This report provides a UK perspective on the global human rights situation during 2014, and examples of what the government is doing to promote human rights and democratic values overseas. It reviews the situation in specific countries and against the thematic priorities around which our work is organised.
One of the most striking trends of 2014 was the pressure put by governments on civil society organisations in many parts of the world, damaging human rights and the economic interests of those same countries. Chapter I focuses on the protection of civil society space and those who defend it. It sets out how the UK has worked through the UN and features case studies on Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Burma. It describes what the UK is doing to support human rights defenders, including through the EU, particularly in Afghanistan.
2014 was an important year for our Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), marking two years since its launch. Chapter II sets out achievements in this area, including the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict and increasing support for the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, and our plans to address the myriad challenges that remain.
Chapter III focuses on the FCO’s programme and project work on human rights, with case studies on each of our priority areas, and the steps we have taken to mainstream human rights across the FCO network. It also includes material on the Department for International Development’s work on economic and social rights.
Chapters IV, V, VI and VII cover issues related to our six thematic priorities: freedom of expression on the internet, abolition of the death penalty, torture prevention, freedom of religion or belief, women’s rights, and business and human rights.
Chapter IV focuses on freedom of expression and democracy. Acknowledging that democracy takes many forms, and evolves over time, the UK’s own experience strengthens our conviction that democracy offers the best system for protecting human rights, guaranteeing the rule of law, supporting economic development and preventing conflict.This chapter sets out the UK’s approach to democracy strengthening, including work carried out by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. It features case studies on democratic developments and challenges during 2014, such as the Fijian and Tunisian elections, and the military coup in Thailand.
Freedom of expression is an essential element of any functioning democracy, and this section also features our work in this area, through fora like the Freedom Online Coalition, in which the UK plays a leading role. It includes case studies on countries where media freedoms were under threat in 2014, such as China, Ethiopia and Honduras.
Chapter V sets out our work on abolition of the death penalty and on torture prevention, and our efforts to support the international justice system. Our ambition remains a world free of capital punishment and torture, where there can be no impunity for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
It is also strongly in our interest, and those of our international partners, that the citizens of all countries can fulfil their potential, free from discrimination on any grounds. Chapter VI describes our efforts to promote equality internationally, including by focusing on: freedom of religion or belief, with case studies on the Middle East, South East Asia, and ISIL; anti-Muslim hatred, antisemitism and post-Holocaust issues (particularly the UK’s chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance).
This chapter also illustrates the priority we attach to women’s rights, and children’s rights, with case studies on India, and on the Girl Summit (hosted by the Prime Minister in June 2014), which changed the terms of global debate on child, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation; LGB&T rights, where the UK promoted inclusive societies in all parts of the world and condemned restrictions and violence against LGB&T people (including by action in international fora); and disability and indigenous rights.
Chapter VII explores the human rights dimension of the UK’s security agenda: counter-terrorism; reducing conflict and building stability overseas; women, peace and security, and the protection of civilians. It features case studies on Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Ebola.
Chapter VIII focuses on business and human rights, setting out our progress on implementation of the UK National Action Plan, and our efforts to promote responsible business practice internationally.
Protecting the human rights of British nationals overseas is a top priority. Chapter IX describes the actions taken by our officials to support those who are detained, facing the death penalty, forced into marriage, at risk of female genital mutilation, or involved in child abduction cases.
As a nation with global interests, the UK has both the motive and the means to shape the international community’s response to human rights priorities. Chapter X details how we worked through the international system in 2014, with a particular focus on the UN Human Rights Council, where we resumed our seat as a voting member, and have had a positive impact on issues from Sri Lanka to freedom of religion or belief. This chapter also looks at how we work through the European institutions and the Commonwealth, and includes a case study on the international response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and separatist-occupied areas of Ukraine.
The UK government expects Overseas Territories which choose to remain British (for example, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar etc.) to abide by the same basic standards of human rights as the UK. Chapter XI sets out how we continued to pursue our programme to extend core UN human rights conventions to the territories where possible, and to implement child safeguarding initiatives.
The final section of this report contains an assessment of the human rights situation in 27 countries where the UK has wide-ranging concerns. Online, we continue to report on developments in these countries on a quarterly basis. Our concerns, and the manner in which we raise them, is rooted in a desire to understand the local context, and to help these governments extend to all their citizens the full benefit of human rights we enjoy ourselves.
Foreword by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
In 2015 we mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta, one of the major waypoints in the UK’s own journey to democracy. While time has passed, the concepts that Magna Carta contends with – equality before the law, due process, limits to the arbitrary exercise of power – are as relevant today as they were then. When I was appointed Foreign Secretary on 15 July 2014, human rights – particularly the damage done when they are not respected – were never far from the headlines. ISIL had just launched its crime wave in Iraq and Syria. Elsewhere in the Middle East, tensions were rising after the murders of Israeli and Palestinian teenagers. And a deteriorating situation in eastern Ukraine was suddenly compounded by the tragic shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet.
