfully lobbied to secure language reaffirming the principle that the same rights and responsibilities that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular, freedom of expression, in the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) Communiqué in November.
As well as working through multilateral institutions, the UK raised its concerns around freedom of expression bilaterally throughout 2013. In Thailand, we continued to work with EU partners to attend high-profile trials and issue joint statements condemning convictions under the lèse majesté law. One prominent example of this was the case of activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, who was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment in January for publishing articles which allegedly made negative reference to the monarchy. In addition to publicly stating our opposition to such cases, we reinforced the message to the Royal Thai government that heavy-handed use of lèse majesté serves only to undermine the institution it purports to protect.
Freedom of expression also remained a concern in Kazakhstan. Although criminal justice reform is ongoing, articles currently remain that could, in principle, further restrict freedom of speech and expression. Our Embassy in Kazakhstan funded a training programme for media lawyers and media NGOs on national legislation, international law and media advocacy.
The human rights situation in Azerbaijan remained a concern in 2013, with continued restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, and the extension of the defamation law to the internet. Our Embassy in Baku funded projects investigating the right to a fair trial in freedom of expression cases, and supporting human rights civil society organisations in Azerbaijan. During his visit to Baku in December, the Foreign Secretary raised human rights during meetings with the President and Foreign Minister, including the individual case of Anar Mammadli, Chairman of the Azerbaijani Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre, who was arrested in December.
Growing restrictions on freedom of expression remain a priority in Russia. At the Annual Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue in Moscow in May, officials raised concerns about the case of Bolotnaya protestors, many of whom were under house arrest or in detention awaiting trial on charges of organising mass unrest on 6 May 2012, as well as growing limits on the operating environment for NGOs in Russia.
The response by Turkish police to nationwide demonstrations over the summer raised freedom of expression concerns. According to Turkish Interior Ministry figures, 2.5 million protestors took part in 79 cities across Turkey. The Turkish police responded by using tear gas, pepper spray, water cannon and plastic bullets to disperse the protestors. The European Commission’s Annual Progress Report highlighted concerns over excessive use of force by the Turkish police. According to the report, over 3500 protestors were detained, with 108 detained on suspicion of being a member of a terrorist organisation. The Turkish Human Rights Ombudsman, in its report on the protest, also noted that the police had, on occasion, used excessive force. The UK has launched a joint project with the Ministry of Interior, aimed at supporting the Turkish government to reach a more effective balance between respecting the right to peaceful protest, while ensuring public safety.
The Foreign Secretary’s Advisory Group on Human Rights has a Sub-Group on Freedom of Expression on the Internet, chaired by Baroness Warsi. The sub-group brings together representatives from academia, civil society and industry, and it met twice in 2013. In May, the group discussed a new strategy for engaging with middle-ground countries on freedom of expression on the internet, and priorities for the upcoming Freedom Online Coalition Conference. In November, group members debated the impact of the Snowden revelations on the UK’s efforts to promote freedom of expression online, and offered their suggestions for the draft EU Guidelines on Freedom of Expression.
The UK continued to play a leading role in the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), a coalition of like-minded countries committed to promoting internet freedom, including by engaging with other governments, civil society, industry and international organisations. In 2013, the FOC grew in membership, with Georgia, Germany and Moldova joining, bringing the total membership to 22 countries. Joint action by coalition members included lobbying other governments against adopting restrictive legislation that would violate freedom of expression online.
For example, the FOC called on Vietnam to make changes to Decree 72, which imposed further restrictions on the way the internet is accessed and used in Vietnam, to ensure that it did not violate freedom of expression online. FOC member states made joint statements in other international fora, including the OSCE Human Dimension seminar and Internet Governance Forum (IGF), calling on governments to respect and protect internet freedom and uphold the current multi-stakeholder model of internet governance, which is essential to a free and open internet. The FOC held regular meetings in the margins of other international meetings including the UN Human Rights Council, the Stockholm Internet Forum and the IGF, where it hosted an open session to engage with civil society and hear their suggestions about ways to shape the work of the FOC.
Tunisia hosted this year’s FOC conference in Tunis, a testament in part to the role of the internet and social media in the Arab Spring. The Tunis conference focused on three key themes: a free and secure internet; privacy and transparency online; and digital development and openness. The 4th FOC conference, to be hosted by Estonia in Tallinn in April 2014, will continue to focus on these key themes, and will aim to produce a set of recommendations to governments, industry and civil society.
Intelligence revelations intensified debate on the right to privacy online and offline in multilateral fora including the UN and Council of Europe. Brazil and Germany co-sponsored a resolution at the UN General Assembly 3rd Committee in November on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age, which was adopted by consensus. The UK lobbied for the inclusion of language reaffirming that freedom of expression applies online as it does offline, but this was unfortunately not included in the final text. The UK welcomes debate about privacy issues, but will continue to argue that this should not be at the expense of adequate international focus on threats to freedom of expression online.
The Arab Partnership
Through 2013, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region continued to face complex, political, economic and security challenges. Governments face the long-term task of delivering lasting security, stability and prosperity through institution-building based on respect for human rights. This includes development of an independent and impartial judiciary, a capable and accountable legislature, plural media and civil society.
The joint DFID-FCO Arab Partnership worked across 15 MENA countries to support those building more open, inclusive political systems and economies. We provided practical assistance through the bilateral £110 million 2011-2015 Arab Partnership Fund, and the UK’s Chairmanship of the Deauville Partnership, as part of our 2013 G8 Presidency.
Through the FCO-led Arab Partnership Participation Fund (APPF), our priority objectives, all underlined by the promotion of respect for international human rights norms, were to support the following: more inclusive political participation; greater respect and space for public voice; and strengthened good governance. We also supported the rights of women in the region across all three of these themes.
In financial year 2013-14, our APPF funding totalled £13 million. We supported 65 projects ranging from £45,000 to £525,000. Below are some examples of our work, delivered in some cases in difficult country environments.
More inclusive political participation
In Jordan, we funded a project to improve the capacity of political parties and parliament in addressing the concerns of citizens, through strengthening the work of parliamentary committees. In Egypt, we supported the Carter Centre and the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa, which fielded observation missions and provided expert analysis around the two referendums. This provided impartial and credible assessments regarding the polls, used by both local and international groups.
Greater respect and space for public voice
Working with the British Council and the Anna Lindh Foundation, we supported a regional project in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Jordan, which organised over 190 debates. 1,200 young men and women have been trained to debate policy issues, learning directly from policymakers and experts. Cascade training is increasing the reach further. In Algeria, we supported media pluralism through the training of 400 staff from the state radio station, as well as newspaper and television journalists. These outlets have taken advantage of new media freedoms to initiate independent discussion on previously unexplored subjects, such as an in-depth report about sexual harassment on public transport.
Strengthened good governance
In Egypt, we are supporting projects improving service delivery and dialogue between local government and communities. For example, the Egyptian Association for Marketing and Development has overseen the training of mediators who have contributed to the resolution of 35 corruption cases between local government and community.
Women’s rights in the MENA region
In Libya, we continue to support the General National Congress’s women’s caucus to advocate gender-conscious legislation, including an expanded quota for women’s representation on the constitution-drafting assembly. A project in Iraq has empowered women in civil society organisations to challenge gender discrimination in Iraqi legislation. In Egypt, we have supported the training of 50 women to run in local elections. Although these elections have been postponed, the women have been proactive in setting up popular committees and participating in local civic campaigns.
Human Rights Defenders
The FCO continued to attach great importance to our work with civil society and human rights defenders (HRDs). Our overseas missions worked with EU colleagues locally to support HRDs in line with the EU Guidelines on HRDs, as well as working with colleagues from other like-minded embassies. Our work included meeting HRDs and their families; raising specific instances of abuse or detention with governments; encouraging dialogue between governments and HRDs; speaking out publicly in support of HRDs; and funding projects. In August, the FCO sent an updated guidance note to all UK embassies and high commissions with examples of best practice across the network, and practical advice on implementing the EU Guidelines locally.
In 2013, the UK continued to support “Lifeline: the Embattled NGO Assistance Fund” with a contribution of £100,000. Lifeline provides emergency assistance and small grants to civil society organisations worldwide that are facing repression and harassment because of their work in promoting human rights. It also supports discrete advocacy initiatives to help local NGOs defend themselves against undue government restrictions in difficult environments. In 2013, Lifeline gave 164 grants worth more than US$1,380,000 to civil society organisations working on human rights issues.
The UK also continued to play an active role in the Community of Democracies Working Group on Enabling and Protecting Civil Society, which focuses on addressing the issue of restrictive laws and regulations that stifle civil society around the world. Over the course of 2013, the UK engaged in several joint lobbying efforts to prevent the adoption of restrictive legislation that hinders the work of civil society.
The UK also contributed £500,000 to the Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP) Fund, established in September 2012 by the US, Netherlands and UK. The DDP Fund aims to protect freedom of expression by offering rapid release grants to help keep the internet open when governments attempt to shut it down in order to suppress democratic debate, as well as funding work to develop tools to enable democracy activists to operate safely online. In 2013, the DDP formally established a governance structure and grant-making procedures, set up its website, and made its first grants. These included a project that aims to provide high-quality legal support to media, journalists and bloggers in South Asia and South-East Asia, and one aimed at strengthening the technical capacity of an anti-censorship network. DDP also carried out two scouting missions to Central Asia and the MENA region to perform research into internet infrastructure, the current situation of surveillance and censorship, and potential attacks and threats in each region.
Bilaterally, ministers and officials continued to raise individual cases of HRDs with host governments, and attend trials and court hearings. In Bangladesh, the situation of HRDs has worsened, with activists being arrested for publishing material critical of the government. Adilur Rahman Khan, Executive Secretary of the Bangladesh human rights group, Odhikar, was arrested in August 2013, following publication of a fact-finding report about a police crackdown against a rally led by the Islamist organisation Hefazat-e-Islam. The British High Commission expressed concerns about Khan’s arrest to the Bangladesh authorities and issued a statement on 13 August noting that it had conveyed its concerns about his detention, and calling on the Bangladesh authorities to observe due process and respect for human rights. The British High Commission continues to monitor the trial.
Section IV: Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law
Respect for the rule of law is crucial for peace and security, and the protection of human rights, because it advances accountability and democracy, equality and social justice, and growth and investment. As demonstrated elsewhere in this report, serious human rights violations are endemic in states where the rule of law has collapsed. States in which rule of law is weak - for example where public authority is not held accountable - citizens are not treated equally before the law, human rights are not protected, and citizens cannot access justice, are usually those most prone to instability.
The UK has a long history of supporting the rule of law overseas and considers this to be a key component of sustainable development. In 2013, the Department for International Development (DFID) supported 25 programmes that included a security and justice component, operating in 16 countries overseas, at a value of approximately £50 million per annum. DFID also undertakes rule of law work with regional institutions, and in fragile and conflict-affected states. The primary areas of focus for DFID’s bilateral work are improving public trust and accountability in state security and justice institutions, increasing access to justice at the individual and community level, and reducing violence against women and children.
The Overseas Security and Justice Assistance (OSJA) Guidance is a crucial, widely-used tool that enables the UK government to assess fully and mitigate possible human rights risks arising from its overseas security and justice assistance work. It applies to all UK government departments and agencies involved in overseas security and justice work, and enables vital assistance to take place. The guidance was recently the subject of a planned review, and minor amendments were made to clarify key points, including defining more clearly the circumstances in which the guidance should be applied, and highlighting additional assessments against the EU and National Consolidated Criteria that need to be undertaken if the assistance involved the provision of equipment controlled under export control legislation.The updated guidance is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/overseas-security-and-justice-assistance-osja-guidance.
The Death Penalty
Global abolition of the death penalty remains a priority for the UK government. We oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. We consider that its use undermines human dignity, that there is no conclusive evidence that it has any value as a deterrent, and that any miscarriage of justice is irreversible and irreparable.
The international trend towards abolition of the death penalty was last confirmed by the largest ever UN General Assembly (UNGA) vote, at the end of 2012, in favour of establishing a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty. While not binding, the growing support for this resolution (which is tabled every two years) is indicative of strengthening world opinion against the use of the death penalty.
The map below shows the use of the death penalty around the world. Countries whose laws provide for the death penalty only for exceptional crimes such as crimes under military law or crimes committed in exceptional circumstances, such as wartime crimes, are deemed to have abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes. Countries that retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes such as murder are commonly considered abolitionist in practice if they have not executed anyone during the past ten years, are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions, or have made an international commitment not to use the death penalty. Data: is sourced from Amnesty International.
The government’s Strategy for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, which was updated in October 2011, defines three goals to support our overarching objective of global abolition. Firstly, we aim to increase the number of abolitionist countries, or countries with a moratorium on the use of the death penalty. Secondly, in countries that still apply the death penalty, we want to secure further restrictions on its use, and reductions in the numbers of executions. And, thirdly, when the death penalty is applied, we aim to ensure that universal minimum standards on its use are met; these include fair trial rights and no execution of juveniles.
In consultation with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Advisory Sub-Group on the Death Penalty, we placed a particular focus in 2013 on two geographic regions: South East Asia and the Caribbean. The group was established several years ago to provide expertise on death penalty issues, and meets about twice a year.
The picture in South East Asia has been mixed. There are positive signs in a number of countries of increasing willingness to review the use of the death penalty. Singapore, for example, introduced a change in its law, which led to a reduction in the use of mandatory death sentences and a review of current death row cases. The UK government had asked Singapore to remove mandatory death sentences, while UK-registered charitable trust, the Death Penalty Project (DPP), has supported local lawyers in bringing legal challenges to the death penalty in Singapore. Death row inmate Yong Vui Kong, assisted by the DPP since 2009, was spared the death penalty in 2013.
In Malaysia, the DPP used FCO project funds to carry out a public opinion survey on attitudes towards the death penalty. The results of this suggest that support tends to drop in proportion to the amount and quality of information respondents have about the death penalty and its use. The Malaysian government is currently looking at law reform, and has indicated that this review covers the use of the death penalty.
While there have been no executions since 2009, we still have concerns about the death penalty in Thailand and have continued to lobby the Thai government on abolition. The picture is less positive in Vietnam, where use of the death penalty resumed in August following a de facto moratorium since 2011. Indonesia too ended its de facto moratorium, which had been in force since 2008, to carry out five executions in 2013.
In the Caribbean, we focused on providing support, through FCO project funding and the active involvement of posts, for local civil society abolitionists. To date, there has not been a strong tradition of civil society support for abolition in the region, and high crime rates in the Caribbean have helped maintain support by the general public for the death penalty. In 2013, the FCO worked with the Paris-based World Coalition Against the Death Penalty to provide support for local organisations. This led to the establishment, during a conference in Port of Spain in October, of the Greater Caribbean for Life Network, in which activists across the region are now working together to advance the cause of abolition.
The FCO supports the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Abolition of the Death Penalty, which is chaired by Baroness Stern, and which works energetically with parliamentarians worldwide to bring about abolition. In 2013, the FCO funded lobbying visits by its members to Japan, Taiwan and Thailand, where local posts arranged visit programmes and contacts with key local representatives. An official Thai delegation subsequently visited the UK, and had further discussions with Lord Dubs and others, contributing to a further Thai government request for assistance in studying possible moves towards abolition.
The FCO also funded a lobbying visit by APPG member Baroness Scotland to Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados. Baroness Scotland was accompanied by Madame Ruth Dreyfuss, a former President of Switzerland and a member of the Geneva-based International Commission Against the Death Penalty. The visit highlighted the need to focus on better law enforcement practices as a means of countering public anxiety about crime. The UK Crown Prosecution Service is providing Caribbean governments with assistance to improve the criminal justice system, and we hope that over time these activities will create a climate more favourable to abolition.
The International Commission Against the Death Penalty, an international NGO, established in 2010, has made a valuable contribution to the cause of abolition. in 2013, the UK government accepted an invitation from the Commission to join its Support Group, in which member states work to develop the organisation’s strategy. We look forward to further cooperation with our partners in this body.
The 5th World Congress against the Death Penalty took place in Madrid in June. Members of the APPG, the FCO’s Advisory Sub-Group on the Death Penalty and FCO officials took part in this, and contributed to the discussion with international experts on further progress towards abolition. FCO funding enabled civil society representatives from the Caribbean to take part, and this has greatly assisted the work of the newly-established Caribbean network mentioned above.
Either bilaterally or with the EU, we continue to raise concerns about the death penalty with countries that continue to use it. In 2013 these included Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria, the US, Bangladesh, China, India, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Japan, as well as Taiwan.
The US continues to be one of the UK government’s top five death penalty priority countries, and throughout 2013 we raised the death penalty regularly with individual states, including on specific cases, both bilaterally and through the EU. The use of the death penalty in the US is declining steadily. In 2013, there were 39 executions in just nine states – only the second time in 19 years there have been fewer than 40 executions. This represents a 10% drop from 2012 and a 75% decline from the peak of the mid-1990s. The state of Maryland abolished the death penalty completely, the 18th state to do so.
We have funded several other projects promoting abolition, including support for an abolitionist parliamentarians’ network in Morocco, and a project to strengthen the capacity of grass roots abolitionist campaigners in the US.
In 2014, we will continue to implement our strategy and its three goals. In advance of the UNGA Resolution on the Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty, we will work with like-minded partners to identify countries which may be prepared to review their death penalty policy, offering, where appropriate, to share the UK’s political and technical experience on abolition.
Torture is an abhorrent violation of human rights and human dignity. Its impact on societies and individuals is devastating. We do not participate in, solicit, encourage, or condone the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for any purpose, and international action against torture remains a human rights priority for the UK government. Preventing torture and tackling impunity for those who torture also helps to safeguard Britain’s security, and our torture prevention work supports our consular work by helping to reduce the mistreatment of British nationals imprisoned overseas. In 2013, we continued to pursue the three goals of the FCO Torture Prevention Strategy 2011-15: to ensure that legal frameworks are in place and enforced; to develop political will and capacity to eradicate torture; and to give organisations on the ground skills to ensure its eradication.
Globally, we continued to work with local and international NGOs, prosecutors, prison services and other partners to prevent torture, and have continued to dedicate funding to support several torture prevention initiatives across the world. Such projects include an initiative delivered by the NGO Interights: strengthening the capacity of a cadre of lawyers across Africa to litigate strategically on providing redress to individual victims of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We also began funding a two-year, multi-country project by the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) which involves torture prevention work in Bahrain, Brazil, Fiji, Indonesia, Morocco, Burma, the Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey and Uganda.
We also continued to pursue the prevention of torture in multilateral organisations. In the UN we provided financial support to the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The UK campaigned for a strong annual UNGA 3rd Committee resolution on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which was once again adopted by consensus.
To mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June, Senior Minister of State, Baroness Warsi, reiterated the UK’s opposition to torture and announced our renewed effort to persuade those states that have not yet done so to ratify the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and its Optional Protocol (OPCAT). Subsequent efforts across the network to support this work included:
- bilateral lobbying to encourage governments to sign and ratify CAT and OPCAT. In 2013, we welcomed the ratification of the convention by Guinea-Bissau and signature by Angola, Haiti and Vietnam. In addition, we welcomed the ratification of OPCAT by Italy, Norway and Portugal, as well as signature by Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mongolia;
- British embassies and high commissions worldwide held activities to mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Baroness Warsi’s statement was used to support local communications encouraging ratification; for example, in Manila we conveyed these messages at a civil society event, and in Beirut we used digital media to raise awareness of our ratification campaign;
- we continued to engage in a range of multilateral fora to ensure torture prevention remains high on the agenda, for example by working through the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the UN, including by raising ratification at country Universal Periodic Reviews. The UK also delivered a statement at an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Torture at the UNGA 3rd Committee, urging states to ratify CAT and OPCAT; and
- we have funded projects that place a specific emphasis on CAT/OPCAT ratification. For example, the APT project referred to above promotes an open and informed process of ratification and implementation of the Convention and its Optional Protocol.
The FCO’s Advisory Sub-Group on Torture Prevention, made up of torture prevention experts from academia, the legal profession and NGOs, held two meetings in 2013. It provides the FCO with expert advice to help us implement the FCO Torture Prevention Strategy.
In 2014, we will continue activities to further the goals of the FCO Torture Prevention Strategy, and our efforts to persuade those states that have not yet done so to ratify CAT and OPCAT.
CAT/OPCAT: The map below shows the status of signature and ratification of both the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) and its Optional Protocol (OPCAT). Data: UN
International Justice System
The UK’s support for international criminal justice continues to be a fundamental element of our foreign policy. The UK government remains committed to the principle that there must be no impunity for the most serious crimes: the perpetrators of such crimes, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, must be held accountable for their actions.
The UK has continued to support the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda at a time of transition to the new Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, and the voluntary-funded tribunals for Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Lebanon. We have used our position - as a member of the UN Security Council, as a State Party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, and as a major donor and member of the management bodies of the voluntary-funded tribunals - to make a positive contribution to the court and the tribunals. The UK has provided political support, practical assistance and financial contributions totalling over £20 million in 2013. We have also contributed to efforts to make the court and tribunals more effective and efficient.
International Criminal Court
The ICC makes an essential contribution to international justice by acting as a court of last resort, which takes up cases when national authorities have been unable or unwilling to deliver justice. In February, Côte d’Ivoire became the most recent state to accede to the Rome Statute, and there are now 122 States Parties to the ICC. In January, the ICC Prosecutor formally opened an investigation into crimes allegedly committed in Mali since January 2012. At the end of 2013, the ICC was dealing with ongoing investigations in eight situations.
The UK continued its strong support for the ICC. In July, the Foreign Secretary launched a new UK strategy to support the work of the court (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/international-criminal-court-strategy-paper). We committed to working to ensure that the ICC retains its independence, delivers justice, increases its membership, builds more support for its decisions from states and from the UN Security Council, gains wider regional support, and completes its work more efficiently.
In November, the UK, together with the other six ICC States Parties on the UN Security Council and the US, abstained on a draft resolution that sought deferral of the ongoing ICC cases against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. We abstained because the criteria for deferral under the Rome Statute were not met. The draft resolution was not adopted. We will continue to listen to, and engage with, concerns relating to the ICC, in the context of our principled support for the court.
In November, the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties adopted a package of new rules on procedures for trials at the court. The rule changes allow for an accused, with high-level public duties to fulfil, to request the ICC for excusal from attendance at trial in person, with representation through lawyers instead, and to be present for certain parts of the trial through video technology. Decisions on when to use these rules will be made by the ICC. The UK played a constructive role in developing these changes, which respond to concerns raised by States Parties within the framework of the Rome Statute.
The UK continued to help the ICC to develop as an effective and efficient institution, including through our support for the creation of an Independent Oversight Mechanism. We supported a budget agreement for 2014, which reflected the increased workload of the ICC whilst including commitments to internal reform.
The UK contributed a total of £800,000 to the Trust Fund for Victims, which was established by the Rome Statute to support victims and to help build lasting peace and reconciliation in war-torn societies. The UK’s contribution was earmarked for projects which support survivors of acts of sexual violence committed in conflict. It complements wider UK work to tackle the culture of impunity for crimes of sexual violence in conflict through the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative.
The Special Court for Sierra Leone
In September, judges at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) upheld Charles Taylor’s sentence of 50 years’ imprisonment for aiding and abetting war crimes committed during the Sierra Leone civil war. This decision was a landmark for international justice. It finally delivered the justice that victims and their families had fought so long and hard to achieve, and it marked the last substantial task of the SCSL. The SCSL is now the first modern international criminal court to complete its mandate. Following the verdict, Taylor was transferred to the UK, where he will likely serve the remainder of his sentence.
Taylor was the first former head of state since the Nuremberg trials to be convicted for war crimes. His trial and sentence sent a clear message that, while justice is neither quick nor easy to deliver, the international community will hold to account those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of sexual violence. The SCSL played an important role in helping Sierra Leone, after more than a decade of civil war, to come to terms with the past and to help bring stability to the region. The SCSL’s pioneering jurisprudence on sexual crimes will have a long-lasting impact on the efforts to end impunity for sexual violence in armed conflict.
The UK played a significant role in the success of the SCSL. We were the second largest bilateral donor having contributed US$44 million to the court over its lifetime, we were an active member of the SCSL management committee, and the UK’s offer to enforce any sentence against Charles Taylor was vital to enabling the trial to go ahead.
The SCSL officially closed on 31 December 2013. The smaller Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone (RSCSL) opened on 1 January 2014 to carry out those ongoing and ad hoc functions that remain in order to secure the legacy of the SCSL. The RSCSL will be responsible for supervising the sentences, witness protection, and managing the SCSL archives. It is the first residual court mechanism of its kind formally to take over from its predecessor and, as such, will be crucial for the long-term sustainability of international justice. The UK will continue to support the RSCSL and to help the UN to manage it through our position on the RSCSL oversight committee.