During the subsequent nine months, I have visited 42 countries, at the time of writing, and met a wide variety of leaders and opposition figures, civil society and human rights protagonists, at home and abroad. I have seen countless examples of the mutually reinforcing relationship between our values, the rules-based international system designed to project and defend them, and other aspects of our national interest, such as global security, wider prosperity and fair treatment for UK citizens overseas.
This January, in a speech to mark the anniversary of Magna Carta, I described good governance, the accountability that rests on equality before the law, and freedom of speech, as the building blocks of successful societies; and successful societies as the building blocks of a secure and prosperous international community. It is in the UK’s national interest to help our international partners promote, protect and enjoy human rights; and to find effective ways to tackle violations wherever they occur.
We achieved a great deal in 2014, but I would like to highlight three issues in particular.
The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, held in June in London, brought together over 120 countries and launched the first International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The Girl Summit, hosted by the Prime Minister in July, was the first ever global conference on ending Female Genital Mutilation and Child, Early and Forced Marriage. To date, 480 organisations and individuals (including 42 governments) have signed the Girl Summit Charter, which sets out specific actions to end these practices.
The UK’s chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and associated work to combat antisemitism assumed fresh significance for me when I attended the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on 27 January 2015. The unprecedented horror of the Holocaust continues to hold universal meaning, and should be an eternal reminder of the importance of protecting human rights.
I am encouraged by progress made during the UK’s first year back on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). Multilateral institutions, when they play an objective and impartial role, can produce practical responses to human rights challenges and strengthen the consensus around fundamental freedoms. Seeking to lead by example, the UK again presented a midterm (voluntary) report on its response to recommendations received under the Universal Periodic Review. In 2014, at the UN and in other fora, we were active on many key country situations, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Syria, Iraq and Burma.
The UK used its position on the HRC to promote an international investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights in Sri Lanka during the recent conflict. In March 2014 the HRC established such a mechanism. Since then, President Maithripala Sirisena has been elected with a mandate to lead a more accountable government, including restoring the independence of the police and judiciary and media freedoms, and ensuring the protection of religious minorities. I am encouraged by the new government’s early statements and actions. The UK stands ready to support delivery of the promised reforms.
The long road from Magna Carta to modern democracy in the UK teaches us to value evolution over revolution. Throughout 2014, the example of Tunisia was heartening. It became the first “Arab Spring” country to complete transition to democracy by holding a full-term parliamentary election and its first Foreword by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond 11 democratic presidential election. 2014 also marked the first peaceful, constitutional transfer of power in Afghanistan. This Annual Report also sees the graduation of Fiji from our list of “countries of concern”, after the restoration of democracy in that Commonwealth country.
As I said two months ago, the values of Magna Carta are incremental in their establishment, universal in their relevance, and adaptable in their application. Another of its lessons, despite all the setbacks of 2014, is that we must stay the course.
Foreword by Minister for Human Rights Baroness Anelay
Since my appointment as Minister with responsibility for human rights at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), I have been privileged to work on some of the world’s most pressing issues. Despite the daunting scale of the challenges we face, I have met and been inspired by many committed individuals over the last seven months. These have included:
members of my advisory groups – on abolition of the death penalty, global torture prevention, freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of expression online – who have provided insights and practical suggestions;
members of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society, who have brought to my attention issues such as the risks faced by human rights defenders in Afghanistan, and worked tirelessly to protect the rights of others;
parliamentary colleagues, particularly members of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights, who have deepened our analysis and extended our reach; and
international colleagues – likeminded and less so – whom I have met on my visits to the UN in Geneva and New York, whose views I respect, as we search for that elusive highest common factor; or fall back on condemnatory resolutions.
I have also been privileged to see the House of Lords “from the other side” since last August, and am full of admiration for the close scrutiny to which the government is subjected by Peers, particularly on human rights.
The most negative trend of 2014 was the shrinking space for civil society in many parts of the world. Since January 2012, 78 laws in 54 countries have been proposed that directly affect the ability of NGOs to operate. As this report describes, civil society is the human rights landscape. Its organisations and individuals are on the frontline, speaking up when others cannot. If we allow this space to close, more lives will be at risk. That is why our topical chapter focuses on protecting civil society space and human rights defenders.
On the positive side, we achieved a great deal during 2014, sustaining progress over the course of this Parliament. The FCO continued to focus on six thematic priorities.
On women’s rights, in addition to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence and the Girl Summit, we launched the UK’s third National Action Plan on women, peace and security which aims to reduce the impact of conflict on women and girls, and to promote their inclusion in conflict resolution. We followed this with the launch of a groundbreaking Implementation Plan, with activity planned in a number of key countries, such as encouraging female candidates to take part in elections in Afghanistan. In November, I went to Oslo to attend the High Level Symposium on Women’s Rights and Empowerment in Afghanistan, where I gave the closing speech and reaffirmed the UK’s long-term support to Afghan women and human rights defenders.
On freedom of expression, the recent attacks in Ottawa, Sydney, Paris, Brussels and Copenhagen – and, perhaps more significantly, the strong and determined public reaction – have shown how fundamental the right to speak and express ourselves is held to be. It underpins all the other rights which distinguish progressive, innovative and democratic societies from those where ideas are feared and discouraged. Increasingly, freedom of expression is exercised online; and threats to freedom of expression are felt there too. In 2014 the UK continued to play a leading role in the Freedom Online Coalition, a group of likeminded countries committed to promoting internet freedom. We did so also through multilateral institutions, actively engaging in discussions on the right to privacy, as part and parcel of all our citizens’ human rights.
On abolition of the death penalty, our civil society partners, including students and parliamentarians, have again provided tremendous help identifying opportunities where the UK could make a difference. I spoke at an event at Birmingham City University which highlighted the case of Meriam Ibrahim, sentenced to death in Sudan for allegedly changing her religion, though thankfully later released due to the efforts of many local and international supporters. The direction of change is positive. This year’s resolution on abolition of the death penalty at the UN General Assembly secured more votes in favour than ever before. In the UK we marked the 50th anniversary of the last execution – not claiming moral high ground, but seeking to use our own experience of this complex debate to convince others to follow in our footsteps.
On global torture prevention, we persevered with our international strategy, and worked with others to focus attention on the 30th anniversary of the Convention Against Torture (CAT). We encouraged governments to sign and ratify the convention and its optional protocol (OPCAT). We welcomed the accession to the CAT by Eritrea; the ratification of the OPCAT by Finland and Greece, and the accession to the OPCAT by Lithuania, Morocco and Mozambique. On business and human rights, working closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), we continued to implement our National Action Plan. Highlights have included: guidance for the ICT sector on human rights risks related to cyber exports; guidance to UK officials on providing human rights advice to UK companies; and work with the financial sector to help develop guidance on human rights reporting and transparency for investors, which will have a multiplier effect across the economy.
On freedom of religion or belief, I am indebted to my predecessor, Baroness Warsi, for the way she developed this agenda. A global study by the Pew Forum in 2014 found that restrictions on religion were at a six-year high. Where freedom of religion or belief is under attack, other fundamental freedoms often face threat too. In response, we set up a new, expert advisory group, increased training to improve the FCO’s religious literacy and used these insights to inform our work in multilateral fora and individual country situations, including a whole of government approach to defeating the so-called Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant and addressing extremism more widely. We are motivated by deep concern for religious communities in the Middle East; and by a desire to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all parties of goodwill. I found such allies on visits to the Holy See and to Morocco. I have discussed strategies with people of many different religions, and people of none.
On all these priorities, as well as the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative and democracy, we have sponsored practical initiatives, in difficult terrain (by definition), through our Human Rights and Democracy Programme. I am grateful to all – at our Posts, but also NGO partners and local civil society organisations – who worked tirelessly to implement projects in over 40 countries.
History teaches that the suppression of civil society amounts to self-harm. We must make this case, patiently but firmly, and where necessary stand up for those who defend the human rights of others. I am proud that so many British people see that as their moral duty. But I am also proud that our country has evolved to the point where the wellbeing of others is an integral part of our national interest. That is why we are working so hard to ensure that the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals will be properly formulated and fully realised, leaving no one behind. And that is why we work for human rights.
CHAPTER I: Protecting Civil Society Space and Human Rights Defenders
Civil society is the human rights landscape; the space in which individuals hold rights and affect the rights of others. It includes a variety of actors, from independent and mainstream media, to community, religious and family groups, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), professional bodies and academia, as well as individuals. All need room to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association and religion. Given enough space, people can make informed choices, and citizens can have a say in their country’s governance, culture and development.
A vibrant civil society can be a multiplier for all human rights, driving sustainable economic development and reinforcing good governance; and a force for stability and the rule of law. Economies and societies tend to thrive when people freely contribute ideas and hold their governments to account. A vigorous civil society is increasingly how nations compete in today’s interconnected world, where innovation, creativity, and a dynamic “knowledge economy” confer comparative advantage.
So we focus on these issues for several good reasons: because civil society space is strategic (connected with important global trends); because we want for our international partners advantages we enjoy in the UK (we have a stake in their progress and prosperity); and because – in 2014 – civil society was under threat in many parts of the world.
The Current State of Civil Society Space
The incoming High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, spoke in praise of human rights defenders (HRDs), saying “the courageous individual is he or she who has nothing to wield but common sense, reason and the law and is prepared to forfeit future, family, friends and even life in defence of others, or to end injustice”. He added that “Human rights defenders are such courageous people, and we must do everything we can to protect them, and celebrate them”.