International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda
In 2013, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) continued its transition to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT). The UK supports the ICTR’s transition and continued efforts to capture the nine remaining fugitives. The ICTR remains on course of complete this transition and close at the end of 2014.
In 2014, the UK will continue to support the ICTR’s work in tackling impunity and delivering justice to the victims of the Rwandan genocide.
International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia
In 2013, the trials of Radovan Karadžić, Ratko Mladić, Vojislav Šešelj and Goran Hadžić, continued at the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). These trials are expected to be completed in 2014 (Šešelj), 2015 (Karadžić, Hadžić) and 2016 (Mladić). The tribunals also acquitted (at appeal) the former Chief of General Staff the Yugoslav Army, Momčilo Perišić.
2013 marked the beginning of the ICTY’s transition to the MICT. Once complete, this transition will result in the ICTY’s remaining functions, such as witness protection, being managed by the MICT. However, this transition is not expected to be completed until the remaining four trials have concluded. Any new cases or appeals will go to the MICT (see below).
In 2013, the UK continued to play a leading role in supporting the work of the ICTY and provided regular practical support. This support included access to records and agreement to enforce ICTY prison sentences, and this support will continue in 2014. Continued co-operation with the ICTY and the domestic prosecution of war crimes will remain an important aspect for the prospect of potential EU membership for states in the Western Balkans region.
Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT)
In 2013, the second ICTY branch of the MICT opened in The Hague. The ICTR branch opened the previous year (2013). The MICT is designed to maintain the jurisdiction, rights, obligations, essential functions and legacy of the ICTR and ICTY. Its functions include maintaining protective measures granted to victims and witnesses, hearing any appeals from judgments or sentences and maintaining the tribunals’ archives.
In 2014, the MICT will continue to assist national jurisdictions via access to evidence, providing assistance in tracking fugitives in cases (relevant for ICTR), and monitoring cases transferred to national jurisdictions to ensure fair and impartial adjudication.
Extraordinary Chambers of the Court of Cambodia
The UK continued to support the work of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) to deliver justice for the millions of victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, during a difficult year for the ECCC.
The trial in case “002” continued, which is dealing with the most senior surviving members of the regime, with the charges including crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. In March, Ieng Sary, one of the three remaining defendants, died, and subsequently all charges against him were dropped. The case continues against the remaining two defendants Kheiu Samphan and Nuon Chea. The hearing of evidence in the first phase of the trial ended in July, and the closing statements took place in October. Throughout the year, the ECCC’s outreach program continued to help educate and inform Cambodians across the country about its work.
The ECCC struggled to secure enough funding to cover its budget, leading to staff walk-outs in June and September. The UK contributed £1.8 million, and we helped the fundraising effort by lobbying new and existing donors to provide contributions. Our contributions were instrumental in keeping the ECCC functioning and, in particular, helped the UN to resolve the walk-out in June by paying the outstanding wages. We also worked with other donors in pressing the UN to streamline the ECCC’s budget and to implement efficiencies.
2014 will be an important year for the ECCC. Hearings in the second phase of case 002 will begin, with a judgement in the first phase due to be delivered in June, and the investigations into cases 003 and 004 are expected to be completed by the end of the year. The UK will continue to support the ECCC to ensure it is able to pass these important milestones. Funding remains a major challenge and will be a priority for the UK and other donors.
Special Tribunal for Lebanon
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has issued four arrest warrants for individuals suspected of involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, and the death of 22 others in February 2005. A fifth indictment was confirmed in 2013. All of the indictees remain at large, but trials in absentia began on 16 January 2014.
The UK fully supports the STL, which remains vital to efforts to increase stability in Lebanon and promote the rule of law. It is important that the STL, as an independent tribunal, be allowed to carry out its work and remain free from political interference. The UK continues to call on the Lebanese government to comply with its obligations to the STL, including the arrest and transfer of those indicted. In December 2013, the UK announced a further £1 million contribution to the STL. This figure brings the UK’s total contribution to the STL to £5.5 million over the last four years.
International Humanitarian Law
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is a distinct body of law from International Human Rights Law. IHL, as codified in particular in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols and as also established through customary international law, regulates the conduct of armed conflicts. The UK works with other states and the Red Cross Movement to promote compliance with IHL, and the treaties on which it is based, and to call on states and armed groups that are parties to conflicts to respect it.
The UK provided a total of £111 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2013, consisting of £40 million in core funding, £15 million for underfunded country operations, £4 million as a contribution to support the ICRC Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict and Other Situations of Violence Programme, and £52 million from DFID country offices to ICRC country operations. In July, the UK completed a comprehensive review on our work to fulfil our pledges made at the 2011 International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. The UK also worked closely with the ICRC and the Red Cross Movement on their initiative to strengthen mechanisms of compliance with IHL.
The UK secured a historic Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict at the G8 Foreign Ministers’ meeting in April. The declaration states that rape and other forms of serious sexual violence in armed conflict constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and their first Protocol, meaning that states have an obligation to prosecute (or hand over for trial) any individual alleged to have committed such grave breaches regardless of nationality. This commitment gained further support when the Foreign Secretary launched the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict at the UNGA in September. To date, 138 states have endorsed the UNGA declaration.
2014 will see a number of historic anniversaries for IHL, including the centenary of the First World War, and the 150th anniversary of the first Geneva Convention. We will look to mark these occasions, and continue to work closely with the ICRC and the Red Cross Movement, including on strengthening mechanisms of compliance with IHL.
Section V: Equality and Non-discrimination
Freedom of Religion or Belief
The promotion and protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief is now a key priority for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). We regard freedom of thought, conscience or belief as a fundamental human right, and one that underpins many other rights. We base our work on the full definition of the right as set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the right to change your religion or belief, as well as the right to manifest your religion and to teach it to others.
2013 has seen a number of worrying developments with regard to freedom of religion or belief. As stated during Baroness Warsi’s keynote address in Washington, a key concern has been the closing space for Christians, in particular in the Middle East and North Africa region, the very region where their faith was born. But there has also been a rising tide of violence and intimidation in traditionally Christian countries in Africa. Overall, harassment or intimidation of specific religious groups is at a six-year high, and there is no sign of the climate improving. 74% of people live in countries where high levels of religious hostility limit religious freedom, and 64% in countries where government restrictions are the limiting factor.
The world is beginning to take note. There has been an encouraging spread of interfaith reconciliation initiatives. There are laws in place. However, laws mean little in light of the fact that some of the most oppressive states in the world theoretically guarantee religious freedom in their constitutions. 83% of countries with populations over two million protect freedom of religion by law. But a great many of those do not put this into practice – often doing quite the opposite.
Freedom of Religion or Belief
This year the world’s eyes have often been on Syria. An increasingly bloody civil war is becoming more sectarian in nature. There have been widespread reports of sectarian attacks against Christians, Alawites, Shia and Sunnis. The rise of extremist groups, in particular those linked to al-Qaeda, puts all Syrians at risk. Throughout 2013, we made clear our serious concerns about rising sectarian tensions in Syria and that we believed that, far from acting against the extremists, President Assad’s actions had included a deliberate attempt to stir up such tensions in his efforts to hold on to power. We also called for those responsible for human rights violations and abuses to be held to account, and for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court. On 16 October, Senior Minister of State, Baroness Warsi, met Patriarch Gregorios III and discussed the Geneva II peace process, the plight of Christians in Syria, and the humanitarian crisis affecting Syria and the region.
Another country of concern in this context during 2013 was Egypt. During Baroness Warsi’s visit to Cairo in February, she met Pope Tawadros II, leader of the Coptic Church, and the Shaykh Al Azhar, Dr Ahmed El Tayyeb, and discussed the issue of minorities in Egypt. In August, following the ousting of President Morsi, 38 churches were burned and 23 damaged in an upsurge in sectarian violence. The Foreign Secretary spoke out following these acts, and Minister for the Middle East, Hugh Robertson, discussed the situation faced by Coptic Christians and implications of the new constitution in a meeting with Bishop Yulios during his visit to Cairo in December.
The security situation for Iraq’s Christians, Sunnis and other minorities remained precarious in 2013, and we condemned the attacks on Christians in Baghdad on Christmas Day. There was widespread sectarian violence against civilians throughout the year. This included terrorists targeting Shia pilgrims and attacks on mosques and holy places, with the aim of increasing tensions and causing sectarian divide. We continue to urge the Iraqi government to protect all communities, and to deal appropriately with those found responsible for any acts of violence and intimidation motivated by political, ethnic or religious affiliation. We also call on the Iraqi government to provide stability for all Iraqis in accordance with the rule of law. We have been funding a series of grassroots meetings in Iraq, led by Canon Andrew White, bringing together people from different faiths to combat sectarian violence.
There was no improvement in Iran’s appalling treatment of minority religious groups in 2013. The Baha’i community continued to be particularly targeted, with reports of arrests, torture and restrictions on access to education and employment. Christians experienced widespread persecution, especially converts, evangelical groups, and house church movements. In the last three years, hundreds of Christians have been arrested. Many still languished in jail at the end of 2013, including Pastor Abedini, who was imprisoned for setting up house churches. Sunni Muslims and Dervishes also suffered discrimination and human rights abuses. Ministers have regularly spoken out on the issue and we continue to raise it at the UN and other international fora.
Minorities continued to come under attack in Pakistan. 2013 saw violent and often unprecedented attacks continue against Muslims and non-Muslims. Shia Muslims and in particular Hazaras were targeted by terrorists; according to the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, there were approximately 1,200 sectarian killings throughout Pakistan in 2013. An estimated 400 Shias were killed across Pakistan in what Human Rights Watch termed “a bloodbath”. More than 80 Christians were killed in an appalling double suicide bombing at a church in Peshawar. Baroness Warsi discussed these issues at length with the Prime Minister of Pakistan in New York, and during her visit to Pakistan in October 2013. In September, Baroness Warsi met with representatives of the UK Hazara community.
Christian, Sikh, Hindu, Ahmadia, Shia and minority ethnic communities in Pakistan reported intimidation and violence, kidnap, forced conversion and marriage, and other forms of targeted persecution and discrimination in the course of the year. Muslims and non-Muslims continued to be charged under the country’s blasphemy law. In the course of 2013, at least 16 people were on death row, and another 20 were serving life sentences. One of the most high-profile cases, Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010, remained in prison. FCO ministers and officials in our High Commission have raised her case and others during the year.
While significant changes have taken place in Burma during the past two years, including the release of many political prisoners, serious violations of human rights continue to be widespread, directed in particular against religious and ethnic minorities. The Muslim Rohingya, stripped of their citizenship in 1982, remain in limbo, stateless, despite their community having lived in Burma for over 200 years. There were reports throughout the year that the Buddhist extremist movement, known as “969”, was responsible for organising the violence. We therefore welcomed the commitment given by Burma’s President during his visit to the UK in July to take “a zero-tolerance approach to those who fuel ethnic hatreds”, and to call for a transparent process of accountability for those responsible for religious hatred and violence. We have concerns about implementation and will continue to press the government to take urgent action on this. We have encouraged the Burmese government to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief to visit Burma. In addition, we are supporting interfaith work in Burma through our project funding. In Kachin, we are the largest bilateral donor, and announced a further £13.5 million of humanitarian aid in July 2013.
At the global level, throughout the year, we were active in protecting and promoting the right to freedom of religion or belief in a number of different ways. Firstly, through multilateral organisations: we have committed to working with other key players in the international community to encourage the implementation on the ground of Resolution 16/18 of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). This resolution, on combating religious intolerance, because it was adopted by consensus, lays the foundations for combating discrimination against people based on their religion throughout the world. It gives us the starting point for conversations with all UN member states.
With this in mind, we were pleased that, at the March UNHRC and the autumn UN General Assembly (UNGA), the EU’s resolution on freedom of religion or belief and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) text on combating religious intolerance both continued to be adopted by consensus, and in an improved climate of cooperation. We strongly support the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and so were delighted that his mandate was extended in March for another three years. The Special Rapporteur produced further useful reports this year: on the rights of persons belonging to religious minorities, and the relationship between freedom of religion or belief and gender equality.
At UNGA in the autumn, the EU made improvements to the text of the resolution on freedom of religion or belief. It now incorporates a clear statement at the beginning about the right to freedom of religion or belief, including the right to change one’s religion, alongside a reference to choosing one’s religion. We also secured a reference to equality between men and women, and welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s report on this subject.
Political will is crucial to ensuring that UN resolutions are translated into practical action in individual countries. Therefore, in January, Baroness Warsi brought together ministers and senior officials, including the Foreign Minister of Canada and the Secretary General of the OIC, in London. In September, she hosted a further meeting of this group in New York during UNGA week. The OIC remains a key member of this group and in our wider quest to promote religious freedom.
Within the EU, we ensured that draft guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief were finalised in June, since when we have been promoting their implementation. And, within the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), we were delighted that Dr Nazila Ghanea of Oxford University was selected as a member of the re-formed Advisory Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
We have also tackled this issue through bilateral engagement. Baroness Warsi has made freedom of religion or belief a priority, and now every minister at the FCO acts as an ambassador for religious freedom, raising these issues in the countries they engage with.
We set out to attract a wider range of project bids related to this issue in 2013. As an example, we are funding a project that aims to build dialogue between various Syrian communities, including Syrians of different faiths. We also funded a consultation, involving human rights defenders (HRDs) and religious minority leaders from across South Asia. The event offered workshops on practical and theoretical issues around freedom of religion or belief, and on using the advocacy of UN institutions in support of this human right. The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief participated in the consultation, which discussed various regional issues and was attended by different faith communities. A network of HRDs across South Asia has subsequently been strengthened through follow-up meetings and targeted discussions around cross-regional issues such as communal violence, and encouraging a transnational approach to advocacy on these issues in the region.
Whilst modern Indonesia has a tradition of religious diversity and tolerance, we are concerned that hostility towards traditional Sunni communities, and the Ahmadiyya, Christian and Shi’a communities, has intensified in recent years in some parts of the country. The central government and law enforcement response has at times been weak, and even overruled at the local level. Some regional authorities have placed restrictions on religious groups which they consider to be “deviant”. We are concerned that some local by-laws abrogate the rights of women and religious minority groups. The British Embassy in Jakarta funded a project focused on raising awareness of women’s rights amongst Islamic religious leaders in the province of West Java, a region that has many Sharia-inspired by-laws. The project sought to ensure that future by-laws better respect women’s rights, and adhere to human rights standards. As a result of the project, male Islamic leaders have formed a network with local women’s organisations, and the two groups are now working closely together to formulate a work-plan for future joint activity, which seeks to protect the rights of women better.
Freedom of religion remained a concern in Kazakhstan. The implementation of laws introduced in 2012 requiring all religious institutions to register has faced criticism for disproportionately affecting religious minorities, including smaller Christian denominations. According to the Kazakh Agency for Religious Affairs, during 2013 about 500 religious groupings were unable to meet the registration requirements and were disbanded. During his meeting with Foreign Minister Idrissov on 21 November, the Foreign Secretary raised the case of Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev, a Presbyterian Pastor first arrested in May and subsequently re-arrested on charges including extremism and inciting religious discord. We also supported discussion of the protection of religious freedoms at the EU-Kazakhstan Human Rights Dialogue in November 2013. The British Embassy has provided training to improve the legal framework for protecting religious freedoms in Kazakhstan and raise awareness of international standards.
We are investing in a new programme in “religious literacy” for our diplomats, equipping them to understand and influence the complex role religion plays in global politics today. We ran one-day training courses on religion and foreign policy throughout the year, and organised a busy programme of seminars, covering issues such as ‘Religion, Politics and Human Rights in the New Middle East’, ‘The Islamic Worldview: its relevance to foreign policy’, and ‘An Introduction to the Baha’i faith’. We will continue in 2014, extending the programme to colleagues across government, so that British diplomats and domestic civil servants are better able to engage with faith groups, both at home and overseas, and to appreciate how such networks reach across borders.
Looking ahead to 2014, we will continue to focus on turning our vision for religious freedom into practical action. We aim to build a cross-faith, cross-continent response to the persecution of individuals on the basis of religion or belief. Our target is to increase worldwide acceptance of the idea that the presence of other faiths does not threaten the identity of a religion, or a state, or a culture. We will make the case for the benefits of religious freedom. Our observance of international human rights norms means that we should promote tolerance of religious minorities, and provide appropriate protection; but doing so is also the right thing to do socially, economically and politically. Pioneering academic research is increasingly showing a strong correlation between religious freedom and a society’s ability to flourish. If people are free to believe (or not) and to worship (or not) as they choose, then they are able to make a bigger contribution to society as a whole. In most cases, a society which practises religious freedom attracts people who boost the economy. Freedom of religion or belief, including tolerance and understanding of other beliefs, guards against violence, extremism and social strife, all of which hold back social and economic development.
We will develop this positive case, alongside our ongoing efforts to protect freedom of religion, by building consensus that no one should face persecution or discrimination on the basis of their religion or belief.
When our campaigns are based on our values we can stir the conscience of the world and change the lives of millions, and we should be inspired that we retain that capacity. And I believe we need to particularly apply this to that great moral battleground and strategic prize of the 21st century – the advancement of full economic, social and political rights for women everywhere.
Foreign Secretary William Hague, 26 June 2013.
According to the UN, fewer than one in ten political leaders are female, only 20.9% of parliamentarians are female, and there are 37 states in which women account for less than 10% of MPs. Political leaders affect the lives of millions of women and girls, and women’s equal participation as politicians, leaders and decision-makers is a fundamental prerequisite for gender equality and genuine democracy. Increasing women’s political participation gives voice to a historically and often still marginalised part of society, creates female role models, leads to legislative change and policies that tackle gender inequalities and discrimination, and includes them as equal partners in shaping the future of their country.
During March, the UK government ran an active lobbying campaign in support of agreed conclusions at the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). 2013’s CSW theme was “the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”. The last time CSW discussed this issue in 2003, it failed to agree conclusions. It also failed to agree conclusions in 2012, when discussions broke down over differences on sexual and reproductive health and rights. We were therefore delighted that agreement was reached with conclusions that included good language on sexual and reproductive health and rights, legal frameworks, tackling impunity, the International Criminal Court, conflict and post-conflict situations, femicide, women HRDs and safe abortion. For the first time in a UN document, emergency contraception is mentioned as a health service that should be provided in response to gender-based violence.
These conclusions provided a solid point of reference for the UK and others to take forward international efforts to eradicate violence against women and girls, and agreed standards against which civil society can hold governments to account. The FCO is already working with officials in other government departments ahead of the 58th Session of the CSW in 2014 - for example, through the Department for International Development (DFID), we are playing a key role in ending Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) worldwide within a generation; internationally, we are seen to be leaders in the field. During 2013, UK leadership on FGM/C has played a major role in raising the profile on the international agenda of this neglected human rights issue. In March 2013, DFID announced a major new programme to support Africa-led momentum to end FGM/C. This programme, worth £35 million over five years, is the largest donor investment in FGM/C ever. It is supporting community-level social change, and work to improve policy and legislation, through the UN Joint Programme, as well as galvanising a global movement, and supporting diaspora groups on initiatives to end the practice in their home countries. It has a major research component. In addition, DFID is supporting a country programme in Sudan to address FGM/C (£12 million over five years), working with the UN.
The UK has helped generate international momentum around the issue of ending child, early and forced marriage, including two strong resolutions in Geneva and New York. The UK co-sponsored the resolution in Geneva, and is supporting the inclusion of early and forced marriage in the post-2015 framework. DFID will be increasing its focus on early and forced marriage over the coming months, in order to give the issue greater international profile, and to begin to change the real-life outlook for girls and women around the world.
Commenting on the UK’s re-election to the UNHRC in November, the Foreign Secretary said:
We will work tirelessly to protect the most vulnerable people from discrimination and to champion global causes – including ending sexual violence in conflict, the need for the full participation of women in peace-building, and the universal right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion and belief.
Our embassies and high commissions work directly with other countries to support programmes and projects addressing the structural causes of discrimination and violence against women and girls, helping to ensure their equality before the law, and their participation in political and public affairs, in accordance with international standards.
We have undertaken a wide range of activities on women’s rights. In Chile, we supported two different projects designed to improve the conditions under which women are held within the prison system. One of them was associated with the development of labour skills to enable women to reintegrate more easily into society, and to reduce the temptation to return to crime to support their families. The second project focused on the improvement of conditions within prisons, and aimed particularly at improving the circumstances of women with small children.
Through the FCO’s Human Rights and Democracy Programme Fund, we are supporting a number of relevant projects. For example, in Colombia, the fund was used to support the compilation of a handbook to help the Gender Team of the government’s Victims’ Unit to implement the Protocol for the Participation of Victims.
We are committed to supporting innovative new projects in the poorest countries, working with international organisations and governments overseas to promote women’s rights globally, tackle the underlying causes of violence against women and girls, and reduce the impact of conflict on them. In Ethiopia, our Ambassador hosted a panel discussion on the elimination of violence against women at Addis Ababa University. In The Gambia, we funded a project with the Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia to train the police, army and immigration officials in interviewing and investigation skills in dealing with violence against women.
During 2013, the FCO funded a project in Burma which aimed to promote women’s empowerment and political participation. In the Philippines, our Embassy in Manila is funding a project which will enhance women’s participation in politics and governance, and build guarantees into the new Basic Law in Mindanao, responding to longstanding demands of Muslim and indigenous women’s groups.
In Mozambique, the High Commission funded a project to protect women and children in four districts in Zambezia Province. About 50 traditional leaders, mentors of initiation rites, and human rights activists were trained in national and international human rights legislation, including practical case studies. The project drew on lessons learned from an earlier project, which had identified factors contributing to the vulnerability of women and children to sexual abuse and violence, and trafficking. These included the denial of women’s inheritance rights and the role of ‘Levirate Marriage’ (when a widow may be obliged to marry her deceased husband’s brother). In Mozambique, this may also be associated with “ritual cleansing” as part of the mourning ceremony, whereby a woman may be compelled to have unprotected sex with a male relative of the deceased, or a stranger. The project launched joint planning and implementation with the Ministry of Justice, which will now replicate this model of training local leaders in other provinces across the country.
In Barbados, officials have been working with the EU Delegation to design a victim referral form, which would avoid victims having to report the same incident a number of times before getting help.
In the weeks leading up to International Women’s Day (IWD), on 8 March, the FCO website was used as a blogging platform, and social media channels were used to feature the stories of women who work with the FCO. We had 40 blog posts, from 22 countries, which attracted thousands of views. For example, blogs by the then Acting High Commissioner to Canada, Corin Robertson, and Deputy Head of Mission in Paris, Kara Owen, provided an opportunity to mention our work within the G8 on securing support for the Foreign Secretary’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI).
As the Foreign Secretary said, to mark the day:
International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate women’s achievements, but also to highlight where more work needs to be done.
Baroness Warsi issued a statement highlighting the UK’s commitment to women’s rights and wrote an article for The Guardian newspaper on female political leaders. She also attended and spoke at the Afghan Embassy’s IWD celebrations.
The FCO, in collaboration with No10 and DFID, produced and populated an IWD mini-site, the UK Government IWD map. This featured all our IWD activity, including blogs, videos and pictures, and included Storify and Twitter to highlight work around the world on women’s rights. The map was mentioned 1,200 times on Twitter, putting it in the top ten most referenced web pages globally on Twitter on IWD.
Activity overseas included Mexico City, where Time Contact, a magazine for foreign readers, featured short interviews with 14 female ambassadors to Mexico. In Rio de Janeiro, in partnership with UN Women, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the Rio de Janeiro Sub-Secretariat for Women’s Policies, we launched an innovative application for smartphones, “Smart Women: expanding women’s access to a network of violence prevention”. This application will help women in poor communities to access public services, such as the nearest hospitals in Rio de Janeiro, and contributes to a large and ambitious project entitled Safe Cities for All, financed by the Human Rights and Democracy Programme Fund.
In Warsaw, our Ambassador hosted a lunch for a group of influential Polish women. In South-East Asia, British Embassy Manila hosted a Women, Peace and Security event and, in Seoul, the Embassy hosted an event with Ecogender, South Korea’s influential women’s rights NGO.
In Beirut, our Ambassador chaired an event on women’s empowerment; and in the United Arab Emirates an article was published about a project sponsored by the Embassy, which used bilateral funds to support female Emirati artisans from more traditional backgrounds in the western region of Abu Dhabi. Those are just a few examples from many undertaken by our overseas network.
The protection and promotion of children’s rights, including those of children in armed conflict and children at risk of abduction, form an integral part of the FCO’s wider international human rights agenda. Violence, discrimination, poverty and marginalisation can impact children disproportionately; affect their health, education and overall development; and put them at an increased risk of exploitation, abuse and trafficking.
Our international work to advance universal standards on children’s rights is done largely through the UN and other international institutions. At the UNHRC in March, the UK co-sponsored the Omnibus Resolution on the Rights of the Child, which called upon all states to translate into concrete action their commitments to the progressive and effective elimination of child labour, especially where it is likely to be hazardous, interfere with the child’s education, or be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. The UK strongly supports efforts to eradicate the worst forms of child labour, and agrees that forced child labour should be banned.