In 2014, human rights NGOs and UN bodies expressed growing concern over the repression of civil society in many parts of the world: censorship, physical threats and harassment, torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. They also noted a worrying trend towards laws and practices designed to constrain civil society, by limiting its access to information and resources. Such laws go well beyond legitimate and necessary regulation; and even good laws can be enforced in ways which are not compatible with international best practice, or with a country’s real self-interest.
In Russia, a set of hastily adopted and disproportionate laws has limited the space for dissenting views, particularly in the media and on the internet. This trend is evident in other parts of the former Soviet Union too. But the phenomenon has spread more widely. Individuals in The Gambia can be imprisoned for up to 15 years for “publishing false information”, which threatens the ability of civil society freely to express legitimate opinions. The new Protest Law in Egypt, and procedural shortcomings in the trials of detained activists, gave the government powers to limit disproportionately the right to freedom of expression. In Kenya, civil society space is shrinking, and may continue to do so under proposed legislation.
Readers of this report will find a host of other examples of how “civil society space” is feeling the squeeze, in different ways, in different places, from Bangladesh to Honduras. Sometimes the pressure is extreme (as in Eritrea). In other countries, as in Fiji and Rwanda, it takes the gloss off an otherwise positive trend. In all countries, however, it amounts to self-harm.
In 2014, the UK sought to counter this apparent trend in a range of ways. We worked through multilateral organisations, such as the UN and EU, to push for greater recognition of the problem. And we reinforced civil society organisations (CSOs) directly, through our Posts, programmes, and other aspects of our country work.
We don’t have all the data; nor all the answers. But such was our concern that Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) ministers chose “Protecting Civil Society Space” as our theme for Human Rights Day 2014 – See box at end of chapter.
Working through the UN to Protect Civil Society Space
The UK is a long-standing advocate of civil society participation at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva. One of our pledges for election to the HRC in 2013 was to maintain regular dialogue with NGOs and wider civil society.
In 2014, our support for a HRC resolution on civil society space reflected our concerns about the rising number of threats against civil society in many countries, and attempts to restrict operations through administrative procedures or restrictions on funding. The text was a significant advance, including language on creating and maintaining safe environments in which civil society can act, and calling for states to ensure that domestic law does not hinder the work or endanger the safety of civil society actors. The UK also continued to speak up to defend the participation of NGO representatives at the HRC, in the face of vexatious procedural challenges.
The UK also used the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to encourage states to abide by their international human rights law obligations in respect of civil society; for example, by implementing existing domestic law or considering amendments in order to protect civil society. The UK made statements at the UPRs for all countries, including Angola, Egypt, The Gambia and Fiji. We used these opportunities to make recommendations: on legislation pertaining to the policing of social protests; that the right to peaceful assembly in accordance with domestic and international human rights law be fully respected; and that governments’ provisions for the free operation of civil society be fully implemented, including through NGO laws conforming to international standards. Some of these recommendations were accepted by the states in question, and we look forward to receiving an update on practical measures taken.
Using UK Funding to Support Civil Society
Through our overseas Posts, we fund and manage projects to protect and strengthen civil society space, and to empower citizens to participate in democratic processes. Using bilateral and dedicated funding, including the FCO’s Human Rights and Democracy Programme (HRDP), we fund strategic projects on thematic human rights issues such as freedom of expression and democracy, which have important implications for the protection of civil society. In November 2014, the HRDP reviewed and revised its 2015-16 criteria for projects connected with freedom of expression, which now explicitly include projects designed to protect civil society space. Projects which are successful in this category will commence in April 2015.
Lifeline: the Embattled NGO Assistance Fund
In 2011, the UK joined other donors in establishing “Lifeline: the Embattled NGO Assistance Fund”. The fund aims to provide emergency assistance and advocacy grants to CSOs overseas that are facing repression and harassment because of their work in promoting and protecting human rights. Over the last three years, Lifeline has provided financial support to 468 CSOs working on human rights issues in 87 countries and, in 2014, gave grants worth more than US$1.1 million. To date, the UK has contributed £300,000.
Digital Defenders Partnership (DDP) Fund
The DDP was established in 2012 with the help of a group of member countries of the Freedom Online Coalition, including the UK, to help organisations and individuals working to combat online threats to journalists, bloggers and HRDs. This assistance also includes emergency grants to address immediate threats to freedom of expression and internet freedom. In 2014 the UK gave the DDP €254,137, bringing our total support to £500,000.
Human Rights Defenders
Much of the work we do on strengthening the capacity of civil society overseas involves working with HRDs; those who act to protect the human rights of themselves and others, often risking their own lives and liberty to do so. They are important because of their role in documenting violations and abuses; seeking remedy or redress for victims; advocating social, political and economic changes; and educating others on human rights.
The FCO has produced a HRDs toolkit to provide advice and support to colleagues at Post in working with and assisting HRDs. The toolkit demonstrates our commitment in this area, and our determination to provide practical support. In recognition of the continuing challenges – and the increasing threats to HRDs worldwide – we are reviewing the toolkit. In 2014, our Posts across the globe continued to support HRDs by: observing trials; visiting those imprisoned and lobbying for their release; raising concerns over their safety with authorities; providing training; funding projects; and working with EU colleagues. For example, in Rwanda we funded training in the professional skills necessary for HRDs to perform their roles safely. The training covered ethical research methods and advocacy skills, enabling participants to be more effective in their work in promoting and defending human rights.
Working through the EU in support of HRDs
The EU’s global work on HRDs is underpinned by the EU Guidelines on HRDs, which suggests practical means of support and assistance. An important element of the guidance is support for the Special Procedures of the HRC, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of HRDs and appropriate regional mechanisms. The UK works with its EU partners to implement the guidelines, for example through participating in EU working groups that oversee EU policy on countries and regions, and through in-country cooperation on individual cases.
The UK also contributes through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), which provides dedicated funding for organisations that support HRDs in their efforts to promote and protect human rights. Approximately 90% of its beneficiaries are CSOs. The UK has encouraged the EU to remain focused on the issue of HRDs in the EIDHR.
In 2014, the UK encouraged the EU, in its forthcoming new strategic action plan, to reinforce its commitment to protecting HRDs, an area in which concerted action by the EU and its member states has the potential to be especially effective. We influenced the EU’s decision to refresh its strategy and increase support to HRDs in all parts of the world. Coordinated action through the EU was one of the ways we gave particular attention to HRDs in Afghanistan.
Human Rights Day, 10 December 2014
On Human Rights Day, the FCO drew attention to the pressures faced by civil society in a growing number of countries.
The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, said:
We call on governments around the world to do more to foster the role of civil society in promoting and defending human rights. States with strong civil societies are more stable, more prosperous and better neighbours. Civil society continues to play a crucial role in protecting and promoting human rights, and allowing citizens to hold their governments to account.
FCO Minister for Human Rights, Baroness Anelay, hosted an event with representatives from Amnesty International UK, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and a human rights activist from Kenya to discuss how to protect civil society in countries where it is threatened.
Baroness Anelay said:
The United Kingdom is absolutely committed to working with civil society to protect individuals from discrimination, violence and intimidation and to speak up – both in public and private – for those without a voice. Today I am delighted to be joined by representatives from civil society organisations to hear how they think the UK can help stem the tide of laws and procedures, in many parts of the world, which portray civil society as a threat; and how we can convince such countries that a dynamic civil society is essential for their own wellbeing.
FCO Ministers Tobias Ellwood, Hugo Swire, David Lidington and James Duddridge marked Human Rights Day by issuing blogs, on the topics of, respectively: freedom of religion or belief in the Middle East and North Africa; human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; freedom of expression and the media in Eastern Europe and Central Asia; and preventing sexual violence and protecting civil society.
The FCO network’s activities
The FCO network marked Human Rights Day with a range of activities, designed to show solidarity with civil society and HRDs whose work to promote and protect human rights is threatened. Six examples serve to illustrate the network-wide initiative.
The Head of the FCO’s Human Rights Department in the UK issued a blog, entitled “What is Civil Society?” Our High Commission in India hosted an event attended by grassroots activists, NGOs, and volunteers working in communities where Hindi is the first or only language, to launch Hindi language versions of booklets to help their understanding of the law relating to victims of sexual violence. Our office for Libya (in Tunisia) launched a social media campaign with an event attended by Wail el Gheriani, son of human rights activist Salwa Burghaisis, who was killed on 25 June. BBC Media Action produced a short film of the occasion which was shown on the Libya Office’s Facebook page. In Thailand, our Ambassador spoke about the importance of freedom of speech in support of democracy, at an event attended by more than 200 community activists, and took questions from attendees. In Afghanistan, the British Ambassador spoke at a UK-sponsored event, recognising the work of HRDs and urging the government to do more to protect them. Our colleagues in Burma held a reception in honour of local and international press to show support for freedom of the media.
CHAPTER II: The Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative
2014 marked two years since the launch of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI). We have made considerable progress in ensuring greater international attention and action on this issue in those two years. But the recent reporting of horrific acts of sexual violence, most recently from the Middle East, within the context of armed conflict, demonstrates just how much more there is to do. Securing the widest possible international consensus on this issue has been a firm objective from the start. This is important, both to make clear to perpetrators that governments around the world will no longer allow their crimes to go unchallenged, and also so that victims and survivors feel acknowledged and supported by the international community.