Along with our EU partners and members of the Group of Latin American States, the UK also took an active part in drafting the resolution on the Convention on the Rights of the Child during the UNGA 3rd Committee in October and November. Unfortunately, within the EU, progress on the EU Guidelines on the Rights of the Child was stalled because the Human Rights Strategic Framework, which was adopted in summer 2012, defined different priorities in the area of child rights. The EU Working Group for Human Rights (COHOM) exchanged views on how to tackle the issue of persistent perpetrators of grave violations against children in autumn 2013.
The EU participated actively in the negotiations of the Outcome Document of the Third Global Conference on Child Labour, held in Brasilia from 8-10 October, and our Ambassador in Brazil delivered a speech to the conference, during which he said, “Child labour is also clearly and inextricably linked to poverty. Economic development in a country sets the basis for eliminating child labour”.
The UK strongly supports the work of the Special Representative on the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children. In a statement marking the International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October, Equalities Minister, Jo Swinson, said:
Investing in the futures of girls and young women and inspiring them to aim high will not only reap rewards for them directly, but will also help build a stronger economy and increase our ability to compete in a global market.
The arguments for signing and ratifying the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child are being kept under review, in light of emerging information on how it will be applied in practice, including the resources that the UN proposes to make available to support implementation. During 2013, we were pleased that Japan ratified the Hague Convention on Child Abduction, and will start to implement it in April this year.
Our embassies and high commissions play an important role in our work to protect and promote the rights of children. They have a responsibility to monitor and raise human rights issues, including children’s rights, in their host countries, including raising individual cases and lobbying for changes to discriminatory practices and laws. The FCO will continue to raise child rights with other governments when necessary.
In addition to our work to engage partners on this issue through bilateral relationships and in multilateral fora, we provide financial support to programme work to protect and promote the rights of all children, as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In Nairobi we offered support to a joint UK-Kenya Child Protection task force to deal with an emerging threat from travelling British child sex offenders. In The Gambia we funded ‘Young People in The Media’, a child rights organisation to conduct a child rights sensitisation campaign focused on early and forced marriage.
During November, our Embassy in Bucharest joined with the Terre des Hommes NGO for a second year. The initiative offers children from disadvantaged communities, some of whom are Roma, the opportunity to experience their dream job for a day. The Embassy was “run” by a child ambassador for a day, and we organised a meeting between several child ambassadors and the Permanent Under Secretary, Sir Simon Fraser, allowing children to share their views on how diplomacy can make an impact and change people’s lives. The Embassy also supported the launch of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Romania, coordinating the visit of the Earl and Countess of Wessex to promote this youth development programme, which provides young people with the opportunity to gain quality life experiences.
In Indonesia, for the fourth year running, our Embassy worked with the UK Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency to create sustainable national and regional capacity to prevent and deter the sexual exploitation of children, both online and offline. In Guyana, the High Commission has funded a project called ‘Tell Campaign’ by local NGO Childlink. The project aims to increase public education and advocacy on sexual abuse against children in rural areas, and to help build the capacity of 60 primary school teachers and parents to foster a culture of disclosure, prevention and protection of children from sexual abuse. The children will have access to a “tell box”, placed in each of the schools where training on reporting abuse was given.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights
The UK’s global policy is that human rights are universal and should apply equally to all people, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To render consenting same-sex relations illegal is incompatible with international human rights obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 76 countries still retain laws that discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In at least five countries, the death penalty may be applied to those found guilty of offences relating to consensual same-sex relations. In many countries, the LGBT community continues to experience violence; hate crimes; intolerance; violation and abuse of their human rights, including torture inhuman or degrading treatment; restrictions on their freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly; discrimination in employment; and restricted access to health services and education.
During 2013, we pushed for a UNHRC resolution to further the case of LGBT rights internationally. We also co-sponsored a side-event to raise awareness of some of the issues faced by LGBT communities across the world. A UNHRC resolution proved difficult in the face of intransigence from some states, but we will continue to try to put this back on the UN’s agenda in 2014. In New York at the UN, we work with like-minded member states and civil society colleagues in order to identify opportunities across the UN system for putting forward progressive language on non-discrimination more broadly, and specific references on the importance of respecting sexual orientation and gender identity. Our Deputy Permanent Representative in New York hosted a roundtable discussion with staff and LGBT activists from developing countries, in the context of Human Rights Day on 10 December.
Within the EU, via the Working Group on Human Rights (COHOM) we took an active part in drafting the new LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) guidelines. We were pleased that the EU adopted the guidelines at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg on 24 June. In the Council of Europe (CoE), we have worked with like-minded states to keep up the pressure on states to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, with a review undertaken of states’ implementation of the CoE’s recommendation on this topic. There will be a further review in four years’ time. Meanwhile, the CoE concluded its LGBT project, part-funded by the UK, to work with six partner governments in fighting discrimination. The CoE LGBT Unit is currently working on developing a new project.
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in Sri Lanka during November, Minister for the Commonwealth, Hugo Swire, delivered a speech at the closing session of the Commonwealth People’s Forum. He said:
I am greatly concerned by the treatment of the LGBT community in many Commonwealth states. 41 of its member states still criminalise homosexuality. I call on those members to follow the example set by The Bahamas, South Africa, Vanuatu … who in recent years have decriminalised homosexuality. The UK will continue to make the case for both acceptance and integration of the LGBT community, and press Commonwealth states to recognise that the LGBT community deserve the same protection as all others.
We believe the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill in Nigeria, due to receive the President’s assent in January 2014, infringes the human rights of the Nigerian LGBT community and the rights of expression and association, which are guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution, and by Nigeria’s international treaty obligations. The British High Commissioner raised concerns with the President and other senior Nigerians during 2013.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, tabled as a Private Member’s Bill in 2009, sought to increase existing sanctions. The Ugandan Parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on 20 December 2013. We have consistently raised our concerns with the Ugandan government since the bill was first introduced in 2009. The British High Commission in Kampala continues to support Ugandan civil society groups working to promote greater tolerance and respect for the rights of LGBT minorities, including through a project run by the British NGO Kaleidoscope in partnership with local LGBT NGOs.
In India, we are closely following developments on the Indian Supreme Court decision, which reinstated a law that criminalised homosexuality. This ruling was unexpected. There has been widespread public criticism of the decision within India. It is important that India’s democratic institutions work through this issue, taking account of the fact that to render consenting same-sex relations illegal is incompatible with international human rights conventions, including the ICCPR.
In Russia, we expressed concern, including at high-level meetings with the Russian government, about a new law banning the promotion of “non-traditional” relations. FCO officials also attended and spoke at the Side by Side LGBT International Film Festival, which seeks to promote understanding of LGBT issues through film.
On 18 July, following the murder in Cameroon of Eric Lembembe, a human rights activist and Executive Director of the Cameroonian Foundation for Aids, Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, said:
I was shocked to hear of the brutal killing of Cameroon human rights defender Eric Lembembe, who was a brave and tireless campaigner. The authorities in Cameroon must fully investigate this hideous crime and bring the perpetrators to justice. It is vital that the authorities in Cameroon ensure the safety of human rights defenders by protecting those who are threatened, and prosecuting those who threaten them.
Bilaterally, our embassies and high commissions continue to lobby at the highest levels on LGBT rights, in a number of countries, particularly those where same sex relations are criminalised. They undertake a variety of initiatives on LGBT rights, through funding projects, lobbying on LGBT rights and supporting local LGBT NGOs.
During 2013, our Embassy in Belgrade supported projects which supported the implementation of Serbia’s anti-discrimination strategy, countered misconceptions about LGBT people in the Balkans, and trained social workers to improve services for LGBT people and their families in Serbia. Our Embassy in Budapest backed projects supporting LGBT cultural events in Hungary. In Santiago we supported the implementation of a new initiative called Populusaurio, which raises awareness of key human rights topics in local civil society, including the protection and extension of rights for the LGBT community in Chile.
In Croatia, Zagreb Pride celebrated its 11th year but December 2013 also saw a “Yes” vote on a referendum to amend the Croatian Constitution’s definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Our Deputy Head of Mission in Zagreb published an article in a Croatian newspaper on LGBT rights and same-sex marriage at the time of the referendum which received widespread support and attention.
On International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) on 17 May, the Foreign Secretary released a statement noting that:
The protection and promotion of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is an integral part of the government’s wider international human rights agenda.
A key objective of IDAHO2013 at the FCO was to raise awareness of the importance of defending LGBT rights globally. Across the world, our embassies and high commissions ran a wide range of events and initiatives to mark the day, ranging from the presentation of a cheque to a local LGBT charity in Colombo, to Brazil, where the UK’s three embassies (Brasilia, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro) have a significant reach on Facebook. The messages put out by our embassies and high commissions attracted a considerable number of ‘’likes’’ and ‘’shares’’.
A blog by a member of staff at the British Embassy in Tokyo provided an opportunity to mention our work on LGBT rights in Japan. Our Embassy in Zagreb supported local NGOs marking IDAHO with an event featuring Benjamin Cohen, the founder and publisher of the UK’s Pink News. Cohen gave a lecture to workshop participants, and also interviewed our Deputy Head of Mission for Pink News. In addition, from Warsaw to Colombo, a large number of our embassies and high commissions flew the rainbow flag from official premises in support of IDAHO.
For the first time, in June, the rainbow flag flew over the FCO’s main building in London, marking London’s LGBT Community Pride, and a number of FCO officials took part in the parade. Many posts also flew the rainbow flag during local Pride days. We encourage UK embassies and high commissions to get behind the efforts of civil society organisations to change laws and social attitudes by supporting local Pride and anti-discrimination events. However, it is for our Ambassadors and High Commissioners overseas to determine whether local conditions make it appropriate for staff to participate in Pride marches and other events, not least because open UK support for LGBT rights might be counter-productive in some countries.
During 2013, a number of FCO staff took part in local Pride parades, ranging from Tokyo where the Ambassador delivered a speech, to Moldova’s first ever Pride parade on 19 May. Staff in a number of European countries, including Paris and Bucharest, participated in Pride marches. We were active in the Americas too. In Washington the Embassy’s float won a prize, and in Santiago, Chile, our Ambassador took part in the LGBT Rights Parade. On Human Rights Day, Baroness Warsi spoke about the UK’s commitment to LGBT Rights at a dedicated event organised by the Kaleidoscope Trust.
In Serbia, our Embassy in Belgrade took the lead, together with the Netherlands and Sweden, in coordinating international support to Belgrade Pride 2013. Despite the march being cancelled, the debate around this and the public outreach helped to raise awareness of the issues. On 29 September, Minister for Europe, David Lidington, condemned the cancellation of the Belgrade Pride parade.
The UK government is committed to creating opportunities for disabled people to fulfil their potential to be fully participating members of society, and to removing barriers which impede this. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by 139 countries at the time of writing, creates legal obligations for States Parties. The UK is committed to the UN Convention and supports its implementation in the UK and across the world.
Disability rights, which were a core element of the Joint Communiqué on Human Rights, launched at the time of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, continued to be a focus of our embassies’ and high commissions’ work overseas. Since launching the Communiqué, we have focused on practical action to bring the commitments to life, working in partnership with the future games hosts. In Brazil in summer 2013, we offered over 450 schoolchildren the chance to experience Paralympic sport as part of a number of events worldwide to celebrate the anniversary of the Olympics and Paralympics. In addition, as part of our Olympic Dialogue with Brazil, Emily Yates, a disability advocate who was a Games Maker during London 2012, visited Brazil in December to talk about accessibility and inclusive volunteering with the Rio authorities. In an interview with Veja, one of the biggest magazines in Brazil, she mentioned the improvements made in London as an example for Rio, especially in the transport system.
Other bilateral engagement on disability issues overseas has taken place in Rio de Janeiro, where the British Consulate General supported the world’s only disabled samba school at the Rio Carnival in February through “Embaixadores de Alegria” (Ambassadors of Happiness). In Peru, the British Embassy supported Peru’s National Council to Promote Disabled People Rights (CONADIS) by funding a project focused on guaranteeing and promoting disabled people’s access to sports (also part of the London 2012 Paralympic campaign). Thanks to the project, the first federation of sports for disabled people was created in 2013 (for disabled people with physical disabilities), and a second one (focus still to be defined) will be established in 2014. The project also developed a guide in braille and in audio on how to form disabled sports associations.
Multilaterally, the Commission on Social Development (CSocD) meets annually in New York in February. Officials at the UK Mission to the UN (UKMis) worked through the EU to reach a common position on CSocD’s resolution on disabilities. UKMis also supported the attendance of the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development, Lynne Featherstone, at the High Level Meeting on Disability and Development held in September, engaging constructively in the negotiations, along with representatives from DFID and the Department for Work and Pensions.
In Geneva, at the UNHRC in March, the UK co-sponsored a resolution entitled ‘the work and employment of persons with disabilities’.
Indigenous people continue to be amongst the poorest and most marginalised in the world. The UK government is committed to promoting and protecting human rights for all individuals, and condemns violence and discrimination against people from indigenous and minority groups. British embassies and high commissions monitor human rights in their host countries, and routinely raise our concerns with their governments. We continue to emphasise the importance for indigenous people of sustainable development and the preservation of the natural environment, given that their quality and way of life often strongly depend on natural resources.
The UK was the first country to develop a national action plan to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), which were endorsed by the UNHRC in 2011. The action plan promotes responsible business behaviour on the part of UK companies operating in the UK and internationally, and takes into account potential barriers to effective engagement, paying particular attention to indigenous people and other groups. We believe that business activity has a huge potential to impact disproportionately on the human rights of these communities.
Indigenous people were included in the government’s Arctic Framework Policy published on 17 October 2013. The policy, “Adapting to Change”, lays out the three principles of respect, leadership and cooperation that underpin the government’s approach. The UK is respectful of the sovereign rights of the eight Arctic States, the people who live and work in the Arctic, and the fragile environment, and supports the participation of indigenous people in Arctic decision-making.
Our embassies overseas continued to work with international NGOs and local NGOs on a variety of UK-funded projects to encourage local communities to participate in the democratic process. In Bolivia, we are working with the EU Human Rights Group to ensure indigenous communities are protected, and are supporting projects on police and prison reform, as well as on strengthening of the judiciary, which directly impact on indigenous people’s access to justice. In Venezuela, we supported a project with indigenous women community leaders from Bolivar state to help address issues facing their communities. In Colombia, we are supporting the government to implement the UNGPs in order to develop a national public policy on business and human rights, as well as a system for public servants to monitor implementation of the policy and state grievance mechanisms. This policy will cover indigenous communities’ right to prior consultation on the issues and development processes that affect them. Racism
The UK is committed to combating racial discrimination and intolerance wherever it is found. Fighting all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred (both covered elsewhere in this section) remains an important part of the government’s human rights policy. The government is also determined to take a stand in support of the victims of racism. For this reason, in September, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Don Foster, joined ministers from 17 EU countries in Rome to condemn the “unacceptable” stream of racist insults directed at Cécile Kyenge, the Italian minister for integration, and to call for a new pact to stamp out discrimination across the bloc. Building on this, the British Embassy in Rome organised a conference on integration issues at the end of October, which provided an opportunity to share UK best practice.
As well as taking principled positions and sharing UK best practice in tackling hate crime with other countries, we seek to ensure that the UK is at the heart of the key international institutions fighting racism. We were therefore delighted in October when Michael Whine MBE, Government and International Affairs Director at the Community Security Trust, was appointed for a five-year term as a new independent member of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).
ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, intolerance and discrimination on grounds such as race, national/ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, religion and language (racial discrimination). It then prepares reports and issues recommendations for member states. Mr Whine was an ideal candidate given that he has worked for over 25 years to tackle extremism, anti-Semitism, and terrorism. He also acts as consultant on defence and security to the European Jewish Congress, and is a member of the Hate Crime Independent Advisors Group at the UK Ministry of Justice and the Hate Crime Scrutiny and Involvement Panel of the London Crown Prosecution Service, which assesses and evaluates hate crime prosecution cases.
We would like here to pay tribute to the work of Professor Patrick Thornberry, who stepped down at the end of the year as a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), after 13 years of service. CERD is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its States Parties. All States Parties are obliged to submit regular reports to CERD on how these rights are guaranteed in their countries. CERD examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State Parties in the form of “concluding observations”. Professor Thornberry served as the CERD rapporteur from 2002 until the spring of 2008, and most recently chaired the Early Warning and Urgent Action Group, dealing with a range of pressing situations, notably land and resource questions involving indigenous peoples. He is also a former Chairman of Minority Rights Group International, and has acted as consultant and advisor to a range of international organisations.
The UK more generally supports the work of the UN in tackling racism and re-affirmed its commitment in the course of the year to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Our priority in international discussions is to focus on the real and pressing problems faced by racial minorities in all parts of the world. Along with our EU partners, we sought to ensure that the UN addressed racism issues through its various processes and mechanisms. These include the follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the Inter-Governmental Working Group on the Durban Declaration Programme of Action, and the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of Complementary Standards to ICERD. Further proposals for new initiatives in the course of the year included the UN Decade for People of African Descent, combating contemporary forms of racism, and preventing attacks against persons with albinism.
In 2014, we call on UN member states to deliver real change in combating racism, rather than developing additional mechanisms at the UN level. We believe that much more must be done within countries across the world to ensure states live up to their existing commitments, and to implement ICERD. We will continue to demonstrate our commitment to tackling the scourge of racism through sharing UK best practice and expertise, and engaging with international organisations. In 2014, we will be submitting our periodic report to the Commission for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Any form of discrimination and ill treatment on the ground of someone’s identity is unacceptable - everyone should have equal rights, including access to justice, education and economic opportunities, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or belief. The UK works at the international level to stand up against intolerance towards the Roma/Sinti, who in certain cases across Europe are subjected to violence, denied access to employment, excluded from health care, and forced to live in segregated housing. We work through our experts in international organisations and through our network of embassies to confront this issue.
We believe that primary responsibility for combating Roma discrimination lies with individual states, but that the international community can play a role in assisting national and local authorities and in co-ordinating those efforts across borders. In the EU, Roma is an umbrella term which includes groups of people who have more or less similar cultural characteristics such as Sinti, Travellers, Kalé, Gens du voyage etc.
In December, the EU adopted a Council recommendation on effective Roma integration measures in the member states. The recommendation represented a clear political commitment by EU member states to improve the situation of Roma across Europe through tackling inequality and discrimination, addressing their socio-economic exclusion in particular. The recommendation allows member states to decide how best to integrate Roma into the community, taking account of the circumstances in each country, and puts a strong emphasis on de-segregation in both education and housing. It also includes specific guidance on the development of policies related to early childhood, and the need for action at the local level. While the recommendation is non-binding, it does call for adequate funding to be allocated to ensure the integration of marginalised communities such as the Roma. The UK will take forward the recommendation through our broader social inclusion and integration policies.
The UK also seeks to share best practice and its legal framework to combat discrimination and hate crime with governments across Europe. This is done, in part, through discussions in the Council of Europe, where the UK expert is the current Chair of the Committee of Experts on Roma (CAHROM). In 2013, the CAHROM thematic group visited Hungary, where it shared UK expertise in combating anti-Gypsyism and hate crime. UK experts are also looking at opportunities for enhanced corporation with Slovakia on the Roma, tackling issues such as segregation and discrimination.
The UK joined the consensus in December on a decision to enhance the OSCE’s implementation of the 2003 action plan on improving the situation of Roma and Sinti. This decision followed on from the November Supplementary Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, where participating states discussed lessons learnt from past integration initiatives, and explored further measures needed to improve the situation of Roma and Sinti. The OSCE Ministerial Council decision drew attention to the fact that that Roma and Sinti women and girls are particularly vulnerable to multiple forms of discrimination, as well as to violence and harassment. In response, it called for measures to support the empowerment of Roma and Sinti women, including through education and participation in public and political life, as well as access to employment, internships and mentoring opportunities.
The genocide of the Roma at the hands of the Nazis during the Second World War, and its implications for the community today, is a less well-known chapter in European history. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which is covered in more detail in the Post-Holocaust Issues section of this report, includes in its thematic mandate the genocide of the Roma and other issues, such as genocide prevention. The IHRA Committee on the Genocide of the Roma encourages the inclusion of this genocide in school curricula, and aims to draw attention to the prevalance of prejudice toward the Roma before, during, and after the Second World War, as well as today. Activities carried out by IHRA on this subject include requiring each member state to report regularly on what it has done to ensure the Roma genocide is not forgotten, supporting Roma-focused projects through its grant programme, and providing a platform for the testimonies of survivors.
The UK chair the IHRA from February 2014 and, under the leadership of the UK Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, Sir Andrew Burns, there will be further opportunities to raise awareness of this genocide and its significance for Roma communities today. The IHRA Committee on the Genocide of the Roma plans to organise a conference in May 2014 on the Roma genocide, in partnership with the Institute of Education at the University of London.
Ensuring the Roma genocide is not forgotten is an important tool for combating anti-Roma sentiment and hate crime in today’s societies. As the European Roma Information Office has noted, “by rediscovering the relatively unknown history of the Roma and Sinti Holocaust, we expect to promote tolerance, mutual understanding, and intercultural dialogue between Roma and non-Roma”. British Embassies in countries across Europe commemorated Roma Genocide Memorial Day on 2 August.
Our embassies in central and eastern Europe worked to encourage countries with large and disadvantaged Roma populations to make a real and sustained effort to integrate their Roma citizens. One of the projects run in 2012-13 involved bringing UK good practice models of inclusive education to the Czech Republic, via specialised workshops for teacher trainers from seven Czech Universities. The project involved the Ministry of Education, and was also supported by the Finnish and Norwegian Embassies, which brought similar expertise from their countries. The British Embassy in Prague also built on a previous inclusive education project in Trmice, predominantly but not exclusively with Roma pupils, by setting up a working group of teachers from Trimce to share best practice with other schools in the Usti nad Labem region. The British Embassy in Bucharest, meanwhile, has set up an exchange between the British town of Rotherham, home to 3,000 East European Roma, and Dolj County (south-west Romania) to share best practice on social inclusion, especially through education.
As well as running projects, British Embassies in the region have also engaged in regular dialogue with Roma communities and local and central government in order to combat discrimination and marginalisation. In April, our Ambassador in Sofia visited a Roma quarter in Kyustendil, West Bulgaria, to discuss Roma issues. Furthermore, the Embassy has been active in encouraging Roma people to apply to become interns at the Embassy. Elsewhere, the British Ambassador in Bucharest led a group of seven EU ambassadors, plus Switzerland and Norway, to a Roma community outside Bucharest, Romania, on International Roma Day (8 April). The Roma community there face typical problems: they found that 250 houses had no property deeds and 150 were not connected to the electricity grid. The ambassadors raised the problems they found with the local mayor; the community has now been connected to the electricity grid, and twelve families have received property deeds, with more still going through the process. Our ambassador has also led a team from five embassies (the Netherlands, Germany, Finland and Switzerland) to investigate the forced evictions of several Roma families in Eforie Sud (south-east Romania) on 17 October.
In 2014, the same group of embassies will follow up on their activities to date, for example by re-visiting the community outside of Bucharest to assess progress. They will also look to finance new projects; for example, our Embassy in Bulgaria is planning to launch a project in early 2014, which will promote education among Roma girls and hopefully reduce the drop-out rate among Roma school children.
A 2013 report by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) highlighted Jewish people’s experience of discrimination and hate crime across a number of EU Member States. Despite concerted efforts by both the EU and its member states, the report found that Jewish people continued to face insults, discrimination, harassment and even physical violence. The report covered Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Sweden and the UK, countries together estimated to be home to some 90% of the EU’s Jewish population. Some of the alarming findings of the report were that 66% of respondents considered anti-Semitism to be a problem, and 76% said the situation had worsened over the last five years. 26% had experienced verbal insult or harassment over the last 12 months and 4% physical violence or threats of violence. Around a quarter of the respondents stated that they avoided visiting Jewish events or sites, or wearing identifiable Jewish clothing, in certain areas, for fear of attack. Anti-Semitism on the internet, discrimination in the workplace or schools, and Holocaust denial or trivialisation, were other issues raised by the survey, as well as the fact that the majority of anti-Semitic crimes went unreported.
The government is firmly committed to combating anti-Semitism wherever it is found. We continue to develop policies and strategies to address it, both in the UK and globally. We acknowledge, however, that before such issues can be tackled, the extent and exact nature of the problem must first be identified. For this reason, the government has worked with civil society groups and law enforcement for a number of years to build victim confidence in coming forward to report incidents, as well as tackling hate crime itself. While acknowledging that incidents of harassment and fear of victimisation in the UK are still too high, we were pleased that the EU report found that in the UK the community had more confidence in the authorities, and were less afraid of anti-Semitism, than in the other EU countries surveyed. Not only were a number of the recommendations in the EU survey on reporting and tackling hate crime already in place in the UK, but we are also active in sharing best practice in combating hate crime with countries in the EU and beyond.