In 2014, we continued to build support for the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, which the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, launched with the Under-Secretary General and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (SRSG) on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Mrs Zainab Hawa Bangura, during the 68th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2013. 155 states have now endorsed the declaration – 80% of UN member states – am remarkable reflection of the strength of support for the urgent need to address this issue, and the shared commitment to doing so. In September, Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) Minister for Conflict Issues, James Duddridge, co-hosted with the SRSG a meeting at the UN to look at global progress in the 12 months since the declaration’s launch.
The declaration has a clear focus on tackling impunity and promoting accountability for crimes of sexual violence committed in conflict. But it also contains a set of wider political and practical commitments, based around four areas. These four areas were also the focus for discussions at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, hosted by Mr Hague, and the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Angelina Jolie, in London in June 2014. This helped ensure that the summit discussions and their subsequent outcomes contributed to implementing the declaration.
These same areas have also provided the framework for the UK’s practical PSVI work throughout 2014.
1. Strengthening accountability and tackling impunity through stronger national and international justice, and improved documentation and investigation of sexual violence crimes.
Addressing impunity for sexual violence in conflict requires more effective delivery of justice at all levels. To meet this challenge, we have worked to improve the capacity and capability of the judiciary, police, magistrates, prosecutors, advocates and lawyers, and to strengthen national, regional and international justice systems.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we funded the nongovernmental organisation (NGO) TRIAL to make obtaining free legal assistance and filing claims for compensation easier for survivors. We also funded the launch of a helpline for survivors, run by the NGO Medica Zenica, so that both women and men can have immediate access to local expert help and assistance.
In Burma, we funded a project that works to raise awareness of sexual violence within communities and to improve women’s access to justice. In Colombia, we supported a programme, run by the NGO Dejusticia, which provides a capacity-building programme on sexual violence issues for prosecutors in the Attorney General’s Office.
We also deployed members of the UK Team of PSVI Experts to the Syrian borders to train Syrian human rights defenders (HRDs) in documenting reports of sexual violence: to Bosnia and Herzegovina to support the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) training of the judiciary on sexual violence crimes; and to the Panzi Hospital in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to support local health, legal and law enforcement professionals in documenting crimes of sexual violence, and providing assistance and support to survivors.
This country-level activity is reinforced by our work to strengthen the capacity of the international courts and tribunals to prosecute crimes of sexual violence in conflict. In December, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, launched a new Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes Policy for her office. This policy, the first of its kind for an international court or tribunal, will help ensure the effective investigation and prosecution of sexual and genderbased crimes. The UK has been a strong and consistent advocate of the prosecutor’s work, most recently at the ICC Assembly of States Parties. At this assembly, the FCO Minister for Human Rights, Baroness Anelay, co-hosted a panel event with Sweden to promote the implementation of this policy. We have also continued to encourage more states to ratify or accede to the Rome Statute of the ICC, and to enact relevant domestic legislation to help increase accountability and challenge impunity for sexual violence crimes.
One of the major challenges to addressing the culture of impunity is the lack of effective investigation and documentation of such crimes. At the summit, Mr Hague and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie launched the new International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict. The UK has developed the protocol over the last two years, in collaboration with gender and sexual violence experts drawn from medical, legal, security, human rights and humanitarian fields from around the world. The protocol brings together basic standards of best practice to support national and international justice and human rights practitioners to document sexual violence effectively as a crime under international law. It sets out methods for ensuring that information obtained by documenters is gathered sensitively and comprehensively; that the organisation of the information gathered is coherent and it is stored safely; and that the material is gathered with integrity and professionalism. To ensure that the views and experiences of local practitioners were reflected in the protocol, we carried out a number of field testing and regional consultations in the DRC, Colombia, Uganda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and with London-based survivor networks, in early 2014.
Since its launch at the summit, we have encouraged widespread implementation of the protocol. We have translated it into French, Spanish, Bosnian and Arabic, and are developing a set of training materials to support its use. Working with NGOs, we have also set up the first tranche of protocol training programmes, including in the DRC, Nepal and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
2. Providing greater support, assistance and reparation for survivors, including child survivors, of sexual violence
Ensuring a survivor-centred approach that provides both protection and services to survivors of sexual violence in conflict was a key commitment of the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. This was reinforced by the Call To Action to End Violence Against Women and Girls in Emergencies, launched by the Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, in November 2013. This involved donors, humanitarian agencies and NGOs committing to take action to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls, and other at-risk groups, from the start of humanitarian emergencies. It helps fulfil the aim set out in the declaration by mobilising the humanitarian community to address the many forms of gender-based violence in all types of emergency, including sexual violence in conflict situations.