As an example, UK experts played a prominent role in the core work of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to combat hate crimes, including with a specific focus on security challenges met by different communities in the OSCE region. The OSCE held a conference in Berlin in June with a focus on the security of Jewish communities, offering a forum in which government officials, law enforcement practitioners, civil society organisations, and Jewish community representatives could take stock and explore challenges and good practice, with regard to the security of Jewish communities in the OSCE region. The UK shared best practice on how the government and Jewish communities should cooperate closely through dialogue, information-sharing, and other confidence-building measures.
Nor are the efforts of the Jewish community, in partnership with the government, restricted to combating anti-Semitic hate crimes alone. Indeed, the effective collaborative work between UK stakeholders from different faith communities, facilitated by the government, to combat hate crime, was also highlighted at the international level. We presented a case study covering the co-operation between the Community and Security Trust (CST), a Jewish organisation with extensive experience in reporting and tackling anti-Semitic hate crime, and Faith Matters, a UK charity committed to combat anti-Muslim hatred. This cooperation aimed to monitor hate crime and support affected communities at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw in October. Those attending the meeting commented that this was one of the most successful examples of inter-faith collaboration in the region. This approach of faith communities supporting the rights of other faith communities, assisted by the government, was shared by UK government experts at the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem in May.
An ongoing concern for the Cross-Government Working Group on Anti-Semitism in 2013 was how best to tackle internet hatred. The Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA), which includes UK government experts, continued to work with major international software companies, such as Facebook and Microsoft, to tackle online hate crime. While the challenges remained substantial, there was some progress, including working to ensure that the details of internet site owners would not remain anonymous and removing any fake sites.
We built on our project last year, in which we supported the London Jewish Cultural Centre to bring together journalists from central and eastern Europe to raise awareness of the rise of anti-Semitism and racism, and discuss strategies to combat it, by supporting a further seminar for journalists on this issue in Hungary. This was requested by the journalists themselves.
Another important challenge in combating anti-Semitism, as recognised in the report from the FRA, is combating denial or trivialisation of the Holocaust. In 2014, the UK Chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) will provide a mechanism for us to do so in the year ahead. IHRA, the leading body dedicated to Holocaust education, remembrance and research, has recently agreed a working definition of Holocaust denial and distortion. The definition provides us with a tool to combat this expression of anti-Semitism. Our work through the IHRA will enable us to deliver our objective of ensuring that the Holocaust is never forgotten, and that its lessons are learned by future generations.
The government is committed to combating discrimination and violence against individuals wherever it occurs, and regardless of the faith of those concerned. FCO ministers and government officials regularly speak out against persecution, and lobby against discriminatory laws and practices which affect members of various religious communities around the world. Promoting respect for religious freedom is at the very heart of the government’s human rights policy. Where Muslims or any religious believers are victims of persecution, we will ask the relevant authorities to ensure that justice is served. There can be and should be no impunity for those who persecute individuals on the basis of religion or belief.
Turning to specific countries, we have consistently made clear to the Burmese government that, where serious crimes have been committed against Muslims, those who have perpetrated them must be held accountable for their actions. This accountability needs to be achieved through a clear and transparent investigative and prosecutorial process that meets international standards. The conviction of some of those involved in anti-Muslim violence is a welcome step forward, further reinforcing the importance of multi-faith tolerance and diversity within all facets of Burmese society.
Similarly in Sri Lanka, where there have been attacks against Muslims and Christians, we have urged the Sri Lankan government to take early action to promote the peaceful coexistence of religions, and to investigate attacks and prosecute those responsible. For instance, following the attack on Grandpass mosque on 10 August, former Minister for Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, stated that it was vital that the government worked to investigate the attack, and that all should be able to practise their religion without fear. The local EU Delegation also issued a statement in conjunction with EU Heads of Mission, which said that “the right to freedom of worship is fundamental to democratic societies and should be protected by the state”, and looked to the Sri Lankan government to investigate.
We do not limit our actions to words; we also carry out project work in a range of countries working with NGOs on issues such as promoting better understanding between faiths, bridging sectarian divides, promoting dialogue between faith groups and government, and offering technical advice on laws that need amendment.
Another element of our work to combat anti-Muslim hatred is delivered through the UK’s cross-government Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, which brings together leading representatives from the British Muslim community, academics, and government departments. Although a large part of the group’s work is devoted to domestic issues, there are also specific activities undertaken which have an international focus. For example, the group has been active in strengthening the commemoration of the genocide which took place in Srebrenica approximately 20 years ago. Furthermore, as part of the First World War centenary commemorations, the group has sought to ensure that the role played by soldiers from ethnic minorities who fought for the British Empire is not forgotten.
We have also been active in sharing UK best practice internationally, including the way that civil society representatives and government officials work together to combat hate crime. An example is the way in which we have worked with the UK charity Faith Matters both to facilitate reporting of anti-Muslim hatred through its TELL MAMA programme, and to support the victims of hate crime. The Community Security Trust, a Jewish organisation with extensive experience in reporting anti-Semitic hate crime, has assisted Faith Matters in developing its data collection system. We showcased this collaborative work at the OSCE’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw in October, highlighting the benefits of governments, law enforcement agencies, and civil society working together to boost confidence in reporting of, and response to, hate crime.
Government officials attended a conference organised in July by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (OSCE), the Council of Europe and UNESCO on challenging anti-Muslim prejudice, and promotion of mutual understanding in multicultural societies through education. The conference sought to promote guidelines to assist educators in identifying and responding to intolerance and discrimination against Muslims in schools. This event provided a further opportunity to share the UK experience of challenging anti-Muslim hatred through education.
In 2014, the cross-government group will continue to build its relationship with international organisations, work on a definition of anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia, and assess ways of addressing hatred on the internet. One event to note is the forthcoming OSCE Conference on Enhancing Community-Law Enforcement Relations in Combating Hate Crimes against Muslims. This is an area where the UK is widely recognised as a global leader. We are confident that government experts and community representatives will be able to share examples of good practice, and make recommendations on how other countries can strengthen the collaboration between law enforcement agencies and the community, in order to prevent and respond to hate crimes against Muslims.
The government is committed to ensuring that the UK continues to play a leading international role in remembering and educating about the Holocaust. At the forefront of the UK’s global efforts is Sir Andrew Burns, the UK’s first Envoy for post-Holocaust issues. Sir Andrew works across government and with the UK’s vibrant and internationally renowned academic and NGO community, whose work aims not only to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust is preserved, but also that its relevance in the 21st century is seared on our memories.
The UK was an early proponent of Holocaust Memorial Day, which takes place around 27 January each year, marking the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. On that day, the UK remembers the Holocaust, Nazi persecution, and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. Central to the UK commemorations is the use of survivor testimonies, which allow audiences to hear firsthand about the Holocaust and the horrific suffering that was endured by so many. Eyewitness testimonies and remembering those who were murdered also allows subsequent generations to learn lessons about the dangers of hatred, xenophobia and violence.
In 2013, the Prime Minister marked the 75th anniversary of the Kindertransport, when 10,000 Jewish and other children came to this country from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia to escape from Nazi persecution and almost certain death. He wrote about the sacrifices of the parents, the charitable organisations that made the transport and accommodation arrangements, and the individual families who took the children under their wings. Above all, he recalled the children themselves who went on to become valued members of society, both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world, notably in the fields of politics, journalism, art, science and commerce.
To underline the UK’s commitment to remembering the Holocaust and taking into consideration that the Holocaust is moving beyond living memory, the Prime Minister announced in September the creation of a new cross-party, multi-faith Commission on the Holocaust. Mick Davis, President of the Jewish Leadership Council, was appointed chair, and it is envisaged that the commission will report back to the Prime Minister by the end of 2014.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is the foremost international body committed to promoting multi-national co-operation in Holocaust education, remembrance and research. The IHRA’s areas of focus during 2013 included researching and preserving the sites of mass murder throughout Europe, and research into the way the Holocaust is taught across the 31 member states, in order to inform better teaching. The significance of commemorating the sites is that this sheds light on the vast numbers of Jews and others killed away from the death camps. The UK delegation to IHRA, consisting of government representatives, academics and NGOs, is closely involved in this and other key aspects of the IHRA’s work, such as ensuring that archives of victims of Nazism and Holocaust survivors are opened, to assist the stand against Holocaust denial and trivialisation.
One of the objectives of the Canadian chairmanship of IHRA in 2013 was to agree a working definition on Holocaust denial and distortion. Confronting Holocaust denial is important since it is often a vehicle used for wider anti-Semitism. The approval of a working definition at the IHRA Plenary meeting in Toronto in October was accompanied by a number of other important decisions around IHRA’s internal working rules, additional funding for important and substantive multi-year work plan projects, the welcoming of Uruguay as a new observer country, and confirmation that Hungary will chair IHRA in 2015.
The UK is proud to be taking on the chairmanship of IHRA in February 2014. We will be holding the IHRA’s meetings in London (May) and Manchester (December). In early 2015, we are planning a high-level political event to reaffirm international commitment to the Stockholm Declaration, fifteen years after it was agreed. We are grateful for the strong legacy of the Canadian chairmanship, and will continue their work with multilateral organisations to build capacity for Holocaust education and remembrance in non-IHRA countries
IHRA is closely watching the likely impact of the EU’s proposed data protection legislation on the archival use of Holocaust-related materials. This is potentially significant for another important international post-Holocaust institution, the International Tracing Service (ITS). Sir Andrew Burns represents the UK on the 11-member International Commission of the ITS.
While the ITS has primarily served as a humanitarian tracing service for Holocaust survivors, displaced persons, and other victims of Nazism, the nature of the tracing requests have changed over time. The commission now aims to ensure it is recognised as an international research institute, while still preserving its humanitarian function. At its meeting in Berlin in June, the commission confirmed its intention to facilitate the opening of its archives to public access, and has now agreed revised objectives: to preserve, conserve and open up the ITS archives to public access; to modernise and make more effective its services to Nazi victims, Holocaust survivors, and those who seek to trace the fate of family members persecuted by the Nazis and their allies; and to integrate the ITS into the European and international network of research and educational institutions focused on Nazi persecution, the Holocaust, forced labour and displaced persons.
The UK digital copy of the ITS archive is now available for public consultation at the Wiener Library in London, with a dedicated researcher, funded by the government, to help users navigate its complex search facility. The Wiener Library has been expanding its co-operation with other holders of digital copies, notably the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Israel’s Yad Vashem.
The Holocaust primarily recalls the murder and suffering of Europe’s Jewish population, but also remembers the persecution of other communities in Nazi occupied lands during the Second World War. The UK chairmanship of the IHRA will include taking forward work on the genocide of the Roma, involving testimonies from Roma survivors and project work, raising awareness of their suffering and the genocide’s implications for Roma communities today.
Sir Andrew Burns’s mandate also includes responding to the concerns of Holocaust victims and their families with regard to the issue of restitution of property wrongfully seized by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. In 2013, Sir Andrew actively lobbied other governments to address Holocaust-era restitution issues in a more active way. Sir Andrew raised restitution of property wrongfully seized with ministers and officials from countries including Poland, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia and Lithuania in the last year. He has also had discussions with interested NGOs and relevant international organisations, such as the European Shoah Legacy Institute in Prague.
Another aspect of post-Holocaust work is looking after the welfare of survivors. Of particular note is a project led by our Ambassador in Israel, Matthew Gould, with the support of the UK Jewish community. Through their generosity, a network of 20 Café Britains has been established around Israel to serve as social clubs for Holocaust survivors. These clubs provide an emotional lifeline, providing a warm and friendly environment, and supplying a much-needed outlet for processing the ongoing trauma of their wartime experiences. In addition to core services provided by the Café Britain clubs, such as art activities, storytelling workshops and memoir writing, there were also opportunities in 2013 for educational trips throughout the country, exercise, dance, and yoga, as well as therapy for people with autism, dementia, or developmental disabilities. The British Embassy in Israel worked closely on this project with the Joint Distribution Committee.
Section VI: Human Rights in Safeguarding the United Kingdom’s National Security
The security of the UK will always be inextricably linked to events overseas. The UK’s national security goals are to reduce the threat to our people and interests around the world, to prevent threats coming back to our shores, and to promote long-term stability overseas. International terrorism remains the greatest security challenge we face today. In order to combat terrorism in a sustainable way, we must build stability and promote human rights and the rule of law in other countries. There is growing recognition of the important contribution the security and development communities can play to build stability, tackle violent extremism, and promote human rights and the rule of law. Delivering this requires us to live up to our values and obligations at all times, and demand that our partners do the same. This includes being clear that torture and other mistreatment are unacceptable. Failing to do so is counter-productive, can cause future generations to become radicalised, and ultimately fuels more terrorist activity.
The UK’s counter-terrorism work overseas must both protect our security and uphold human rights. This includes the UK’s own intelligence and military personnel being required to operate according to the Consolidated Guidance to Intelligence Officers and Service Personnel on the Detention and Interviewing of Detainees Overseas, and on the Passing and Receipt of Intelligence Relating to Detainees. It also means that our work to develop the capacity of other governments is assessed in line with the Government’s Overseas Security and Justice Assistance (OSJA) Guidance.
Working in Partnership to Counter Terrorism Overseas
In February 2013, the Foreign Secretary set out our aim of seeking justice and human rights partnerships with countries where there are both threats to the UK’s security and weaknesses in the law enforcement, human rights and criminal justice architecture.
To meet this aim, we have developed partnerships with states where there are serious and potentially long-running threats to the UK or UK interests. These partnerships provide a systematic process for working with the relevant local authorities, to identify shortcomings in capability, and address these through the provision of UK assistance and expertise. As mentioned in Section IV, all our capacity-building work is considered in line with our OSJA Guidance, in order to assess and to mitigate human rights risks. These partnerships require ministerial oversight and approval.
This work is funded by our Counter-Terrorism Programme. These and other capacity-building projects generally focus on working with the police, prosecutors, judges and prison authorities to build their capacity to investigate, detain, prosecute and convict terrorists, based on respect for human rights and the rule of law. We have already seen our training help partners to disrupt terrorist planning linked to the UK, and to help gather evidence that can be used effectively in court. We have also seen the establishment of specialist counter-terrorism prosecutors and judges in several countries. We shall continue to develop our programmes during 2014.
Deportation with Assurances
Deportation with Assurances (DWA) has enabled the UK to reduce the threat from terrorism by allowing foreign nationals, who pose a risk to our national security, to be deported, while still meeting our domestic and international human rights obligations. We are satisfied that, in specific cases, government-to-government assurances ensure that the human rights of individual deportees will be respected on their return. The courts have upheld the principle of relying on government-to-government assurances in specific cases. For example, in the ruling on Othman (Abu Qatada) in 2012, the European Court of Human Rights accepted that the use of diplomatic assurances could address the risk of an individual receiving ill treatment.
We have considered DWA for a small number of cases where prosecution in the UK is not an option and there is a risk to national security, or after someone has been convicted and has served a sentence for terrorist offences in the UK. The government will not remove someone if there are substantial grounds for believing that they will face a risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in their home country, or where there is a significant risk that the death penalty will be applied.
Our DWA arrangements include public and verifiable assurances which have been, and continue to be, tested by the courts. They are set out in agreements between the UK and the country concerned. These include specific assurances for each individual returned, and nomination of a monitoring body, usually a local independent NGO or national human rights institution, to ensure compliance with the terms of the agreement in each case.
We currently have functioning DWA arrangements with Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Ethiopia and Morocco. To date, the UK has removed 12 individuals under these arrangements. We are currently pursuing deportation with assurances in 14 other cases. We are continuing to support capacity-building projects and training for the monitoring body in Ethiopia to increase its human rights awareness and understanding of the specific skills required to monitor returnees. In 2013, we removed two individuals under the auspices of our DWA arrangements – one to Jordan and one to Morocco. One of these was Abu Qatada, as mentioned above, who was deported from the UK on the basis of DWA assurances provided by a DWA Memorandum of Understanding, further specific assurances, and a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty agreed between the UK and Jordan. Each country’s compliance with the assurances in respect of these individuals is now being monitored by the relevant monitoring body.
Counter-terrorism programme work
Countering terrorism is one of the government’s key priorities at home and abroad. Our Counter-Terrorism Programme is one of the FCO’s largest strategic programmes. A number of other UK government departments allocate resources to countering terrorism, as do the intelligence agencies. We are increasing work on counter-terrorism capability building with the EU, which shares our commitment to respect for human rights and the rule of law.
The Detainee Inquiry
In July 2010, the Prime Minister established an independent Detainee Inquiry chaired by Sir Peter Gibson, a former Court of Appeal judge, to examine whether and, if so, to what extent, the UK government and its intelligence agencies were involved in the improper treatment or rendition of detainees held by other countries. In establishing the Inquiry, the government made clear that it would not be able to start formally until all related police investigations had been concluded. The Inquiry therefore embarked on an extensive programme of preparatory work. The launch in January 2012 of a further police investigation into allegations made by two former Libyan detainees led the government to conclude that the Inquiry would not be able to start formally in the foreseeable future. The government decided to bring the work of the Inquiry to a conclusion and asked Sir Peter Gibson to provide a report on the Inquiry’s preparatory work.
The Minister Without Portfolio, Kenneth Clarke, presented the Report of the Detainee Inquiry to Parliament on 19 December 2013. As the Inquiry was not able to hear from witnesses, the report cannot make findings as to what happened. Nevertheless, the report is a substantial piece of work, and the product of an extensive independent analysis of some 20,000 documents, some of which had not been examined by any previous review. It highlights themes and issues that should be the subject of further examination.
The government believes it is important that these themes and issues are properly dealt with. It would be wrong to leave them unexamined for the unknown amount of time it will take for the police to complete their investigations. Equally, it would be wrong to ask a judge to examine material, when doing so could compromise a live police investigation. Therefore the government has asked the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) to inquire into the themes and issues raised, take further evidence, and report to the government and to Parliament on the outcome of their inquiry. It is hoped that the ISC will be able to complete its work by the end of 2014, though the precise timetable is a matter for them. In light of the committee’s report and the outcome of the related police investigations, the government will then be able to take a final view on whether another judge-led inquiry remains necessary to add any further information of value.
Consolidated guidance to intelligence officers and service personnel
Human rights must be integrated into our work overseas to defend national security, as human rights violations are often the cause, as well as a symptom, of conflict. This means ensuring that the UK government continues to meet the highest human rights standards as we conduct national security business at home and abroad. The government’s policy on torture is clear – we do not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment for any purpose. Guidance on this is set out in the Consolidated Guidance to Intelligence Officers and Service Personnel on the Detention and Interviewing of Detainees Overseas, and on the Passing and Receipt of Intelligence Related to Detainees. Compliance with the Consolidated Guidance is monitored by the Intelligence Services Commissioner, who has independent judicial oversight of the conduct of the Intelligence Agencies. Like all government departments, the Intelligence agencies comply with the OSJA Human Rights Guidance (see Section IV).
Oversight of UK security and intelligence agencies
The work of the UK security and intelligence agencies is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework, which ensures that their activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate. The UK has rigorous democratic accountability and oversight, including from the relevant Secretary of State, the Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Intelligence Services Commissioner, and the cross-party Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) in Parliament, with additional scrutiny and redress through the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. It is the presence of a strong framework of democratic accountability and oversight that protects and promotes the rights set out in Article 17 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights by preventing arbitrary or unlawful interference with a person’s privacy.
The UK government believes that indefinite detention in Guantánamo Bay is wrong, and that the detention facility should be closed. In 2013, President Obama publicly reiterated his commitment to closing the facility, and appointed senior envoys to the US State and Defence Departments – respectively Clifford Sloan and Paul Lewis – who were charged with responsibility for achieving the transfer of detainees to third countries. In total, 11 detainees were transferred out of Guantánamo Bay in 2013, to Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Slovakia. The UK supports President Obama’s continuing commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, and welcomes the appointment of the special envoys.
UK efforts to secure the release and return of the last former legal UK resident, Shaker Aamer, continued throughout 2013. The Prime Minister raised Mr Aamer’s case with President Obama on 17 June at the G8 Summit in Lough Erne, and he later wrote to President Obama reaffirming the UK’s commitment to securing the release and return of Mr Aamer to the UK. The Deputy Prime Minister went on to raise Mr Aamer’s case with Vice-President Biden in September, and the Foreign and Defence Secretaries have repeatedly raised Mr Aamer’s case with their US counterparts.
Senior officials also continued to engage in an active dialogue with the US regarding Mr Aamer’s case. Notwithstanding the government’s best endeavours, any decision regarding Mr Aamer’s release remains in the hands of the US government. We shall continue to work with US counterparts in 2014 to secure the release and return of Mr Aamer to the UK.
The UK defence sector is a vital part of our industrial base. It helps responsible states to meet their legitimate defence and security needs. However, we recognise that there remains a risk that governments intent on internal repression or territorial expansion, international terrorist organisations, or organised crime networks may seek to acquire weapons, either legally or illegally. We therefore remain committed to ensuring that the legitimate arms trade is properly regulated, both in the UK and internationally.
The adoption of a legally-binding Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in April 2013 was a historic moment. It was the culmination of a ten-year campaign and seven years of work within the UN. The UK was at the forefront of the process from the start, and was one of the first states to sign the ATT on 3 June in New York. Now, our top priority is to complete domestic ratification of the treaty as soon as possible and to encourage other states to do the same, in order that the treaty can enter into force. In the expectation of that happening, we are already consulting our fellow co-authors and other supporters of the treaty about the practical arrangements that will have to be put in place to make the treaty operational (for example, location and format of secretariat). Working with civil society, we have lobbied other states to sign and ratify the treaty – exceeding the target we set ourselves of 100 signatures by the end of 2013. We are now looking at ways to help other states ratify and implement the treaty. In 2013-14, we plan to spend more than £350,000 on implementation assistance.
Properly regulated, a responsible arms trade helps countries to meet their legitimate defence and security needs. Arms exports help governments to protect their citizens and secure their fundamental freedoms. The UK’s export licensing system is one of the toughest, most transparent regimes in the world. We do export licensable equipment to countries which feature as countries of concern in this report. Not least because many licensable goods have perfectly legitimate civilian uses. They are used in the production of toothpaste or to build mobile phone networks. However, commercial relationships do not and will not prevent us from speaking frankly and openly to the governments of these countries about issues of concern, including human rights.
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is the licensing authority for strategic arms exports from the UK. FCO acts as a policy advisor, providing BIS with advice and analysis of the foreign policy aspects relevant to the consideration of each export licence application. The Department for International Development (DFID), Ministry of Defence (MOD), HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) also provide policy advice to BIS. Around 17,000 export licence applications were processed in 2013. Each application is assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. These criteria are based on an EU Common Position and Criterion 2 is specifically intended to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country of final destination. This stipulates that the government will “not issue an export licence if there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression”. This is a mandatory criterion which means that, if it is judged that such a clear risk exists, the government must refuse the licence and may not take into account any other factors.
When making export licensing decisions, the government examines the political and security conditions in the destination country, the nature of the equipment to be exported, the organisation or unit which will ultimately be the user of the equipment, and all available information about how similar equipment has been used in the past, and how it is likely to be used in the future. We consult FCO experts in the UK and in our embassies and high commissions overseas, and take into account reports from NGOs and the media. Many applications, including all sensitive or finely-balanced cases, are submitted to ministers for decision.
Once approved, export licences are kept under review. The government has access to a wide range of daily reporting, including from its global network of diplomatic missions overseas. This enables the government to respond swiftly to changes in risk. In July 2013, we revoked five licences to Egypt in cases where we assessed there was a clear risk that the equipment might be used for internal repression. Later in the year, we were able to respond swiftly following the 21 August agreement by EU Foreign Ministers to suspend export licensing to Egypt for equipment that might be used for internal repression. We suspended 47 licences initially. After five weeks, when the situation became clearer, we refined our approach to distinguish between licences which failed the Criterion 2 test (i.e. “clear risk”) and were revoked or refused (three licences); those where there was not a “clear risk” the equipment might be used for internal repression, but which nevertheless failed the lower-threshold EU test (“might be used for internal repression”) and which were kept suspended or expired (20 licences); and those where we judged the equipment would not be used for internal repression, which were re-instated or approved (24 licences).
In 2012 (the last complete year for which statistics are available), 44 export licences were refused under Criterion 2. Case studies based on actual export licence applications are published in the government’s Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls (the 2013 edition is due in July 2014). These demonstrate how human rights considerations, among other criteria, are factored into assessments, and provide an insight into how the government assesses licence applications on a case-by-case basis.
Cluster munitions and anti-personnel landmines
Anti-personnel landmines, cluster munition remnants and other explosive remnants of war can threaten the lives of civilians and hinder post-conflict reconstruction and development. The UK is committed to reducing the humanitarian impact of these problems.