At the summit, the Libyan government committed funding to implement a decree that recognises that victims of sexual violence in conflict and their families are entitled to benefits, including health care, scholarships, and rehabilitation. The UK announced £6 million to support survivors of sexual violence – £4.25 million to the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women, £1 million to the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims, and £750,000 to the International Organisation for Migration. As part of a wider package of commitments, the United States committed to doubling, to US$1 million, its funding for the US State Department’s Gender-based Violence Emergency Response and Protection Initiative. This provides urgent assistance to survivors threatened with gender-based violence. The United States also launched an accountability initiative, which will help survivors secure justice and build the capacity of partner governments to prosecute sexual violence crimes in conflict-affected countries. In addition, it announced the expansion of the Safe from the Start initiative, which supports humanitarian organisations to prevent and respond to genderbased violence at the onset of a disaster or a conflict, with a new funding opportunity for NGOs.
These announcements have been supported by UK work at country level. We have provided basic hygiene kits and clothing to approximately 2,000 survivors of sexual violence in Somalia. We have also funded two local NGOs in Colombia: LIMPAL (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) and Casa Amazonía, to provide psychosocial and legal support to survivors. Members of the UK Team of PSVI Experts have deployed to Kosovo to deliver training to the Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims, which provides access to rehabilitation for survivors. See also “Case Study: the Girl Summit – Ending Female Genital Mutilation and Child, Early and Forced Marriage” in Chapter VI: Equality and Non-discrimination for further information on the UK government’s work on child survivors.
3. Ensuring sexual and gender-based violence responses and the promotion of gender equality are fully integrated into all peace and security efforts, including security and justice sector reform
Military forces are a critical partner in the prevention of and response to sexual violence in conflict. They are often one of the first responders when sexual violence occurs, given their access to up-to-date information about security events unavailable to civilians. However, they are not always properly equipped, trained, nor, at times, willing to deal with sexual violence crimes. In a number of cases, they may also be the perpetrators. At the summit, senior military participants were invited to discuss how to incorporate the existing provisions of the UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, including those on sexual violence, into military planning and the conduct of operations; the need for more robust reporting on sexual violence; how to integrate international humanitarian and human rights law into military training; and how to enforce existing initiatives on conduct and discipline. The summit also discussed how best to empower peacekeepers with the skills and capabilities to prevent and respond when sexual violence takes place, as part of their wider responsibilities under a Protection of Civilians mandate.
The commitment of those at the summit to addressing these issues was reflected in the subsequent launch by the DRC government of an Action Plan for the Congolese Army. The plan aims to strengthen and increase the visibility of military justice, and improve victim and witness protection. The DRC President has also appointed a personal representative on Sexual Violence and Child Recruitment to oversee this and wider work.
During 2014, we worked with a number of British military training missions to build their capacity to train third countries’ forces to tackle sexual violence in conflict. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we supported the development of training modules for the Bosnian Peace Support Operations Training Centre. The centre has so far trained over 100 military personnel, who may be deployed on overseas operations, in preventing sexual violence. The training modules will now be used to train NATO and peacekeeping forces. We also funded two courses, developed by the British Peace Support Team (Eastern Africa), on preventing and responding to sexual violence for African Union (AU) peacekeeping personnel. In addition, we deployed members of the UK PSVI Team of Experts, as part of the EU Training Mission, to deliver training to the Malian military. This focused on their obligations to protect civilians and respond to instances of sexual violence. We provided funding to an NGO in South Sudan, which provides coaching, protection and accompaniment for Women’s Peacekeeping Teams.
4. Improving international strategic cooperation to deliver amore effective multilateral response
In conflict and post-conflict situations, where national authorities can be weak and poorly resourced, the international community can play a critical part in supporting national efforts to address sexual violence in conflict. Many of the multilateral and regional institutions have developed, or are developing, strategies and plans to tackle sexual violence in conflict, or are supporting governments to do so. For example, the National Action Plan for addressing sexual violence presented at the summit by the Federal Government of Somalia, developed with the backing and support of the UN, and the announcement by the government of South Sudan and the UN following the summit to develop a similar initiative.
Throughout 2014, we continued to work with and support a range of multilateral agencies to strengthen their responses to sexual violence in conflict. To date, we have provided £1 million to the Office of the SRSG, and £150,000 to the UN Office of the SRSG on Children and Armed Conflict. At the summit, a number of other governments announced new financial support to the UN’s work, including Finland’s €2 million and Bahrain’s US$100,000 to the UN Fund for Action Against Sexual Violence in Conflict, and the United Arab Emirates’ US$1 million to the Office of the SRSG.
We also provided approximately £800,000 to the AU’s Gender, Peace and Security Programme, which includes supporting the work of the AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security. The AU has recently deployed a team of sexual violence experts to the Central African Republic to provide support to victims of sexual violence in the districts of Paoua, Kaga-Bandoro and Bambar. Following the summit, we worked within the EU to integrate sexual violence issues within Common Security and Defence Policy missions and EU development activity more effectively, and encouraged greater EU support, including financial, for HRDs. We are also working to strengthen NATO’s focus on the issue. At the NATO Summit in September, Mr Hague hosted a meeting on the Women, Peace and Security agenda with the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, Mari Skåre. This was the first discussion on this issue ever to take place during a NATO Summit. It delivered a strong message of support to the Special Representative regarding her plans to ensure women’s participation in conflict resolution. The prevention of sexual violence in conflict is reflected in wider NATO activity.