The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM, or Oslo Convention) prohibits the use, development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention and transfer of cluster munitions. The UK became the 32nd State Party to the CCM in 2010. By the end of 2013, 113 states had acceded to the convention, of whom 84 are States Parties (up from 77 at the end of 2012). The UK withdrew all cluster munitions from operational service in 2008, and in December 2013 destroyed the last of its cluster munitions, five years ahead of the CCM deadline.
We are similarly committed to mitigating the humanitarian effects of anti-personnel landmines, and ratified the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (the Ottawa Treaty) in 1998.
Between 2010 and 2013, we committed to spend more than £41 million on work to clear mines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war through DFID’s Mine Action Programme. We supported projects in Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Laos, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan and Vietnam. These projects removed over 70,000 landmines and explosive remnants of war. They released over 10,000 hectares of contaminated or suspected hazardous land so that people could return to their everyday lives. They also increased the awareness of hundreds of thousands of people through mine risk education.
In November 2013, DFID published “Clearing a Path to Development”, a policy paper setting out the UK Government’s priorities and principles in tackling the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war in developing countries, and pledged to spend up to £30 million over the next three years to tackle the humanitarian consequences of mines and explosive remnants of war.
Reducing Conflict and Building Stability Overseas
The Conflict Pool
The Conflict Pool is a joint fund for conflict prevention, stabilisation and peacekeeping support, managed by the FCO, DFID and the MOD. Conflict Pool programmes support the UK’s conflict prevention priorities set out in the Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS) in three broad areas: to support the building of free, transparent and inclusive political systems; to build effective and accountable security and justice sectors; and to increase the capacity of local populations and regional and multilateral institutions to prevent and resolve conflict. It operates through regional programmes in Afghanistan, Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and wider Europe. It also supports reform and capacity-building in international organisations, and other cross-cutting thematic work, including preventing sexual violence in conflict and protecting civilians. The Conflict Pool’s budget for 2013-14 is £229 million. In 2013, the Conflict Pool’s Early Action Facility, introduced to allow more effective rapid response to emerging crises and unforeseen needs, supported work to limit the impact of the conflict in Syria as well as peacekeeping support in the Central African Republic. Projects supporting human rights fall within each of these priority areas, and include the following.
In the Middle East and North Africa, the Conflict Pool funds work in Syria to document human rights violations and abuses, supporting a collaborative and sustained network of local Syrian health and legal professionals, who are producing forensic evidence of serious human rights violations, including torture and sexual violence, for future use in national or international criminal courts.
In Africa, the Conflict Pool works to build the capacity of civil society engaged in human rights activities, including training of human rights defenders in Kenya and Sudan, through to legal and medical assistance to victims of political violence in Zimbabwe.
In the North Caucasus, Conflict Pool project partners highlight and address cases of grave human rights violations in both domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights. Project partners focus on capacity building of grassroots organisations, and strengthening local communities in order to enable them to take an active stance in protection of human rights, and play an important role in prevention of conflicts in the region.
The Conflict Pool in Pakistan worked with local civil society partners to sensitise 1,011 NGOs and community groups on democratic governance, minority and human rights. Through this intervention, the Conflict Pool in Pakistan has developed a cadre of strong NGOs that are now better equipped to deliver interventions in priority areas of human and minority rights.
In Kosovo, the Conflict Pool has provided training on therapeutic approaches to treat survivors of sexual violence and torture.
Working with Physicians for Human Rights, the Conflict Pool funded the deployment of a team of experts to train local police forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the investigation of sexual violence. The pool also supports the Women’s Institute for Gender Justice, which pursues justice for victims of sexual violence in conflict at The Hague.
The pool supports the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) which monitors and investigates human rights violations and abuses in Afghanistan, and works to educate local communities and lobby governments on the protection of human rights.
We also continue to promote respect for human rights in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories through work with local Israeli and Palestinian implementing partners. This year, we have maintained our support to projects which sustain Palestinian state-building efforts, with a particular focus on security and the rule of law sectors; support and strengthen constituencies committed to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict peacefully; reduce the risk of deterioration of the situation on the ground; and advance understanding of the fears and desires of both publics in the context of a lasting peace. We have also supported the work of trusted implementers to monitor and challenge the following through the Israeli legal system - settler violence, settlement expansion, land expropriations, evictions and demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – as well as to provide legal assistance to protect Palestinian rights to land and property.
The Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
The UK is fully committed to the concept of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which was endorsed by all UN member states at the 2005 World Summit. We believe an increased focus on preventive aspects of R2P is crucial to preventing mass atrocity crimes from being committed. We want to see states taking preventive action themselves, for example by reducing/managing ethnic tensions, and the international community providing supportive initiatives. The UK believes that R2P should be a governing principle of all countries’ work across the conflict spectrum, as well as on human rights and development. Building good governance, the rule of law, inclusive and equal societies, and effective judicial and security sectors all contribute to building a preventive environment in which R2P crimes are less likely to take place.
The UK has continued to focus on embedding the preventative aspects of R2P. To this end, we have committed to funding, until 2015, the development of the prosecution service in Ghana (the CJS), which is essential if the rule of law is to be observed. The objectives of this work are: to detach and protect, as far as possible, prosecution from political and other improper influences; to develop international legal co-operation, bilaterally and regionally; and to promote cooperation between justice agencies to make judicial processes more efficient. If there is a broadly trusted and efficient CJS - investigation, prosecution, mutual legal assistance, trial and punishment - then there is a reasonable chance that cycles of spiralling retaliatory action can be prevented. The underlying principle is that “prevention is better than cure”.
The UK supports the international advocacy and outreach work of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. In particular, our funding supports increased engagement with emerging powers and regional organisations on the implementation of R2P.
At the UN, the UK has continued to hold regular meetings with the Group of Friends of R2P, as well as the Security Council Friends of R2P at ambassadorial level. During the UN General Assembly week in September 2013, UK Ministers attended an R2P breakfast meeting and a ministerial meeting on the prevention of genocide. Both meetings were a good forum to raise awareness of the issues and to facilitate closer cooperation between member states in order to prevent conflict. September also saw the appointment of Professor Jennifer Welsh as the Secretary General’s Special Advisor on R2P. We welcomed Professor Welsh’s appointment and look forward to the continued collaboration between her and the Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Genocide, Adama Dieng. The UK has committed to supporting the Joint Office of both Special Advisors. UK funding will help provide training and post-training technical assistance to states and regional and sub-regional organisations to strengthen their capacities to develop early warning, risk assessment and response strategies to prevent R2P crimes.
We remain concerned at the growing level of conflicts around the world. The UK will continue to work bilaterally and through the multilateral fora to ensure states meet their primary responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
Women, peace and security
Violence against women and girls is one of the most systematic and widespread human rights concerns in the world. Women have a vital and largely untapped role in resolving conflict. States have a moral obligation to promote women’s participation in building peace and in conflict resolution, because the contribution of women helps to secure a more sustainable peace. While at the international level there is increasing consensus about the obligations of states to address the barriers to women’s full and active participation in public life, at the domestic level, and at times when new states are being formed, there is still progress to be made in advancing women’s equality. National legislation and constitutions adversely affect women’s participation in public and political life in some states, by limiting women’s participation through exclusionary or discriminatory clauses, thus restricting women’s ability to engage fully in the public sphere.
The UK has continued to meet its commitments on the women, peace and security agenda as set out in UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and subsequent resolutions. The UK National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) is intended to strengthen the UK’s ability to reduce the impact of conflict on women and girls, and to promote their inclusion in conflict resolution. It provides a framework to ensure that the provisions of UNSCR 1325 and associated resolutions are incorporated into the government’s work on armed conflict. 2013 has seen the publication and conclusion of the 2010-13 UK NAP. It details how the UK has made progress against its objectives, and paves the way for a new NAP which will be launched in 2014.
Work continued across the three bilateral focus countries; Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Nepal, and the focus region, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in this period. In Afghanistan, the UK has continued to offer practical and political support to the government to help it honour its national and international human rights obligations and commitments. The UK has funded the Afghan Parliamentary Assistance Programme (£1.5 million). The project provides core support to building parliament’s capacity, including training and capacity building on producing legislation, and holding the executive to account. The project also includes targeted support to women parliamentarians to ensure they receive the necessary assistance to be effective in their positions. In December 2013, the British Embassy in Kabul, in partnership with Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS), hosted a workshop for civil society groups to discuss the NAP and its bilateral focus. This was an excellent opportunity to engage with civil society groups and hear their views and experiences.
In the DRC, the UK has continued to work closely with the Congolese government through the thematic working group on gender. There have been developments in the representation of women in the judicial and security sector; the recent promotion by presidential ordinance of 181 generals included three female brigadier-generals and one woman of the rank of assistant divisional commissioner, and 200 women magistrates were also recently promoted.
In Nepal, the UK provided support, through various projects, for women’s participation in the 2013 elections and in the process of finalising the country’s constitution. The UK continues to play a leading role in the EU Working Group on Human Rights Defenders, which regularly considers the situation of women human rights defenders and agrees steps with local civil society on how to support them.
The government continues to support and promote work on WPS in all countries in the MENA region. Specific examples include the UK’s work in Libya, which has maintained a focus on promoting the participation of women and marginalised groups in public and political life. Projects to support this objective have included a 14-month project run by Danish Church Aid (DCA) to support women’s empowerment. This provides training and mentoring to Libyan civil society throughout the country to promote women’s participation in political and public life, and women’s inclusion in the constitution drafting process.
The UK leads on the WPS agenda in the UN Security Council (UNSC), and continues to champion it at the multilateral level. 2013 has seen the adoption of two UNSCRs on WPS. The first of these was UNSCR 2106, adopted in June 2013 during an open debate hosted by the Foreign Secretary, and under the UK’s Presidency of the UNSC. The resolution puts an important focus on violence in conflict, and specifies action to protect women from violence, and ensure their participation in all responses to sexual violence and all peace processes. The second resolution, UNSCR 2122, was unanimously adopted in October 2013. The resolution reiterates the need to increase women’s leadership and participation in conflict resolution and peace-building processes. As part of this, the Foreign Secretary has called for the Syrian peace talks in Geneva to have a direct role for women’s groups, for example through both sides appointing women to their delegations, as well as making gender advisors available to all parties.
At the national level, the UK government has continued to adapt its policy, programmes, training and operational procedures to ensure that WPS is incorporated into its work on conflict and in conflict-affected countries. For example, on funding, both strategic and programme-level Conflict Pool guidance advises all Conflict Pool programmes to take a gender sensitive approach. This has led to projects that are focused specifically on WPS objectives. Work has also been undertaken across government to incorporate conflict issues into staff training. For example, the tri-departmental Stabilisation Unit (SU) has continued to run courses which include specific sessions on WPS, as well as dedicated one-day training on WPS.
The 2014-2017 National Action Plan (NAP), due to be launched during the summer of 2014, will build on lessons to date, and address some of the challenges in the current NAP. It will have a greater focus on participation, especially peace negotiations and in early stages of peace-making, which can increase gender analysis in post-conflict planning, lead to improved outcomes for women, and enhance their capacity to participate in longer-term peace-building. The new NAP will be framed around an overarching strategy that aligns the government’s work on WPS, as there are various initiatives being taken forward on this agenda across departments, and there is value in bringing these elements together under one framework.
The UK will host an international summit on sexual violence in 2014. The aim of this conference will be to build on the momentum of the G8 and UN General Assembly declarations, looking at how the international community is turning its political commitments into practical action. This will be a major opportunity to raise the profile of WPS, and will give the agenda a significant push, both politically and practically.
Protection of Civilians Strategy
“Protection of Civilians” (POC) refers to the protection of civilians by states and the international community from widespread threats of violence and coercion. It calls on belligerent actors to minimise harm to civilians and civilian property in the conduct of hostilities, including from excessive and disproportionate attacks and force. It also calls for the protection of civilians from violence. During armed conflict, civilians are entitled to protection under international humanitarian law (IHL). Despite this, civilians continue to be the victims of violence, and are sometimes deliberately targeted by belligerents. These deliberate attacks can include campaigns of sexual violence or deliberate killings to instil fear and coerce compliance from the local population. In addition to direct attacks, civilians also need protection from the consequences of conflict, such as being forced to move from their homes and thus losing ownership of land and property.
The government’s BSOS made clear that protecting civilians is at the core of the UK’s policies to prevent, manage and resolve conflict. As the UNSC lead nation on the POC agenda, we implement this policy through our diplomatic work, providing assistance to peace-support operations, capacity building and humanitarian effort.
This year the UK has continued to chair the UNSC’s Expert Group on the Protection of Civilians. This is an informal forum in which the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) - on behalf of the humanitarian community - brings to the attention of the UNSC key protection concerns. These briefings have been useful ahead of UN mission mandate renewals in order to enhance the understanding of the POC agenda amongst relevant country experts, as well as to increase the effectiveness of POC language within mandates (there are currently nine peace-keeping operations with POC mandates, and over 94% of overall peace-keeping personnel serve in missions with POC as a core mandated task).
We work closely with the UN to put the POC agenda in to action. This has included, for example, continued UK funding of two staff members at the POC coordination team, which is part of the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). The POC coordination team provides operational and policy advice to missions, as well as briefing the Special Representative of the Secretary General and force commanders on the POC agenda. At country level, the UK has provided Conflict Pool-funded assistance in niche areas to countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), in order to improve the capacity and effectiveness of troops in Somalia. Specifically, this has led to training being delivered by UK training teams in topics such as international human rights law, civilian-military relations (stabilisation), and operational detention. This will help reduce instances of civilian harm or human rights abuses caused by AMISOM troops in the long run.
2013 has been a challenging year due to the growing number of conflicts around the world, and we expect 2014 to be similar. This makes the POC agenda even more relevant. The UK will continue to help strengthen international and bilateral political action on protection and continue to support peace support operations wherever possible.
Children and armed conflict
The protection and promotion of children’s rights, including those of children in armed conflict, form an integral part of the FCO’s wider international human rights agenda. Children are often the most vulnerable group to face the devastating consequences of conflict. These include unlawful recruitment, gender-based violence, killing and maiming, separation from families, and human trafficking, as well as the denial of basic human rights such as schooling, basic nutrition and health services, and the denial of childhood. If we fail to protect children, it has an effect on a country’s ability to emerge from conflict, undermining the future generation, and affecting the potential of tomorrow’s leaders. The UK is therefore strongly committed to supporting and protecting the rights of children in conflict. It is vital that children feel safe and secure within their communities, receive the education and health services to which they are entitled, and can support their country’s future progress.
The UK government takes direct action to protect children in conflict zones by applying diplomatic pressure, and by funding projects to help rehabilitate children. We have spoken out publicly against those governments and groups that abuse children’s rights. Minister for Conflict Issues, Mark Simmonds, is taking forward a campaign to tackle the recruitment of child soldiers in five priority countries: the DRC, Somalia, South Sudan, Chad and Burma.
The UK is a member of the UNSC Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, which leads the international response to this issue. This includes pressing those parties to conflict, listed in the UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, to develop action plans to address violations committed against children. The UN has agreed action plans most recently in 2013 on the Lord’s Resistance Army, Yemen, Burma and the Philippines, but also with South Sudan, Somalia, the DRC, and Syria. These signed commitments bring perpetrators into compliance with international standards, release children from armed groups, and protect them from violations.
Under the UK Presidency of the UNSC in July 2013, we hosted a public debate on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), which adopted a strong presidential statement (PRST) protecting the robust mandate of the Special Representative to the Secretary General (SRSG) on Children and Armed Conflict, and introducing progressive concepts for tackling persistent perpetrators. The adoption of a PRST (which requires consensus) sends an important message of UNSC unity after the contested CAAC Resolution 2068, adopted in September 2012.
As Burma is one of our priority countries, the UK, as part of the UNSC Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, agreed a resolution in August 2013 on the issue of child soldiers in Burma. This calls on the Burmese government to ensure that the UN country team is granted access to all military sites, and that steps are taken to remove the incentives for recruiting child soldiers and to strengthen age verification mechanisms. As a follow-up to the resolution, the UK participated in a UNSC Working Group mission to Burma visiting Rangoon and Nay Pyi Taw in December. We reiterated our messages to senior government officials and parliamentarians to prevent and halt violations against children, in particular their recruitment, and through the implementation of their action plan.
The Foreign Secretary announced a new commitment of £150,000 in UK funding for the UN Office of the SRSG on Children and Armed Conflict. This has served to increase the SRSG’s capacity to monitor emerging situations of concern in line with UNSC Resolutions 1612, 1882, 1998 on children and armed conflict. The Office of the SRSG has undertaken technical missions to monitor violations committed against children, and provided technical assistance to child protection actors in the field including, in Syria, Mali and Sudan. Additionally, the UK contributed funding to recruit a child protection advisor in the African Union to collaborate with the SRSG’s office.
Looking ahead to 2014
Mr Simmonds, has identified children and armed conflict as one of his ten priorities for 2014, and will be leading a campaign focusing on the recruitment of child soldiers. We will also look for opportunities to link children and armed conflict to the Foreign Secretary’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), including the planned summit in June.
UK stabilisation capacity
The Stabilisation Unit (SU) helps the UK government respond to crises and tackle the causes of instability overseas. This is integral to safeguarding and promoting the human rights of those living in conflict-affected states. The SU is a uniquely integrated civil-military team jointly owned by FCO, MOD and DFID, funded from the tri-departmental Conflict Pool, and designed to be agile and well-equipped to operate in high-threat environments. It combines in-house staff expertise, with the ability to draw on a larger pool of civilian expertise for specialised, longer-term or larger-scale tasking. The SU ensures lessons from practical experience are captured as best practice and used to improve future SU, Conflict Pool, and wider delivery in support of the BSOS.
The SU has an operational role across all three pillars of the BSOS: early warning; rapid crisis prevention and response; and investing in upstream prevention.
The SU’s 2013-14 Business Plan (available online – www.stabilisationunit.gov.uk) sets out its objectives for 2013-14. Priorities include providing support on the Foreign Secretary’s PSVI, including in support of the June 2014 summit, lesson-learning from Afghanistan as we enter 2014 and prepare for drawdown of multilateral forces, preparing for greater engagement in Syria, and continued stabilisation support for Somalia. Those deployed by the SU work on a wide range of activities, including supporting security and justice activities (e.g. Somalia) and policing (e.g. Kosovo and Afghanistan).
In 2013, the SU recruited, prepared, deployed and sustained – safely – experts to meet a total of 491 on-going and new deployments in 31 countries, including Afghanistan, Kosovo, Libya and Somalia. It provided support to almost 30 military exercises and study days worldwide, drawing on a total of 86 advisors and core staff to share best practice with UK and international partners, and to develop the UK’s integrated response to managing conflict.
2013 was also characterised by the SU’s ability to quickly deliver a diverse range of services and kit to its parent departments (FCO, DFID and MOD) in-country, such as in South Sudan. In Afghanistan, 2013 saw the UK government’s operations in Helmand begin the gradual process of drawing down. The SU played a vital role in completing a series of debriefings of the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team (HPRT), which has enabled HPRT senior management to incorporate real-time lessons into their management of the final stages of transition, and helped inform the wider process of developing cross-government lessons on stabilisation activity in Afghanistan.
The value of cross-government working has also been seen in the Joint Analysis of Conflict and Stability (JACS) process becoming firmly established across Whitehall in 2013. This is an important mechanism for bringing departments together to understand and agree a single UK government view of what is driving violent conflict in countries, and improving the impact of our actions in those countries. JACS assessments have been carried out in DRC and Mali, among other countries. The SU also made progress in implementing PSVI. SU successfully deployed PSVI experts to a number of countries, most recently Mali, supporting the EU Training Mission to train the Malian Armed Forces in international humanitarian law.
Peace building delivers on the Prime Minister’s “Golden Thread”: helping countries overcome conflict and build longer-term resilience and prosperity. The UK regards effective peace-building as integral to safeguarding and promoting the human rights of those living in such states. Improving the capacity of the UN to address post-conflict peace building challenges is critical to helping fragile and conflict-affected states achieve sustainable peace, avoid relapses into conflict, and work towards development.
The UK pursues several of its peace building goals through the UN. Central to these are promoting national ownership and partnerships in peace building processes, and working towards greater coordination and integration in UN and donor responses to conflict. The UN’s primary tool for delivering peace building activities is Special Political Missions, UN offices which focus on civilian political peace building activities, rather than military peacekeeping tasks. The UK supports these through funding to the UN Department of Political Affairs and, through our position as a permanent member on the UNSC, setting mission mandates. We are adopting a more strategic approach to Special Political Missions in priority countries to make them more efficient and effective, including by taking a concerted look at their mandates, leadership, and resourcing, in countries such as Libya, Afghanistan and Somalia (see below).
The UK played a pivotal role in the establishment in June 2013 of a new UN Special Political Mission in Somalia (UNSOM). UNSOM has been charged with playing a key role in the coordination of international support to Somalia, particularly in the security sector: supporting the government’s six-pillar policy priorities; monitoring and reporting on the promotion of human rights; and supporting preparations for elections in Somalia in 2016. This has set the scene for the deepest UN involvement in Somalia for over two decades. Recent successes for the mission include the peaceful transition and elections in Puntland, which were ably led by UNSOM.
The timely and effective delivery of peace building is largely contingent on the right civilian skills in the right place at the right time. Through our SU, we provide civilian experts to help countries develop their own capacities to prevent and respond to conflict. We have sent UK police officers for this purpose to a number of countries both bilaterally and through NATO, EU and UN missions, including to Libya, Afghanistan and now Haiti, who are helping these countries build their national policing capacities.
The UK is providing funding for a global focal point, the first of its kind to bring together different UN departments to work together on critical peace building tasks in the justice, police and corrections sector, such as in Somalia, which helps maximise the broader contributions we make to the UN. The UK has also funded a number of Peace and Development Advisors in countries such as Sierra Leone and Yemen, who advise the UN and national governments on how they can build peace through development programmes. We are strong supporters of the UN’s Peace building Fund, committing £55 million over four years in 2011. The purpose of the fund is to strengthen international support for post-conflict states, and prevent them from relapsing into violence, filling the gaps where other funding mechanisms cannot help, for example in supporting the justice sector to strengthen state capacity for peace consolidation and youth reconciliation projects in Liberia.
In 2014, we will be looking ahead to how the UN can deliver peace-building in conflict-affected countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Central African Republic. We will be working closely with the UN and our international partners in seeking the most appropriate peace-building solutions for these diverse contexts.
Private security companies
Legitimate private security companies (PSCs), working to high standards, are vital to the protection of diplomatic missions, and the work of companies and NGOs, in complex and dangerous environments around the world. For a number of years, we have been looking at how to help PSCs working in complex environments overseas to raise and demonstrate high, measurable standards, including on human rights, and to ensure their activities do not contribute to violence or conflict. The UK is a signatory to the Montreux Document on private military and security companies. This defines how international law applies to the activities of private military and security companies when they are operating in an armed conflict zone. We implement the Montreux Document through our support for implementation of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers (ICoC), and for the professional standards which flow from it.
2013 saw a number of landmarks in this area, as the UK government engaged in specific initiatives to raise and independently monitor standards at both the national and international level. Our main aim at the national level was to help the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) to launch a pilot which would accredit independent certifying bodies to certify private security companies to public, professional standards, and which would sufficiently address human rights and international humanitarian law. At the end of 2012, the UK government had approved ANSI/ASIS PSC-1, a standard for land-based PSCs. In 2013, we began encouraging shipping companies to use certification to the standard ISO 28000, incorporating the requirements of the guidance ISO PAS 28007, as part of their selection criteria when contracting a maritime private security company (PSC).
The UKAS pilot was launched in May 2013 and is due to conclude early in 2014. We are continuing to work with UKAS, our industry partner the Security in Complex Environments Group, and civil society organisations, to provide input to the certification process on human rights and humanitarian law to ensure that it is robust. Once the pilot is complete, PSCs will be able to pursue certification to these standards with the accredited certifying bodies.
At the international level, we aimed to build on the ICoC by working with governments, industry and civil society organisations to create a mechanism to oversee the code. We were at the forefront of efforts to launch the ICoC Association in September 2013. The Association will independently monitor compliance with the code by member PSCs around the world. We were an active member of the group which negotiated the Charter of the Association, and have made a contribution of £300,000 to the Association. The Board of the Association consists of representatives of governments, industry and civil society organisations.
The Association is the only global mechanism that will be able independently to monitor PSCs in the field. It has broad support from governments, industry and civil society organisations. As the combination of accredited certification and ICoC Association membership starts to take effect, anyone buying PSC services anywhere in the world will be able to see at a glance whether or not a PSC is certified against reputable standards and accountable to a global body comprising governments, industry and civil society organisations.
In 2014, we will build on these initiatives in a variety of ways. We will continue to support UKAS by ensuring it has access to the expertise of civil society organisations and industry. We will work closely with the ICoC Association Board as it sets up its membership, monitoring and grievance procedures. We will continue to encourage more states, private security companies and civil society organisations to join the Association. We will keep working with governments, industry and civil society organisations to test our approach, to ensure it keeps raising standards. We will support those PSCs that show they are working to high human rights standards, by encouraging the clients of PSCs – governments and international organisations, private companies and NGOs – to recognise both accredited certification and membership of the ICoC Association in their contracting procedures, as we will in our own contracting. We will consider how else the UK government can raise the profile of this system and of the UK companies who play a full part in it.
Section VII: Human Rights in Promoting Britain’s Prosperity
We believe that the promotion of business and respect for human rights should go hand in hand. Trade is most sustainable in markets characterised by good governance, the rule of law, transparency and responsible business conduct, including the protection of, and respect for, human rights. At a time when many companies have bigger turnover than some countries’ gross domestic product (GDP), business can exercise enormous influence in the development of economies and societies. With that influence, and opportunity, comes responsibility. It is consistent with our support for human rights and our need for economic growth that we should help British companies succeed in a way that is consistent with our values.
Promoting Responsible Business Practice
The UK is committed to promoting the widespread implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), and continues to work with states to develop national action plans for their implementation, and to help UK companies respect human rights in their operations.
The publication in 2013 of the UK Action Plan on Business and Human Rights set a new overall government framework for the integration of our business and human rights interests. The plan was launched jointly between the FCO and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and follows the three pillars set out in the UNGPs: a state’s duty to protect human rights, business’s responsibility to respect human rights, and the provision of access to remedies. We are the first country to produce a national action plan for the implementation of the UNGPs.
In addition to the work described in Section II to deliver the action plan, the government has carried out work to improve overall business practices, particularly in conflict zones, reduce bribery and increase transparency. It also continues to review licences for arms exports against the human impact such exports have.
OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises provide voluntary principles and standards of corporate behaviour for multinational businesses. National Contact Points (NCPs), which promote the guidelines and implement the associated complaints procedure, are a requirement for all countries that adhere to them. The UK National Contact Point (NCP) is provided by BIS, with support from the Department for International Development (DFID).
During 2013, the NCP received fifteen complaints about the behaviour of businesses operating from or in the UK. Many of these complaints referred to the human rights chapter of the guidelines. The NCP accepted that there should be further examination of the issues raised in three complaints, and this is ongoing. Two other complaints were rejected. The remaining complaints were yet to be assessed at the end of 2013.
The NCP’s work to promote the guidelines in 2013 included a range of meetings, workshops, and presentations to businesses and NGOs in the UK and overseas. We also provided two international training sessions to other NCPs in Europe and South America and took part in the peer review of the Norwegian NCP. We developed our working relations with Colombia, India, and Brazil. In 2014, we will work with other NCPs and the OECD to apply the updated guidelines and improve the consistency of approach across adhering countries, support other countries interested in applying the guidelines or developing corporate responsibility standards(the NCP has already co-sponsored an event with Brazil’s NCP for January 2014), and will follow up on its ongoing work with the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs. We will continue to raise awareness of the guidelines among UK businesses and NGOs.
Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights
The Voluntary Principles (VPs) on Security and Human Rights provide guidance on responsible business practices to oil, gas and mining companies, which often operate in high-risk and conflict-affected areas. This guidance helps companies to engage with public security forces and private security companies, and to conduct effective risk assessments so that their security operations do not lead to human rights abuses or exacerbate conflict. The VPs is an initiative which enables companies, governments and NGOs to work together to find solutions to complex security and human rights challenges.
The UK believes the VPs are one way of helping extractives companies to abide by their responsibility to respect human rights, as set out in the UNGPs. We also believe participants should continue to bring the initiative further into line with the UNGPs. Specifically, we believe that there needs to be greater accountability and transparency, better reporting, and a louder voice for affected communities. The UK joined the VPs Steering Committee in March 2013, and during the year we worked with the committee to develop a three-year strategy to address some of these challenges and strengthen the initiative.
During 2013, we sought to encourage more governments to join the initiative. We spoke to governments of countries with significant oil, gas and mineral resources, including Angola, Argentina, Burma, Chile, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ghana, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand and Uganda. We did so through bilateral lobbying by FCO ministers and our network of overseas missions, and we have also organised roundtables and workshops and participated in mining fairs. In addition, in September, the Minister for Africa and Conflict Issues, Mark Simmonds, met UK extractives companies that are not currently participants in the VPs, in order to encourage them to join the initiative.
We also worked to strengthen the implementation of the VPs in specific countries, participating in a number of VPs working groups. These brought together participants from all three pillars (extractives companies, governments and NGOs) to discuss in-country implementation. We continued to meet UK member companies, to offer support for their implementation, and we funded project work in Kenya to raise awareness and strengthen implementation of the VPs. This project is part of the Nairobi Process, an initiative which is providing support to the Kenyan government and extractives companies operating in Kenya, to help ensure that human rights are respected in Kenya’s extractives sector. The project has shown the value of the VPs to the Kenyan government, in relation to existing legislation and to public security processes around new oil and gas installations. It has also provided a platform for participants to share their experiences of implementing the VPs.
The UK will chair the VPss from March 2014-15. During our chairmanship, we will need to maintain momentum for delivering the strategy. Priorities for our chairmanship are to continue to encourage more governments and UK companies to join the initiative, to strengthen implementation of the principles on the ground, and to make progress towards bringing the initiative in line with the UNGP through increased accountability and transparency.
Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security
The globally endorsed UN Voluntary Guidelines on Land Tenure (VGGT) is best practice guidance for all matters related to land tenure and wider governance, including for how land-related investments should happen. They are human rights based and their key goal is to promote the human right to adequate food.
The UK supports the VGGT in numerous respects:
- through its funding to the Food and Agriculture Organisation in a new three-year programme for £3.9 million to raise awareness, improve tenure governance, and support global reporting on progress with VGGT implementation;
- through its leadership in the 2013 G8 commitment to implement the VGGT through country partnerships with interested governments: Ethiopia (UK, US, Germany), Tanzania (UK), Nigeria (UK), Burkina Faso (US), South Sudan (EU), Niger (EU), and Senegal (France). These partnerships aim to accelerate and target support to countries’ existing land governance programmes in conjunction with businesses, in particular farmers, and civil society;
- the global donor working group on land which is chaired by the UK (DFID) has just released its new global land programme database and map. The database includes an initial 445 programmes in 119 countries with a combined worth of US$2.8 billion. All programmes are mapped against relevant sections of the human rights based VGGT; and
- DFID is increasing its work on land, bilaterally and at the global level. One objective will be to enhance human rights protection through more responsible private sector investment, so that people’s food security and, more broadly, economic development can be better supported, which will lead to societies and economies that are better able to protect their populations’ human rights.
Supply chains of minerals from high-risk areas continue to pose a threat to human rights. They can provide a source of funding for armed groups and, where funds are diverted for other illegitimate purposes, they can harm local communities that should expect to benefit from a valuable economic resource. We are addressing this issue both through the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and by encouraging better corporate due diligence.
The Kimberley Process was established in 2002 to regulate the global trade in rough diamonds, and so prevent rebel groups trading in them to fund armed conflict. The scheme now has 54 participants representing 81 countries, and accounts for over 99% of the global production and trade of rough diamonds. The UK is represented in the Kimberley Process by the EU.
The Government Diamond Office (GDO), based in the FCO, along with the UK Border Force and HM Revenue & Customs, are responsible for preventing illicit diamonds entering or leaving the UK. In 2013, the GDO continued its work with the UK’s rough diamond industry to provide expert advice and oversight of industry compliance with Kimberley Process minimum standards. GDO officials inspected eighteen shipments of rough diamonds entering or leaving the UK, and issued Kimberley Process certificates for rough diamond exports worth over $3 billion.
We contributed to the development of additional minimum requirements which were introduced by the Kimberley Process in 2013. These will increase consistency and help to raise standards among participating states. However, participants in the scheme have not been able to reach consensus on amending its mandate better to address the risks around today’s diamond supply chains, which include serious human rights violations and violence by states and other armed groups. We will continue to make the case for reform in 2014, and to contribute to improvements at an operational level.
We believe effective due diligence by companies buying minerals which may originate from affected areas will complement the diamond-specific work of governments in the Kimberley Process. The OECD’s “Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Affected and High-Risk Areas” includes specific guidance on gold and tin, tungsten and tantalum, all of which are used in consumer electronics. Some companies and trade bodies are already taking steps to implement the guidance, and we will continue to support and encourage full and transparent due diligence by relevant UK importers. In 2014, we expect the European Commission to make a proposal for EU action to support improved due diligence around mineral supply chains. We will consider the proposal on its merits, bearing in mind the need to encourage due diligence while avoiding undue burdens on business.
In 2013, we joined the precious stones industry, other governments and civil society organisations to set up an informal body, “the Precious Stones Multi-Stakeholder Working Group”. The group is exploring how to advance and harmonise responsible sourcing and supply chains for diamonds and other precious stones. It will report in the spring of 2014.
Anti-corruption and transparency
Corruption undermines the rule of law and democracy, corrodes the fabric of society, deters private sector investment, and creates barriers to doing business. Corruption is also a major impediment to sustainable development and has a disproportionate effect on poor communities. In 2013, Transparency International said that one in four people worldwide reported having paid a bribe.
Our embassies and high commissions have continued to be active in supporting the effective implementation of the UK Bribery Act 2010. They have made business aware of their obligations under it. The UK works to improve standards of anti-corruption legislation and enforcement among our trading partners internationally through the OECD, the UN and the Council of Europe conventions against corruption.
A new central anti-corruption and transparency team was established in the FCO in August 2013. Its remit includes improving the support and guidance provided to officials overseas, and exchanging best practice across the network. The UK has continued to co-sponsor the Business Anti-Corruption Portal, along with Austria, Germany, Norway and Sweden, to help enable companies to adhere to the UN Global Compact Principle 10 on corruption.
Over the past year, the G8 Summit, the UK Bribery Act and the Open Government Partnership (OGP) have provided a strong platform to press for global change to promote transparency, and for action against corruption. As G8 Presidency and lead co-chair of the OGP, we challenged and gained commitment from countries on open data, land, tax, extractives, trade, beneficial ownership and governance. The Open Government Partnership Summit (31 October-1 November) brought together over 1,000 delegates from over 60 countries, including representatives from civil society organisations, businesses and governments who shared experiences and provided real examples of how openness can improve public services, drive economic growth, reduce poverty and corruption, and restore public faith in government. The UK looks forward to maintaining momentum on these issues during 2014, working with the Russian G8 Presidency, Australian G20 Presidency and other partners.
Through the Prosperity Fund and Arab Partnership Participation Fund, the FCO is running 30 projects that focus on anti-corruption and transparency. Some of these projects directly involve working with the private sector, while others involve capacity building or providing technical assistance to promote domestic reform. In Brazil and in Colombia we are promoting best practice in public procurement, and in India we are working with businesses to reduce the risk of corruption. In South Africa we are building anti-corruption capacity in the trade union sector.
Country-specific advice for British companies is available on our Overseas Business Risk website. This helps companies manage political and reputational risks when operating overseas, and provides information on issues such as UK legislation on bribery, the potentially adverse impact that business activity can have on human rights, and how to avoid this as part of an approach to political and reputational risk management.
Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative
The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a global standard which ensures transparency of payments from natural resources. It is a voluntary initiative.
On 22 May 2013, the Prime Minister announced that the UK would be signing up to the EITI. This provides a standard for companies to publish what they pay for oil, gas and mining. Governments disclose what they receive from these companies, and the figures are reconciled by an independent administrator and published.
Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs, Jo Swinson, was appointed UK EITI Champion, and officially launched the UK’s EITI process at an event in July 2013. Over 130 representatives from industry, civil society and government departments attended. Jo Swinson and Chair of the International EITI Board, Clare Short, spoke at the launch.
The Multi Stakeholder Group (MSG), consisting of government, civil society and industry representatives, has oversight of the implementation process. It first met in October 2013 and has met every two months since.
By providing international leadership on EITI and driving forward with implementation, we hope that other resource-rich countries will follow suit. Increasing transparency in the extractive sector tackles corruption, helps resource-rich countries to secure the full benefits of their natural wealth, and supports openness and growth. A common global standard of extractives transparency would also be good for the global economy - creating a level playing field for companies around the world, and minimising burdens on business by avoiding multiple reporting rules in different jurisdictions.
Arms export licensing
Britain has one of the most robust arms export-licensing systems in the world. All licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account all relevant factors. A licence will not be issued if to do so would be inconsistent with any of the Consolidated Criteria (the consolidation of the UK’s national criteria and the 1998 EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports).
This system of export licensing promotes the UK’s prosperity by supporting responsible exports that meet the legitimate defence and security needs of other states, while preventing exports which might fuel regional or internal conflicts, threaten UK national security, or have human rights implications (see Section VI for more details).
Ministerial scrutiny of decisions has continued to be high, with over 300 submissions considered by FCO ministers in 2013.
EU Trade and Human Rights
Promoting global trade can contribute towards better human rights. Free trade can boost incomes and in turn create more open and transparent societies, and enhance the rule of law. By supporting ambitious trade agreements, countries can become more integrated into the global economy, and are more likely to be held accountable to their international commitments.
The EU has a policy of inserting an “essential element” clause into political framework agreements that it negotiates with third countries. Such clauses state that respect for human rights and democratic principles is a central pillar of the framework agreement. Where there is a framework agreement with a third country, any trade agreement with that country is generally linked to the framework agreement. This makes compliance with the essential elements clause of the framework agreement a condition of the trade agreement as well. In turn, this enables measures under the trade agreement to be taken in the case of serious violations of human rights.
The EU’s Generalised System of Preferences helps to improve respect for core human rights standards by offering extra incentives (under “GSP+”) to countries if they ratify 27 core international conventions on human rights, labour rights, environmental and good governance principles. As of 1 January 2014, Pakistan will receive GSP+ for the first time, in addition to existing countries Armenia, Bolivia, Cape Verde (Cabo Verde), Costa Rica, Ecuador, Georgia, Mongolia, Paraguay, and Peru.
When the international community seeks to constrain unacceptable activities carried out by a government, group or individual, including human rights abuses, sanctions can be an effective tool in forcing a change in behaviour. Such sanctions often involve restrictions on trade. These may include a ban on the sale of certain goods and equipment to a country where these items may be used in the abuse of human rights, or prohibitions on doing business with regimes, named individuals, organisations and companies.
International sanctions that bind the UK are agreed at the UN Security Council or in the EU Council of Ministers. As the UK representative at these negotiations, the FCO consults other government departments to ensure that restrictions are targeted, effective and proportionate, and that any commercial or economic impacts on the UK are considered and minimised.
A number of sanctions regimes include measures designed specifically to address the abuse of human rights or prevent internal repression. These include sanctions on Iran, Belarus, the Central African Republic, Libya, Guinea and Sudan, amongst others. It is also possible to impose sanctions on individuals who are involved in human rights abuses or other egregious behaviour. For example, in March, the EU placed sanctions on an additional eight people under the EU-Iran sanctions regime in response to the human rights situation in the country. In October, sanctions were also placed on three individuals under the EU-Belarus regime.
The UK works to ensure that new sanctions listings and measures are accurate and proportionate, as well as being in line with broader UK policy objectives for individual countries. Existing sanctions measures targeted at human rights abuses will continue to be reviewed in line with broader sanctions policy to ensure that the measures and lists remain effective and relevant. We will also continue to work with international partners to use sanctions, where appropriate, as one of the tools at our disposal to address the abuse of human rights.
Section VIII: Human Rights for British Nationals Overseas
Supporting the human rights of British nationals overseas is a priority for the UK government. Consular Directorate, who lead this work, has developed a new Consular Strategy (2013-16) which will see a greater focus on the needs of the most vulnerable, alongside trying to ensure that, in all cases, international norms are protected, and British nationals do not face discrimination. UK Government officials support British nationals across a range of cases, but those with the greatest human rights risks happen when British nationals are charged with a criminal offence, face the death penalty, or when they are the victim in a forced marriage or child abduction case. Our work in all these areas would not be possible without strong partnerships with human rights NGOs and civil society organisations in the UK and overseas; they provide invaluable support, expertise and advice to supplement what we are able to do.
The Death Penalty
The UK government is opposed, on principled grounds, to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. We will use all appropriate influence to prevent the execution of any British national. We intervene at whatever stage and level is judged appropriate from the moment a death sentence becomes a possibility. We will lobby at a senior political level when necessary, and did so in 2013 in a number of countries.
At the end of 2013, there were 12 British nationals under sentence of death in countries across the world, and over 50 British prisoners were facing trial for offences that could attract the death penalty. The most common charges were drugs trafficking and murder, but there has also been a rise in potential death penalty cases involving charges of blasphemy, particularly in Pakistan. Where death sentences have been imposed, we seek their review or commutation.
During the year, we made representations on behalf of British nationals in a number of countries, including in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the US. We do so at whatever level is appropriate, including through the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister.
We work closely with legal teams employed by British nationals who are facing the death penalty and we are supported in doing so by specialist NGOs Reprieve and the Death Penalty Project (DPP). In 2013, we worked closely with Reprieve on the cases of British nationals in Indonesia and the US, and towards the end of 2013 we worked with both Reprieve and DPP on a case in the DRC. We will continue to intervene in these and all such cases.
At the end of September 2013, we were aware of over 2,670 British prisoners detained overseas in 110 countries. Drug offences account for 32% of these cases, but that trend is downwards. We offer consular assistance to all British nationals, whether they are in police custody, awaiting trial or serving a prison sentence, and regardless of the crime with which they have been charged.
We aim to contact British detainees within 24 hours of being notified of their arrest or detention. Depending on the individual, country and local circumstances in which they are detained, we will in many cases also seek to visit them as soon as possible afterwards. Our primary role is to monitor their welfare and to provide basic information about the local legal and penal system, including a list of English-speaking lawyers and interpreters, and the availability of legal aid.
We support the welfare of British Nationals in close partnership with Prisoners Abroad, a UK-based charity which offers grants and a range of other services to UK detainees in order to support them with their health and well-being, both whilst in prison overseas and upon their return to the UK. We work with them on over 1,000 cases a year, in particular where prisoners have medical issues. For example, we collaborated with them in 2013 to develop additional welfare support for over 100 British nationals detained in several Latin American countries, where prison conditions are notably difficult and where health and welfare concerns often arise. This support will be provided from early 2014.
We work closely with Reprieve, the DPP, Fair Trials International and REDRESS to obtain help and advice for British nationals who require specialist legal support, particularly where they are at risk of the death penalty, or have been convicted in countries where we have concerns over their right to a fair trial.
In 2013, we focused on the more than 80 new cases of alleged torture and mistreatment experienced by British nationals in prisons overseas. These cases have occurred all over the world, though certain countries are the subject of higher numbers of reports and persistent new allegations of mistreatment and torture. Cases involved customs officials, police officers and prison guards, and varied from verbal threats by other prisoners, to being forced by prison guards to take drugs. We take all accounts of mistreatment seriously and, subject to the agreement of the person who has made the allegation, will work with local authorities as soon as possible to seek to ensure conduct that is in accordance with international human rights standards.
After consulting a range of NGOs and foreign governments, in 2013 we launched new guidance for consular staff on how to handle and manage mistreatment and torture allegations, seeking to ensure that they are dealt with in accordance with British nationals’ rights under international and domestic law. We made significant progress in a Middle Eastern country and a South Asian country where we received further responses to our requests for investigations into alleged torture and mistreatment by police officers. This progress offers scope for us to help local authorities improve the quality, consistency and transparency of the investigations they conduct.
In 2014, we will continue to work closely with our partners to assist British nationals imprisoned overseas. We will also continue to develop Prisoner Transfer Agreements with priority countries. The aim of this is to facilitate the transfer of British nationals to serve their sentences in UK prisons, where they will be detained in better conditions, and closer to their families and less at risk of isolation, and therefore more ready for rehabilitation and release into society.
Forced marriage is an indefensible practice and is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse, and an abuse of human rights. A forced marriage is one in which one or both spouses do not, or cannot, consent to the marriage, and where duress is involved. Duress can take the form of physical, psychological, financial, sexual or emotional pressure. A forced marriage is different from an arranged marriage. In an arranged marriage, the families of both spouses take a leading role in making arrangements for the marriage, but the final choice of whether or not to marry remains with the prospective spouses. Many forced marriages have an overseas element, where a British national is sent abroad to be married against his or her will, or made to sponsor a visa for a foreign spouse after a forced marriage has taken place.
The UK government is committed to making forced marriage a criminal offence, and the parliamentary process to introduce the new law remains underway. The new law will also cover luring, or intending to lure, someone overseas to the UK for the purpose of marriage. Breaches of Forced Marriage Protection Orders (the existing civil route to protect potential victims) will also become a criminal offence in order to increase protection for victims and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
During 2013, the UK continued to tackle the issue of forced marriage through the work of the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), a joint FCO and Home Office unit. The FMU supports victims of any nationality in the UK and helps British nationals at risk abroad, as well as people who have previously been forced into marriage and are being pressured into sponsoring a visa for their spouse. The FMU runs a helpline for victims of forced marriage and authorities and professionals seeking advice on handling forced marriage cases. It also develops policy on forced marriage and runs an extensive outreach programme.
In 2013, the FMU gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,302 cases involving 74 different countries. 82% of reported victims were female and 18% were male (the term “victim” includes people thought to be at potential risk of future forced marriage, those currently going through a forced marriage, and those who have already been forced to marry). The assistance provided ranged from giving telephone advice, through to aiding a victim to prevent their unwanted spouse moving to the UK and returning victims to the UK after they had been forced into marriage overseas.
The FMU continued to raise awareness of forced marriage and the support available for potential victims. In 2013, it ran approximately 100 outreach events for community groups, the police, social workers, health professionals and schools. FMU also part-funded development of a mobile phone app providing support and advice on forced marriage which was launched in March. The unit is active on social media and, in August, FMU launched its Twitter account: @FMUnit. FMU also funded ten UK-based NGOs to conduct projects which support victims of forced marriage, tackle the causes of forced marriage, and increase awareness of the issue. Projects included working with young people and imams to encourage debate and challenge misconceptions about forced marriage within communities, working with public figures to develop an ambassadorship programme to combat forced marriage, and providing support to repatriated victims of forced marriage.
Our embassies and high commissions around the world continued to support the work of the FMU and some conducted outreach programmes aimed at combating forced marriage. For example, the British High Commission in Islamabad oversaw community engagement projects in Jhelum, Attock and Kotli which help to tackle the issue by initiating a public dialogue on forced marriage. The FMU also provided funding enabling women’s shelters and refuges in Bangladesh and Pakistan to accommodate victims while they are waiting to return to the UK after a forced marriage or a potential forced marriage.
Throughout the year, we continued to lobby internationally for commitment to tackling forced and early marriage. We continued to lead the International Partnership Board with London embassies to compare approaches to tackling forced marriage with other partner countries, and we worked closely with EU and international partners to share and develop best practice for tackling the issue. FMU staff spoke at several international conferences including the Somali women’s event in London, the Intergovernmental Consultations on Asylum, Migration and Refugees in Brussels, and the International Conference on Forced Marriage and Honour-based Violence in Orebro.
Our focus in 2014 will be on introducing the new legislation to criminalise forced marriage, updating guidance on handling cases of forced marriage, and ensuring that professionals and victims understand what the legislation means for them. We will also continue to raise awareness across communities in the UK, and work to provide high-quality support to victims.
Female Genital Mutilation
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons. It is an abuse of girls’ and women’s human rights, a form of child abuse, medically unnecessary, extremely painful and has serious health consequences, both at the time it is carried out, and in later life.
The UK government is committed to eradicating FGM. The Female Genital Mutilation Act, which makes it illegal to practise FGM in the UK, was introduced in 2003 and came into effect in March 2004. It is also an offence to take girls who are British nationals or permanent residents of the UK to another country for FGM regardless of its legality in that country and, in addition, it is illegal to aid, abet, counsel or procure its practice abroad.
Our objective for 2013 was to work alongside the Home Office, the Department of Health and the Department for Education to help tackle FGM through the government’s initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls. We provided guidance on FGM for FCO consular staff and we participated in outreach to professionals and communities on FGM in order to raise awareness of the issue. In 2014, we will continue to work with other government departments to eradicate FGM.
International child abduction is a growing problem. An increasing number of families have cultural or family links overseas and, when a relationship breaks down, one parent may take their children away to another country, without the consent of the other parent. Whatever the reasons for this, the impact is profound. Children are denied regular close contact with the parent and family who are left behind, and may be less trusting of the parent who removed them. Being thrown into a new and unfamiliar environment can also be traumatic. In England and Wales, one parent removing or retaining a child overseas without the proper consent of the other parent or the permission of the courts may be a criminal offence. The UK is also a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the Hague Abduction Convention), a multilateral treaty which provides for the return of children who have been abducted or retained overseas by a parent.
In 2013, the FCO provided direct advice and assistance to 474 British families dealing with new international child abduction and cross-border custody cases. We work mainly with parents whose children have been taken to countries where return under the 1980 Hague Convention is not possible. We offer parents advice and information about child abduction and the local context, assistance in informing relevant foreign authorities, help in finding local lawyers, and, where appropriate, make political representations. We also work closely with UK police, social services, courts, lawyers and the specialist NGO Reunite to ensure families get coordinated support in the UK. However, where the Hague Abduction Convention is not in place, parents often face lengthy and expensive custody disputes in foreign courts, with no guarantee that the child will come home.
With the number of child abductions on the rise, we also work to alert parents to the problem. In December 2013, the FCO launched its annual child abduction awareness-raising campaign. In media interviews and online, we explained what steps parents could take to prevent child abduction and urged those who were worried about this issue to contact us for advice and support. We also created a film, “Caught in the Middle”, which underlines the traumatic and lasting impact child abduction can have on the whole family.
Alongside our consular assistance to families, the FCO encourages other countries to sign up to the Hague Abduction Convention. We believe this convention offers the best way of resolving child abductions in the best interests of the child. In 2013, FCO ministers raised the issue with their counterparts in South Asia and the Middle East, and we worked closely with India, Pakistan, Japan and China to promote the reciprocal benefits of the convention. We supported delegations of UK experts, including the Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales, Lord Justice Thorpe, to visit Tokyo and China and engage with the local authorities and government on how the Hague Abduction Convention could help families living in those countries. We organised and funded an international conference in New Delhi to highlight the number of globally mobile Indian families, and the importance of developing cross-border custody arrangements – including signing the Hague Abduction Convention. We also provided funds for a Pakistani judge to attend a conference of Hague liaison judges and learn more about how the different Hague family law conventions work in practice. In 2013, we welcomed South Korea’s and – following sustained pressure from the UK and other international partners – Japan’s signature of the Hague Abduction Convention.
In 2014, we will continue this work, including by organising a family law and child abduction conference in Beijing to encourage China and South-East Asian jurisdictions to accede to the convention and by organising a series of workshops in Pakistan, bringing judges, officials and NGOs together to explore how the Hague Abduction Convention works. We hope that high-level political representations to foreign governments and projects with foreign activists will persuade more countries to sign and operate the Hague Abduction Convention, to the benefit of children around the world.
Section IX: Working Through a Rules-Based International System
The UN, the EU, the Commonwealth, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) form a network of international institutions, which provide a framework of laws, standards and tools through which the UK can pursue its human rights objectives, and which can harness regional and international efforts and expertise.
The UN is essential for the delivery of the UK’s human rights priorities, strengthening dialogue between states on human rights and providing a platform for both scrutiny and practical assistance. We seek to improve implementation by UN member states of their human rights obligations under the major UN human rights treaties. We work through the UN to promote human rights in practice and to address all human rights violations. We do this by being active in the UN Security Council (UNSC), the UN General Assembly (UNGA) 3rd Committee and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), to which we were elected as a member this year. The UNHRC, an intergovernmental body within the UN system and made up of 47 states, is responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. The UNGA 3rd Committee (officially the “Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee”) focuses, along with other issues, on the examination of human rights questions, including reports of UNHRC Special Rapporteurs. The UNSC has primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, which includes human rights.
We also support the expert mechanisms established by these bodies, including Special Rapporteurs and UN human rights treaty bodies, as well as the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her office. For the UN to achieve its objectives on human rights, it needs to work effectively and respond to new challenges. We are therefore committed to supporting efforts to strengthen the UN system further, including working to mainstream human rights within the UN’s development and peace and security agendas.
The UK has maintained a leading role at the UN on Syria. With the UK playing a key part, the UNHRC continued its support for the Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Syrian Arab Republic throughout the year, extending its mandate and leading calls for its full access to the country. Resolutions in the UNHRC and UNGA 3rd Committee also called for financial support for the humanitarian relief effort in Syria, and condemned the use of chemical weapons, stressing that those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and violations and abuses of human rights must be held accountable. The UNHRC also held a “Special Session” in June to discuss the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria, and the recent killings in El-Houleh. The UNHRC adopted resolutions on Syria in March, June and September, which the UK co-sponsored.
Through resolutions in the UNHRC and UNGA 3rd Committee, the UK worked with others to recognise progress made in Burma, including the release of political prisoners, while emphasising our concerns, particularly regarding inter-communal violence in Rakhine state and the ongoing situation in Kachin. We continued to express concerns about the delays in delivering on the Burmese government’s commitment to establish a country office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The UK actively supported a March 2013 UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka, highlighting concerns around long-term reconciliation, human rights, and the lack of accountability for alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. We continued to urge the Sri Lankan government to implement the recommendations of the UNHRC resolution and the domestic Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, and to allow access to UN special procedures mandate holders.
The UNHRC extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran. Despite more positive signals coming from Iran since the election of President Rouhani, the UK and others continue to maintain pressure through the UNGA 3rd Committee. This included passing a resolution highlighting use of the death penalty, restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, and discrimination against persons belonging to religious, ethnic, linguistic or other minorities.
In March 2013, the UNHRC established a Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to investigate allegations of mass human rights violations, including in political prison camps. The UK actively supported the work of the COI by arranging a visit to the UK to take refugee testimony, and worked with others to maintain the pressure on the DPRK through a further resolution in the UNGA 3rd Committee.
The UK continued to play a leading role in assisting Somalia to define its human rights priorities and focus international efforts through a Friends of Somalia meeting and panel discussion at the September session of the UNHRC. The resulting resolution elicited clear and comprehensive human rights commitments from the Federal Government of Somalia, and established priorities for support by the international community.
At the March session of the UNHRC, the UK was instrumental in achieving a consensual resolution on Libya that importantly secured a monitoring and reporting role for the UN on human rights in the country.
The UK also supported resolutions in the UNHRC renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus and Eritrea, renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan and appointing an Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic. These help ensure that the human rights situations in these countries continue to be subject to international scrutiny.
Several important thematic issues were the subject of UNHRC and UNGA 3rd Committee attention this year.
The UNHRC has continued to provide a forum for demonstrating the UK’s leadership role and commitment to the business and human rights agenda. The UK was the first state to develop a national implementation plan for the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). This was launched jointly by the Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, on 4 September 2013.
The UK participated in the second UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva in December, where we shared our experience of developing the national implementation plan alongside key businesses and civil society actors.
The EU’s freedom of religion or belief resolution was adopted by consensus by both the UNHRC and the UNGA 3rd Committee. The resolutions ensured the renewal of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur and delivered an unambiguous statement on the right to freedom of religion or belief, including the right to change one’s religion. Senior Minister of State, Baroness Warsi, also hosted an event during UNGA ministerial week, which brought senior figures together to focus on implementation of the UN resolution on combating religious intolerance, protecting the human rights of minorities, and promoting pluralism in society.
The UK has been keen to build wide support for the campaign and action to end sexual violence in conflict at the UN, as well as in other multilateral and regional organisations. On 24 June, during the UK’s Presidency of the UNSC, the Foreign Secretary hosted a debate on tackling sexual violence in conflict. A new UNSC resolution (2106), the first on the subject in three years, was adopted during the debate. Following this, during the 68th session of UNGA, the Foreign Secretary launched the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. The declaration expresses a shared commitment and determination to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, and has been endorsed by 138 UN member states. A central element of our approach has been close cooperation and support for the work of the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Mrs Zainab Hawa Bangura, and her Team of Experts on the Rule of Law. We strongly support her efforts to build coherence and coordination in the UN’s response to sexual violence in armed conflict through UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict, as well as her focus on national ownership and responsibility.
The UK is committed to the continuing success of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), whereby the human rights records of UN member states are peer-reviewed in a four-and-a-half-year cycle. The UPR process examined 42 countries in 2013, including China, Cuba and Russia, and the UK participated in all reviews, delivering recommendations for improvements. The UK was pleased to see the participation of Israel in their UPR, maintaining the universality of the process. In 2014, the UK will be submitting a mid-term report, updating the UNHRC on action we have taken on recommendations received at the conclusion of our UPR in 2012.
In 2013, British experts who work independently of the Government continued to play a prominent role on a number of human rights treaty monitoring bodies. Sir Nigel Rodley was elected Chair of the Human Rights Committee. Malcolm Evans continued as Chair of the Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture, and Diane Mulligan continues her role on the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Patrick Thornberry stood down after many years of good work on the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
We believe that the UN human rights treaty monitoring system is central to the protection of individual rights globally, but that it is in need of reform. This is why we actively engaged in the inter-governmental treaty body strengthening process by calling for reforms, alongside defending the independence of the system. The outcome was agreement on areas for reform and the introduction of more systematic methods for allocating resources across the committees, all of which lay the foundation for further strengthening of the system.
We maintained our financial support for the operational structures of the UN in 2013, providing £2.5 million of un-earmarked funding on top of our contribution to the UN Regular Budget. We donated a further £500,000 to support OHCHR’s work on preventing sexual violence, women’s rights, business and human rights, the Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture, and to support work on contemporary forms of slavery. We have made clear in our statements at the UNHRC and UNGA 3rd Committee our firm commitment to the continued independence of the High Commissioner, her office and the special procedures. We welcome the High Commissioner’s high level of engagement with the UNSC and the strong stance she has taken on issues such as Syria, both in-country and in the UNHRC, and continue to support this engagement.
EU Common Foreign and Security Policy
The UK government works through the EU to pursue our international human rights policy objectives. The EU’s status as the world’s largest aid donor and major global economic actor affords it significant influence to promote respect for human rights across the globe. The UK Government considers that we should use the tools at the EU’s disposal to promote human rights and democracy beyond the borders of its 28 member states.
In 2013, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Baroness Ashton, continued to speak out forcefully in line with the EU’s commitment to promote and protect human rights and democracy in its external action. The EU’s external human rights policy is set out in the EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy, which foreign ministers adopted in June 2012.
The EU Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief were adopted in June 2013. Freedom of religion or belief is one of the FCO’s six human rights priorities, and an area where we have worked closely with the EU in the past. The UK helped to develop the guidelines with other member states, and we were pleased that the UK’s own Freedom of Religion or Belief Toolkit was used as a basis for the guidelines. The UK considers the guidelines a valuable tool for EU delegations and embassies of individual EU member states to ensure that the right to freedom of religion or belief is more widely guaranteed, and that any violations are tackled in the most effective manner. The UK also worked closely with the EU in a range of countries to raise individual cases of violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief.
The EU Guidelines to Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons were also adopted in June 2013. The rights of LGBT people are protected under existing international human rights law; they have the same rights as all other individuals. The EU Guidelines build on the 2010 EU LGBT Toolkit, as well as existing international legal standards in this area, including those set by the UN and the Council of Europe. The guidelines provide officials of the EU institutions and EU member states with guidance to be used in contacts with third countries, and with international and civil society organisations.
2013 was the first full calendar year for the office of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights (EUSR). Mr Stavros Lambrinidis, a former Foreign Minister of Greece, was appointed as EUSR in September 2012, and acts under the authority of Baroness Ashton. He is mandated to contribute to the implementation of the EU’s external human rights policy, enhance dialogue with governments in third countries, and contribute towards a better understanding of the EU’s policies and actions on human rights.
In 2013, Mr Lambrinidis sought to establish high-level partnerships with key stakeholders around the world, and identify country and thematic priorities within his overarching mandate. His work with Baroness Ashton has helped to increase the EU’s high-level political impact on human rights internationally, making a useful contribution in a number of countries of serious human rights concern. He has also fostered relationships with countries of strategic importance on human rights issues.
Mr Lambrinidis has travelled extensively to discuss human rights issues. In 2013, he visited Bahrain, Burma, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia and the US. He visited South Africa to lead the first EU-South Africa human rights dialogue, and also led the EU in its human rights dialogue with the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa. In addition to the AU, he visited a number of other international organisations, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Jakarta, the OSCE in Warsaw and the UN in New York and Geneva.
Mr Lambrinidis will continue his programme of visits to countries and multilateral and regional bodies in 2014. The UK is grateful to Mr Lambrinidis for his work in pursuit of the EU’s human rights policy objectives to date.
In 2014, the EU will continue its implementation of the Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, which runs until the end of the year. In accordance with the action plan, we aim to adopt new policy guidelines on the promotion and protection of the freedom of expression, online and offline. The EU’s own assessment of its work on human rights will be contained in the EU Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World in 2013, which will be published later in 2014.
Human rights are central to the foreign policy approach of the EU, including in the context of enlargement. The importance of candidate countries adhering to the EU’s human rights values and laws is emphasised throughout the accession process that each candidate country must complete. Institutions that guarantee human rights are a core part of the Copenhagen Criteria for accession to the EU. EU enlargement therefore provides a powerful vehicle to drive human rights reform and compliance among all countries seeking to join the EU.
In its October 2013 Annual Enlargement Strategy, the European Commission noted that fundamental rights “are significant issues in most enlargement countries”. Particular attention was paid to freedom of expression and minority rights. It undertook to raise the importance of these issues through its dialogue with candidate countries and the use of pre-accession project funding (notably the Instrument for Pre-Accession: IPA II).
The UK remains a strong supporter of conditions-based EU enlargement to all the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey, including the emphasis the process places on human rights. Enlargement will bring stability, security and prosperity to candidate countries, and encourage greater respect for human rights internationally.
The UK is a leading voice within the EU, promoting a firm but fair, conditions-based approach to enlargement, including encouraging human rights reforms. We championed the “new approach”, under which candidate countries must now begin negotiation of rule of law matters – including fundamental rights – from the beginning of the accession process.
In Montenegro, the UK supported a number of projects this year, primarily in the areas of minority rights, freedom of expression, fundamental rights and justice. In June, we participated in Montenegro’s first ever Pride parade in Budva and directly contributed to the organisation of its second, in Podgorica. We supported the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) campaign, “It’s About Ability”, aimed at addressing the social exclusion and discrimination of children with disabilities. We funded a project on enhancing freedom of expression through developing more effective media self-regulation. On fundamental rights and justice, we welcomed the opening of chapters 23 and 24 under the EU’s “new approach” to membership negotiations, assisted Montenegro in drawing up its related action plans, and continue to provide ongoing support. We funded a project that trained judges in how to apply the European Convention of Human Rights. We also helped establish an ombudsman for children, promoting the concept through a comic book distributed in all of Montenegro’s primary schools.
The 2013 EU Progress Report acknowledged that Montenegro has further aligned itself with international norms and best practice in the area of human rights, positively citing the country’s first Pride parade and its contribution as a member of the UN Human Rights Council. The report also identified where more work is needed, including in the areas of violence against the media and minority rights, particularly in relation to the Roma, LGBT population, and disabled persons.
In Serbia, the UK has continued to be at the forefront of advocacy for human rights and minority rights. We have supported several projects promoting human rights, including one that trained social workers to respond to the needs of the LGBT community, and another that helped people from the under-represented Bosnian, Albanian and Roma communities to find work in the state sector. The UK also raised human rights issues in Serbia’s UPR in January 2013. The 2013 EU Progress Report noted that Serbia had made advances in some areas, including on anti-discrimination legislation, but there was more work to do, particularly on full enjoyment of rights by the LGBT, Roma, and ethnic minority and other vulnerable communities. The report also noted Serbia’s failure to allow a Pride parade to be held for the third year running for political reasons, despite concerted domestic and international pressure - the latter led by the UK and Netherlands. Serbia began its EU accession negotiations on 21 January 2014, and both the EU and Serbia recognised in their opening statements that the fundamental rights elements of the negotiations would be crucial to Serbia’s progress. The UK will use the process of EU accession as a tool to encourage further progress in human and minority rights in 2014, and will continue to fund projects which support this objective.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we continued to lobby at all levels for progress on reforms that would align the constitution more closely with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). We supported the EU Special Representative’s efforts aimed at securing early implementation of the ECHR judgement on Sejdic-Finci vs Bosnia and Herzegovina, which ruled that the inability of national minorities to stand for election to the Presidency or upper chamber of the Parliamentary Assembly was discriminatory. We continued to fund legal aid and advocacy support to survivors of wartime rape and sexual violence. This helps them to use domestic, administrative and judicial procedures, and international human rights mechanisms, in order to obtain their rights to justice and redress, and to change practices in Bosnia and Herzegovina which violate human rights. We delivered training to judges and prosecutors on the effective prosecution and adjudication of wartime sexual violence crimes, thereby strengthening the capacity of the Bosnia and Herzegovina judiciary to prosecute wartime sexual violence crimes successfully. We are developing with the OSCE a learning module on wartime sexual violence for investigators, which follows international best practice on the prevention of, and accountability for, wartime sexual violence, as well as on the protection of victims. We are also funding projects, helping a civil society organisation to support the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Law on Corruption, and aiding advocacy and awareness-raising for its census, the first census in an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In Kosovo, the focus should remain on implementation of legislation protecting human rights. Targets for minority representation in the civil service and publicly-owned enterprises still need to be met, and there are continued issues with recognition of diplomas belonging to Kosovo Serbs. The UK has welcomed the appointment of a Language Commissioner and the establishment of a second public broadcaster in Serbian (RTK2) in 2013. The formation of a Kosovo Police unit for protection of cultural heritage was another positive step.
More focus on the vulnerable Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian (RAE) communities is needed in the coming year. Following closure of the last remaining RAE camp in Leposavic and the successful relocation of 31 families in December 2013, education and economic development needs should be addressed. The UK will continue to provide economic grants to all minority communities in order to stimulate income generation.
Access to justice is another area of concern. The UK has seconded over 40 experts, working in areas such as policing and prosecution, to the EU Rule of Law Mission (EULEX) in 2013. And, as property disputes relating to the 1999 conflict continue, the UK also provided funding to the Kosovo Property Agency, which was able to resolve 94% of existing claims by the end of 2013, and aims to conclude its mandate in 2014.
Finally, with regard to dealing with the past, there has been slow progress in prosecutions for war crimes, and the work of the Kosovo government inter-ministerial working group remains in its initial stages. The UK has provided support by funding independent monitoring of trials for war crimes and ethnically and politically motivated crimes, and is working to build capacity of legal professionals on transitional justice.
In 2013, the British Embassy in Skopje continued to support the implementation of the national strategy for equality and anti-discrimination in The Former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. We provided training programmes in anti-discrimination polices and best practice for 600 public servants, as well as an e-learning module for all civil servants.
Support for promoting diversity and multiculturalism continued with programmes targeting youth. In cooperation with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, we are working on mainstreaming diversity, inter-ethnic and social cohesion in pre-school curricula. Working with civil society, we are supporting the creation of educational resources and offer training for teachers, children and parents in primary school on children’s rights and responsibilities. Targeting youth, prominent public figures and the media, we work with media organisations tackling hate speech in public discourse.
To improve intercultural understanding and appreciation of the diverse ethnic, religious and cultural background of citizens, we have supported a programme with six multi-ethnic municipalities and their municipal committees for inter-ethnic relations, offering a model for cooperation that can be replicated nationwide.
With the project “Fundamental Rights – Fitting into the European Legal Framework”, we offer awareness-raising on the European human rights protection system and its implications for the Macedonian system, targeting legal practitioners, civil society organisations, youth and media.
We facilitated policy discussions among the media community on journalists’ professional rights and the link between media freedom with Article 10 of the ECHR.
The UK is a strong supporter of Albania’s bid for EU membership, which is the main vehicle for political, social and economic reform, and helps bring human rights standards to the level guaranteed to all EU citizens. In particular, our embassy projects delivered through the Slynn Foundation aim to improve Albania’s judiciary by increasing its quality and independence, thereby strengthening the rule of law. We are also working with the Albanian prison service to further improve and help modernise its operations. In coordination with international partners, the UK supported Albania’s competitive and well-run parliamentary elections in June, which marked tangible progress with respect to previous elections.
We continue to remain a strong supporter of Turkey’s EU accession process, which we believe is an effective framework for taking forward the reform agenda in Turkey. EU accession would mean full realisation of the economic, political and human rights guaranteed to all EU citizens. The European Commission’s 2013 Annual Progress Report highlighted areas of concern around freedom of expression and assembly, and also where progress has been made.
It is therefore important that momentum on the accession process is maintained, including through the opening of new chapters. Opening negotiations on Chapters 23 (on the judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24 (on justice, freedom and security) would enable the EU to intensify work with Turkey in key areas where reform efforts need to be accelerated. In 2012-13, the UK government committed funds to support human rights and other projects aimed at promoting EU standards in Turkey worth nearly £1 million.
European Neighbourhood Policy
The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) offers a privileged relationship to 16 of the EU’s neighbours in the east and the south. Human rights and democracy are a core element of the policy. The EU uses both hard and soft instruments, such as its economic influence and financial aid, to promote political reforms in the countries of its neighbourhood. These reforms help to build and consolidate democracy, and establish and strengthen the rule of law and respect for human rights. The EU links its support to the level of democratic reform, offering more to those partners that make progress, whilst reconsidering support where reform is not forthcoming. In cases of oppression or grave violations of human rights, support was withdrawn, as happened with Syria and Belarus.
Selective justice and rule of law were concerns in Ukraine in 2013. Detention and medical conditions for prisoners remained poor. Human rights activists criticised half-hearted government efforts to introduce EU reforms. Freedom of expression declined as state-aligned media ensured limitations on access to free and pluralistic media and to public information. Attacks on independent journalists were seen at the end of year.
Intolerance towards the LGBT community and some minority religious groups grew throughout the year. An anti-discrimination bill proposed in the summer, aimed at improving LGBT rights, was not passed by the Rada (Parliament). However, one positive development was that in 2013 the first LGBT Pride March took place in Kyiv, albeit under heavy police surveillance.
In a report issued in July 2013, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) concluded that, in spite of some progress, Ukraine’s asylum system still required fundamental improvement as it did not offer sufficient protection against refoulement, and also did not provide asylum-seekers the opportunity to have their asylum claims considered in an efficient and fair procedure. The report said that Ukraine therefore should not be considered a safe third country. The UNHCR urged states not to return asylum-seekers to Ukraine on that basis.
A marked decline in respect for democratic norms and values was seen in Ukraine at the end of the year. President Yanukovych’s decision to delay signature of an Association Agreement with the EU ensured that positive legislation on judicial reforms and electoral improvements, which had been working its way through the Rada, was stalled. The move away from an EU orientation also sparked large-scale anti-government protests. On at least two occasions there was clear evidence of the use of police violence against protesters. Towards the end of December, questions began to emerge over the disappearance of protesters. International and domestic observers also noted irregularities in by-elections held in five constituencies in December.
The Republic of Moldova completed the negotiation of an EU Association Agreement in November 2013. The Association Agreement requires the government of Moldova to continue reform of the judiciary, strengthen human rights and do more to tackle corruption. An anti-discrimination law entered into force in January 2013, though implementation has been uneven. The first ever LGBT Pride march took place in Chişinău on 19 May. It was short and largely symbolic.
De facto authorities in Tiraspol continue to control the breakaway Transnistria region of Moldova, making it difficult for the Chişinău government to enforce country-wide human rights standards. Following a visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to Moldova in 2011, the UN engaged Thomas Hammarberg as Senior Expert on Human Rights in Transnistria. His report, published on 14 February 2013, outlined concerns about ill-treatment, the judicial system, health care, the functioning of Latin-script schools and prison conditions. Using Conflict Pool funds, the British Embassy in Chişinău helped to take forward one of the report’s recommendations on the level of TB in prisons in Transnistria.
Armenia’s February presidential elections, according to the International Election Observation Mission, “were characterised by a respect for fundamental freedoms”. But the reports also noted some areas of concern including “a lack of impartiality of the public administration and abuse of administrative resources” during the campaigning.
There is a strong civil society in Armenia and grassroots campaigns have been able to organise and secure significant concessions from the government on issues of public concern, such as public transport fares. While there is a strong pro-government bias in the broadcast media, the print media is able to publish a range of political views. The online media operates freely. However, there have been disturbing cases of civil society activists being harassed and physically assaulted, and of threats being made against organisations promoting women’s rights and gender issues.
Armenia’s application to join the Eurasian Customs Union meant that they were not able to proceed with initialling an Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the EU at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November. However, in a joint statement issued at the summit, Armenia and the EU confirmed their commitment to further cooperation aimed at the continuous improvement of democratic institutions and judiciary, the promotion of human rights and rule of law, and good governance.
The Armenian government continued to work with the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission on establishing alternative military service. In June 2013, new amendments came into force which may provide genuine civilian service. In October, many conscientious objectors were released from prison.
Georgia made good progress on human rights in 2013. The well-conducted presidential elections in October built upon the successes of the 2012 parliamentary elections. The conduct of these elections, and also the fact that they have delivered a peaceful transfer of power, set Georgia apart from other countries in the region. Positive reforms have continued in the justice sector, including work to make the judiciary more independent. But there remains more to do on governance and the rule of law, including increasing parliamentary accountability and strengthening judicial independence. We continued to encourage the new government to ensure that any cases brought against members of the former administration are justified and consistent with rule of law. Violence at an LGBT rally in May and incidents against religious minorities remain a concern. Georgia has moved closer to the EU, with the initialling of its Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area at the Vilnius Summit, providing for continued reform.
Morocco is undergoing a process of democratic reform, which was accelerated in the context of the Arab Spring through a progressive new constitution which safeguards human rights. Challenges remain, and it is important that Morocco continues to make progress on the reforms underway in crucial areas required to implement the new constitution, including reforming the justice sector and penal code, adoption of a new press code to safeguard freedom of expression, and implementation of Morocco’s strategy for gender equality and parity. The ENP is offering significant support to the Moroccan government and civil society to encourage these ongoing reforms, in particular through the EU-Morocco action plan which was agreed in December 2013.
In Jordan, international efforts continued to protect the rights of over 590,000 refugees from Syria, including through UK commitments of £111.5 million helping provide food, shelter, health and education. Jordan holds regular sub-committee meetings with the EU to discuss human rights matters linked to the implementation of the 2011 ENP EU–Jordan Action Plan. The UK continues to support projects aimed at eradicating torture and other ill treatment in practice. Jordan has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that certain basic civil and political rights are guaranteed and has made positive steps following the 2009 UPR recommendations. At Jordan’s UPR at the UNHRC in October 2013, the UK recommended that there should be greater freedom of expression, that the penal code should be amended to prevent the referral of political activists to the State Security Court on terrorism charges, and that Jordan ensures that vulnerable people fleeing the violence in Syria are allowed by border control to reach safety.
In Lebanon, international efforts continued to protect the rights of over 890,000 refugees from Syria, including through UK commitments of £113.1 million helping provide food, shelter, health and education. Due to political paralysis, the Lebanese Parliament did not adopt the National Human Rights Action Plan, or consider pending legislation on torture or domestic violence. Despite the political stalemate, EU-Lebanon dialogue on human rights continued in line with the EU–Lebanon ENP Action Plan, including on women’s and children’s rights, human rights in law enforcement, and implementing the agreed recommendations in the UN’s UPR for Lebanon. The Internal Security Forces (ISF, the police service) continued their programme of reform and, with UK support, began a community policing pilot in Beirut. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) continued making progress towards justice for the victims of several political assassinations and their families; the UK has thus far contributed £4.5 million to support the STL’s essential work. The first secular marriage took place during 2013, with the support of President Sleiman.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 countries committed to the shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The Commonwealth remains an organisation which could do more to promote and enforce human rights standards across its membership.
The Commonwealth Charter was laid before Parliament as a Command Paper on 4 March 2013, and signed by HM The Queen on Commonwealth Day. The Commonwealth’s agreement to the charter marks an important milestone in the Commonwealth modernisation process, as it is the first time in its 64-year history that the Commonwealth has had a single document summarising the organisation’s core values and commitments, and the aspirations of its members. The charter is now the recognised statement of what the Commonwealth stands for, and should be accessible to all citizens across the Commonwealth. We believe that the commitments in the charter must be upheld, adhered to and kept under review, not just by Commonwealth member states and parliamentarians, but also by individuals and organisations. We recognise that Commonwealth members are at different stages of upholding the charter values they aspire to. We will continue to encourage both the secretariat and member states to put into practice the values they have agreed; and to commit to equality and human rights for all.
We welcomed the charter’s recognition of gender equality and women’s economic empowerment as essential components of human development and basic human rights. In June, the UK Government attended the triennial Commonwealth Women’s Affairs meeting. Ministers met in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with the theme of “Women’s Leadership for Enterprise”. Member states, including the UK, agreed to a twin-track approach to gender equality in the post-2015 development framework: a standalone goal to ensure that gender equality is an objective in its own right, and mainstreamed across all other goals. This supports the Commonwealth Secretariat’s aim to mainstream gender equality and the empowerment of women within member states and within the Secretariat’s own policies, frameworks and programmes.
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was held in Sri Lanka in November. The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary, and Minister for the Commonwealth, Hugo Swire, felt it important to attend the summit to shine a spotlight on the situation in Sri Lanka and to ensure that the Commonwealth continues to be a force for good around the world, in promoting freedom, democracy and human rights. During CHOGM, the UK helped secure positive language on the post-2015 development agenda, ensuring that it should reflect the values of the Commonwealth Charter. The communiqué also included language on: freedom of expression, reaffirming the Commonwealth’s commitment to peaceful, open dialogue through a free and responsible media; freedom of religion or belief, requesting states to enhance their efforts to promote freedom of thought; preventing child, early and forced marriage, by calling for member states to share best practice; and preventing sexual violence in conflict, where Heads requested the Commonwealth Secretariat to support conflict-affected states in strengthening their capacity to prevent and respond to sexual violence in armed conflict. At the Commonwealth People’s Forum prior to CHOGM, Mr Swire called for all Commonwealth members to recognise that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community deserve the same protection as all others, and reaffirmed the UK government’s commitment to make the case for acceptance of, and integration for, LGBT people throughout the Commonwealth.
In 2013, the UK maintained our support for institutional reform within the Commonwealth, particularly of the secretariat, in the light of an update to the Multilateral Aid review. We maintained our close interest in the effectiveness of the Commonwealth’s Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) as the custodian of the Commonwealth’s political values. Although not a member of CMAG, the UK welcomed the group’s timely action on the Maldives in February, when it called for an extraordinary meeting of CMAG foreign ministers, and appointed Sir Don McKinnon as the Commonwealth’s Special Envoy. However, we regret that CMAG has not been as active in addressing other serious or persistent violations of the Commonwealth’s fundamental values. As a body, it is important that CMAG demonstrates that the Commonwealth enforces its principles, which is vital to ensure the credibility and future of the Commonwealth.
In 2014, the UK will look to build on the human rights mandates agreed by Heads at CHOGM working with the Commonwealth Secretariat and other member states. We welcome the statement made by the Secretary General on discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation within the Commonwealth, and the need for continued dialogue by parliamentarians, human rights institutions and human rights defenders. Through our high commissions we will continue to promote tolerance and non-discrimination against LGBT people and to address discriminatory laws, in particular those that criminalise homosexuality.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe
The UK government values the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) as a forum for political discussion and action on wider European security issues, including the protection and promotion of human rights across the OSCE area. We support the work of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), particularly its election observation activities, and that of the Representative on Freedom of the Media and the High Commissioner on National Minorities. We are also committed to safeguarding, and enhancing, the vital role that civil society plays in holding OSCE states to account on human rights.
In 2013, the UK continued to work closely with EU partners, the US and others to ensure that UK human rights priorities were reflected in the OSCE’s work. The Ministerial Council met in Kyiv in December 2013 under the chairmanship of Ukraine. We were pleased that, for the first time in three years, the council reached agreement on new decisions on human rights. We worked hard with EU colleagues to agree a decision on Freedom of Thought, Conscience, Religion or Belief. This was the first free-standing decision on a fundamental freedom in the OSCE context, drawing together and building on existing commitments contained in other OSCE documents. Ministers adopted a decision agreeing an addendum to the OSCE Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings. The addendum helps to address some of the new and emerging trends and patterns of this abhorrent crime. Finally, the UK also joined the consensus on a decision to enhance the OSCE’s implementation of the 2003 Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti. Taken together, these new decisions are a welcome addition to the OSCE’s impressive body of standards and commitments on human rights. We hope that all member states will now implement these new commitments faithfully.
2013 marked the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, and saw the Ministerial Council agree to a second three-year term for Ms Dunja Mijatovic as the representative. Ms Mijatovic and her team continue to do a valuable job in providing early warning on violations of freedom of expression and promoting full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments.
In a busy year for elections in the OSCE region, we funded British nationals to take part in ODIHR election observation missions in several OSCE states, including Armenia, Georgia, Montenegro, Azerbaijan, Albania, Macedonia and Tajikistan. The UK also contributed to an ODIHR fund that seeks to broaden the range of countries that participate in OSCE election observation missions.
The UK continued to lead in the OSCE in 2013 in responding to hate crime. During the Annual OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in September, we hosted a well-attended side-event focusing on Jewish and Muslim cooperation in fighting hate crime. Speakers from the Community Security Trust (representing the Jewish community) and Faith Matters (the Muslim community) described how they had shared best practice to establish rigorous and effective mechanisms for monitoring and reporting hate crimes. We hope that this type of cooperation between faith communities can be replicated elsewhere in the OSCE region.
We were pleased to host a side-event at June’s High-level Alliance against Trafficking in Persons meeting in Vienna. The side-event – which included the Salvation Army and the International Organisation for Migration – initiated a useful discussion on victim return and reintegration care.
Switzerland assumes the Chair of the OSCE in January 2014. Following the successful adoption of new human rights decisions under the Ukraine chairmanship, we will work closely with the Swiss Chair-In-Office to secure a focused and realistic agenda of human rights issues for the coming year, and to support the Swiss drive to strengthen the involvement of civil society in the OSCE’s work. While the political dynamic in the OSCE remains a limiting factor to full delivery of its significant potential to promote positive change, the UK is committed to contribute fully in 2014 to its work to protect and promote human rights, particularly where democracy remains fragile or basic human rights appear under threat. We will support the work of the OSCE’s autonomous human rights institutions, publicly condemn serious human rights violations, seek to make OSCE activities more focused on core human rights issues, and help to protect the important role of civil society in holding governments to account.
Council of Europe
The Council of Europe (CoE) is an intergovernmental organisation with 47 member states working together to establish and implement common standards on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The CoE is responsible for the most developed regional system of human rights protection worldwide, founded on the ECHR. The CoE is probably best known for its court, the European Court of Human Rights (the Court), to which all people in CoE member states have access. The Committee of Ministers (CoM) is the CoE’s principal decision-making body, and holds member states to account for implementing the Court’s judgments. Finally, the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE, comprised of 318 parliamentarians from the 47 member states, debates issues of the day and also serves to hold states to account.
The CoE has developed and monitors the implementation of Europe-wide standards on topics ranging from terrorism to domestic violence, through over 200 conventions and their associated monitoring mechanisms. It offers opportunities to further the UK’s human rights objectives in wider Europe and beyond. The UK’s engagement at the CoE is aimed at supporting a higher level of ambition and implementation of standards on human rights, democracy and rule of law in member states.
During 2013, the CoE Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland, intervened promptly and helpfully in constitutional, political and human rights situations of concern in various member states, notably Turkey and Ukraine. Influential bodies within the CoE, such as the Venice Commission, played important roles in supporting the Secretary General’s efforts with expert legal assistance to help identify a range of possible solutions when the crises arose. And the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, continued his work in holding member states to account for their responsibilities under the ECHR. He conducted a number of visits to member states, including Azerbaijan, Estonia, Russia, Spain and Turkey.
During the UK’s Chairmanship of the CoE in 2012, we secured agreement to the Brighton Declaration, a package of reforms to the court and convention system formally adopted by ministers of the 47 Member States. These reforms were designed to reduce the Court’s backlog of outstanding cases and enhance its efficiency, as well as to enable the Court to focus on the cases most worthy of its attention. In 2013, we focused on the continued implementation of these reforms. Protocol 15 to the ECHR – which stresses states’ primary responsibility to secure the rights in the convention and their margin of appreciation in doing so – was opened for signature on 24 June 2013. The UK was one of 19 member states to sign the protocol that day, and is working towards ratification in 2014. All 47 member states must ratify Protocol 15 before it comes into force. Meanwhile, new rules which introduce stricter conditions for bringing an application to the Court came into force on 1 January 2014. These are designed to enhance the Court’s efficiency and to speed up the examination of applications. Protocol 16 to the ECHR, adopted in July 2013, is an optional mechanism by which the highest courts of the states parties can seek advisory opinions on the interpretation of the ECHR from the Strasbourg Court. The UK will wait to evaluate how it works in practice before deciding whether to become party to it.
There has been significant progress in tackling the backlog of applications to the Court. The number of inadmissible cases is rapidly diminishing. In 2013, the Court decided 1,652 cases lodged against the UK. It declared inadmissible or struck out 1,633 (98.85%) applications. No violations of the convention were found in a further 6 (0.36%) applications, finding a violation in ten (0.79%) applications.
The CoM is responsible for the supervision of the execution of some 11,000 judgments of the Court. During 2013, its focus included cases involving journalists’ freedom of expression in Azerbaijan; rights to stand for election in Bosnia and Herzegovina; education of Roma children in the Czech Republic; protestors for LGBT rights in Russia; abductions and illegal transfers from Russia to some Central Asian States; and the detention of former Prime Minister Tymoshenko in Ukraine. Supervision of a significant number of UK cases was closed, thereby reducing the number of cases under supervision to its lowest ever – 26, lower than most other states.
Away from the execution of the court’s judgments, the UK pursued a range of human rights, rule of law and democracy initiatives. These included: raising specific cases, for example, the Magnitsky case against the Russia; participating in broader debates about developments in Turkey or Ukraine, or on thematic issues such as freedom of religion or belief; and encouraging greater attention to the threats posed by growing extremism across Europe, particularly where it targets members of vulnerable groups such as Roma, migrants and LGBT community members. We also worked closely with other UK representatives to CoE statutory and expert bodies, including the Parliamentary Assembly, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, and groups covering a range of issues including terrorism, internet governance, bioethics and European Court of Human Rights reform.
Finally, the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE will elect a new CoE Secretary General in June 2014. The mandate of the incumbent Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland (Norway), expires in September 2014.
Section X: Promoting Human Rights in the Overseas Territories
There are 14 British Overseas Territories: Anguilla; Bermuda; the British Antarctic Territory; the British Indian Ocean Territory; Cayman Islands; the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus; the Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands (commonly known as the Pitcairn Islands); St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; the Turks and Caicos Islands; and the Virgin Islands (commonly known as the British Virgin Islands).
The UK government has responsibility for the security and good governance of the Overseas Territories, flowing from international law, political commitments, and our wider responsibility for British nationals. Each territory has its own constitution and government with substantial devolved responsibilities, including for local laws. In the populated territories, responsibility for the protection and promotion of human rights rests primarily with elected territory governments, although the UK Government expects the territories to abide by the same basic standards of human rights as the UK.
In June 2012, the UK government published a White Paper “The Overseas Territories: Security, Success and Sustainability”, which set out an ambitious vision for the territories. The UK government is working in partnership with elected territory governments to take forward the commitments in the White Paper. An Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) has been established, which brings together UK Ministers and the elected territory leaders, and is taking a leading role in driving forward work to realise this vision.
Self-Determination and Democracy
The UK and territory governments are committed to a modern relationship based on the principles of partnership and shared values, including a commitment to the principle and right of self-determination. The people of each territory have the right to choose whether or not their territory should remain a British Overseas Territory, or to seek an alternative future.
The Falkland Islands government held a referendum in March 2013 on the territory’s political status. The referendum, which was attended by international observers, attracted a turnout of 92% of eligible voters. Over 99.8% (1,513) of voters voted to maintain the territory’s constitutional links to the UK, with only three voting against. The Chief Minister of Anguilla has also announced his intention to hold a referendum on Anguilla’s future, although no date has been set. The UK Government stands ready to support any territory that wishes to have a referendum on its future.
The territories each have their own vibrant democratic traditions. Most territories have an elected legislature and a ministerial system of government. Political parties operate freely and transparently. Territory constitutions and laws define who can vote in elections. In some territories the eligibility to vote is limited and excludes some categories of residents who may make up a significant proportion of the population. The UK government believes that people who have made their permanent home in the territories should be able to vote, but recognises the desire of island communities to maintain their cohesion, and hence the need for a reasonable qualifying process. In 2013, elections were held in Ascension, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Pitcairn and St Helena. The UK Government believes that, in general, it is good practice for open democracies, such as the Overseas Territories, to invite election observers. International observers reported that the elections in the Cayman Islands in May met international standards for democratic, genuine and transparent elections. The high turnout (80%) underlined the engagement of the Caymanian people in the democratic process.
Constitutional and Legal Protection of Human Rights
All territory constitutions agreed since 1999 have included a bill of rights, including a non-discrimination provision that reflects the protections in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The UK and territory governments are committed to continue work on the process of modernising territory constitutions to ensure that they operate effectively and that territories have the greatest self-government possible. The UK government encourages the government of Anguilla to engage with it on updating the constitution of that territory.
At the first Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) in December 2012, the UK and Overseas Territories governments agreed a Communiqué setting out an ambitious programme including a shared belief in tackling discrimination, so that all citizens have an equal opportunity to play an active role in society. The UK and territory governments reported progress to the 2013 Council. Bermuda updated its Human Rights Act in 2013 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of age or sexual orientation. Montserrat’s Status of Children Act 2012 came into force, abolishing the legal distinction between children born within and outside of marriage, and providing for equal status for all children.
Territory governments have a duty to ensure local laws comply with relevant international human rights conventions and court judgements, and are non-discriminatory. The UK Government expects territories to take action, including legislating where necessary, in any areas of disparity to reach full compliance. We have provided advice to the territories to help them bring their laws into line with their human rights commitments, including the ECHR, which has been extended to all the populated territories except Pitcairn.
Extension of International Human Rights Conventions
It is the longstanding policy of the UK government to encourage territory governments to request the extension of UN human rights conventions that the UK has ratified, but to extend conventions only when the relevant territory is ready to implement them. Most of the Overseas Territories are small islands or island groups that face resource and capacity constraints, which affect their ability to consider or implement treaties. The UK government is ultimately responsible for ensuring that territory governments fulfil their obligations arising from international human rights conventions which have been extended to them. The UK government may be questioned on the level of compliance by individual territories by the relevant treaty monitoring body, as part of the UN periodic review process.
The 2012 White Paper set out an objective to extend six core UN human rights conventions to all the territories by the end of 2013: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), ICCPR, Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), Convention Against Torture (CAT), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This objective has not been met, but progress has been made. Most territories have had most of these conventions extended to them, and the British Virgin Islands, Falkland Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands have had all six extended to them. At the JMC in 2013, the UK and territory governments committed to working together to fulfil their commitment to extend these core UN human rights conventions to the territories.
The governments of Bermuda, Gibraltar and the Cayman Islands have asked for CEDAW to be extended to them, and have set out how they believe they meet the requirements. The UK Government Equalities Office is examining their submissions, and we hope to extend CEDAW to these territories soon.
We continue to work with the governments of Anguilla, Montserrat, Pitcairn and St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha to encourage them to prioritise preparation for extension. To support preparation in Anguilla, the Ministry of Home Affairs has appointed a full-time Gender Affairs Officer and, with support from the FCO’s Human Rights and Democracy Programme Fund, has arranged for all frontline police officers to receive training in handling domestic violence cases.
We continue to encourage the government of Anguilla to meet, without further delay, its longstanding commitment to request the extension of the ICCPR and the ICESCR. We encourage the government of Gibraltar to request the extension of the CRC.
The first JMC in 2012 identified strengthening child safeguarding as a key priority for the Overseas Territories. UK and territory governments agreed to work together to improve strategies to ensure the safeguarding of children, based on a strong belief in zero tolerance to child abuse, in whatever form it comes.
During the week of the 2013 JMC, the UK government organised a roundtable on child safeguarding, bringing together territory leaders and experts from the UK Ministry of Justice, Department for International Development (DFID), and Department for Education. DFID provides assistance and advice to Pitcairn, St Helena and Montserrat to support key frontline service delivery agencies. Pitcairn will continue to receive targeted support for training and awareness-raising to build child safeguarding capacity. In 2013, both Pitcairn and St Helena benefited from child safeguarding risk reviews, which have strengthened child safeguarding approaches on these islands. A new DFID child safeguarding programme will be launched in 2014. This will focus on building multi-agency capacity to prevent and respond to child abuse and sexual exploitation; strengthening data systems to support evidence-based policy development; and providing specialist child safeguarding advice directly to territory governments.
Several territories have undertaken important child safeguarding initiatives. The government of Anguilla has set up a child protection steering committee, developed child protection guidance, conducted an outreach campaign, and has benefitted from an advisory visit by a manager of a secure children’s home in the UK. The Cayman Islands government has agreed a child protection law and undertaken a public campaign on tackling child abuse. The St Helena government has set up a new board with responsibility for safeguarding children, and is implementing a comprehensive multi-agency child safeguarding action plan, rolling out a range of policy and operational measures. The Falkland Islands government has established a multi-agency Child Safeguarding Board and a Child Safeguarding Working Group in order to improve coordination, and strengthen the capacity to pursue prosecutions for offences.
At the first JMC in 2012, UK ministers and territory leaders agreed to work together as a priority to develop systems for independent inspection of prisons and to reduce re-offending by prisoners. Some territories have launched significant reforms. The Cayman Islands government is in the process of implementing a five-year strategic plan drawing on recommendations from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP). The Cayman Islands government is also proposing a Conditional Release Bill to provide minimum tariffs for life sentences, which would bring sentencing in line with the Cayman Islands’ Bill of Rights.
In 2013, the governments of Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands introduced parole systems. This means that independent parole boards now assess prisoners for release in all Caribbean Overseas Territories and in Bermuda. The Parole Board of England & Wales continues to support the development of parole boards to ensure compliance with international human rights standards. A system of independent monitoring by local volunteers has now been established for all prisons.
The UK government continues to support the territories in managing prisoners with complex mental health issues. Representatives from Health Action Partnership International (HAPI) and the Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust conducted a study on prisoner mental health in Montserrat and Anguilla in 2012-13, which provided individual prisoner assessments and training. Their observations have been shared with other territories, many of which face similar challenges. The Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust is due to conduct a similar study in the British Virgin Islands in 2014.
Looking Ahead to 2014
We will continue working in partnership with the territories to extend to them outstanding core UN human rights conventions, where these have not been extended already.
Another key priority for us will be the launch and roll-out of the new child safeguarding project to help the aided territories strengthen child safeguarding measures.
We will also continue to encourage relevant parts of central and local government, as well as charities and other organisations, to build partnerships and share expertise with peers in the Overseas Territories and thus contribute to delivering our cross-government commitment to support the territories in the protection and promotion of human rights.
Section XI: Human Rights in Countries of Concern
This section contains our review of the human rights situation in 28 countries where the UK Government has wide-ranging human rights concerns. For this year’s report, we continued to use the criteria for inclusion that we published last year:
- the gravity of the human rights situation in the country, including both the severity of particular abuses and the range of human rights affected;
- whether a deterioration or improvement in the human rights situation in the country would have a wider impact in the region;
- whether the human rights situation in the country has an impact on wider UK interests; and
- whether we are able to influence the human rights situation there.
The first of these criteria (gravity of the situation) is the most important assessment that we make, and not affected by levels of UK interest or influence. In order to ensure that our analysis is strictly evidence-based, we introduced this year a list of internationally respected human rights indicators and indices. Our geographical departments and embassies and high commissions overseas assessed all the relevant countries in their regions against these indicators and indices.
Having assessed the gravity of the human rights situation, we then applied an analysis of the other criteria, including UK engagement and interests as a means of influencing change, to determine which countries among all those where there are concerns about the human rights situation should be the particular focus of Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) efforts. It is clearly important that we concentrate our resources on those countries where we can make most difference. Ministers then made the final decision on the list of countries of concern and country case studies to be included in this report.
Following the review process, no countries were removed from the countries of concern category. However, due to developments during 2013, the Central African Republic was added to the list.
Country case studies were introduced in 2012 as a way to report on countries which do not meet the overall threshold for a country of concern, but which we judge nonetheless to be facing human rights challenges, or to be on a trajectory of change with regard to their human rights performance. While most focus on countries with particular human rights challenges or on a negative trajectory, others were included because the analysis showed a positive change, or because we wanted to highlight a particular thematic issue. Some countries are subject to periodic in-year reporting to enable us to assess human rights trends and monitor developments.
This year, our country case studies are Bahrain, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Egypt. We have also included a number of thematic case studies in the relevant chapters of the report, for example, on women and girls in India, and on Mexico’s war on drugs.
The list of 28 countries of concern (and country case studies which show a negative trajectory) does not represent an exhaustive list of countries where the UK believes improvements are needed on human rights. Although the countries on which we report here will remain our priorities for 2014, we continue to engage with many other countries on human rights issues, through dialogue and project work.
As in last year’s report, we have listed the countries of concern in alphabetical order. We have ensured that each entry contains sections to reflect our priority thematic issues such as elections, freedom of expression, torture prevention, women’s rights and freedom of religion or belief. Other sub-headings are included where relevant.
We will continue to report on developments in the countries of concern online on a regular basis and raise our concerns about human rights issues wherever and whenever they occur.
- Central African Republic (CAR)
- Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)
- Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
- Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs)
- Saudi Arabia
- South Sudan
- Sri Lanka
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