CHAPTER III: Human Rights in Action
Every day, our network of overseas Posts and government departments in the UK takes action to improve respect for human rights and protect individuals at risk. Most of this work is an integral part of delivering our security, prosperity and consular objectives – none of which could succeed in isolation. Consequently, most of our staff carry out work involving human rights. And many of our programmes have a human rights element to them. But we also continue to deliver dedicated human rights work through projects funded by the Human Rights and Democracy Programme (HRDP), the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) strategic response to promoting our human rights priorities in countries around the world. In 2014 we supported more than 80 human rights projects in over 40 countries worldwide.
In order to provide the Foreign Secretary with the best possible information about the human rights dimension to our foreign policy and actions we can take, the Advisory Group on Human Rights continued to meet during 2014. The FCO Minister for Human Rights, Baroness Anelay, and her predecessor, Baroness Warsi, also chaired meetings of the four thematic sub-groups of the advisory group (abolition of the death penalty, torture prevention, freedom of expression on the internet, and freedom of religion or belief). Since its establishment in 2010, the advisory group, and its sub-groups, have all provided useful advice and a challenge function on the steps we take.
The Department for International Development (DFID) has also mainstreamed human rights into its programmes – the realisation of all human rights underpins sustainable development. Examples of DFID’s human rights work are highlighted throughout this report. This chapter details some of the main achievements in 2014.
Mainstreaming Human Rights across the FCO Network
To make maximum progress on our human rights priorities, and to help ensure this work goes hand-in-hand with other components of our national interest, we took a number of measures to ramp up our internal communications and training during 2014. These included:
launching in January a monthly human rights bulletin for FCO staff whose work includes human rights. This summarises key developments, “curates” examples of best practice from across the network, and highlights events and deadlines for the coming month;
holding a human rights network conference in April for over 150 FCO staff who work on human rights. This included master classes on how to promote human rights overseas, and panel discussions with FCO and external experts;
producing a series of one-page guidance notes on various aspects of human rights work, e.g. “How to Promote and Protect the Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief”, “How to do Human Rights at Post”, “How to Work with Human Rights Defenders at Post” and “How to do Business and Human Rights at Post”;
running a session for over 40 ambassadors at the FCO’s annual leadership conference on the relationship between human rights, security and prosperity;
setting up a series of human rights “action learning hubs” and “surgeries” for staff wanting guidance on issues such as working on human rights at geographical desks, or how to work with implementers to put together effective bids for the HRDP;
re-vamping our internal websites on human rights and setting up an internal discussion forum on human rights issues; and
refreshing our foundation course on human rights, which trained approximately 120 staff in 2014.
We have also continued to run our human rights practitioner course, which trained approximately 32 key human rights staff in 2014, and our programme of religious literacy (see “Freedom of Religion or Belief” in Chapter VI: Equality and Non-discrimination for further details on the latter).
In addition, we have been working to shape the human rights component for the FCO’s new Diplomatic Academy, which will launch in 2015. This approach will target both “foundation” and “practitioner” levels, through innovative learning methods and a digital platform, making it available to the FCO global network.
FCO Spend on Democracy and Human Rights
Because we mainstream human rights and democracy work across the network (for the practical and policy reasons above), it is difficult to calculate an exact figure for what the FCO spends annually on human rights work. The FCO delegates budgets to geographical and thematic directorates, which then delegate to departments and overseas posts, which in turn set their own detailed budgets. The total spending on human rights activity in the FCO includes staff time, project work, and bilateral funds across a wide range of these budgets. However, following requests from the Foreign Affairs Committee, we have identified the following figures from financial year 2013- 14, which add up to £38.2 million in total:
HRDP: £6.5 million;
approximate amount from Arab Partnership Fund spent on democracy and human rights: £5.5 million;
grant-in-aid funding to Westminster Foundation for Democracy: £3.5 million;
Human Rights and Democracy Department administration and bilateral programme: £340,000; and
roughly 240 full-time equivalents in the FCO working on human rights: approximately £22.4 million.
The Human Rights and Democracy Programme Fund
The HRDP is the FCO’s dedicated annual fund supporting human rights and democracy work overseas. Through targeted projects, it aims to promote our priority themes and lift the capacity of governments and civil society to promote and protect human rights.
Our Embassies and High Commissions work closely with civil society organisations (CSOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), businesses and governments to deliver HRDP projects. An underlying objective of the HRDP is to promote the development of local CSOs. Therefore, even when we work with international implementers, we strongly encourage them to work with local partners.
In the financial year 2014-15, we allocated approximately £5.5 million of funding to support 75 projects in over 40 countries; 24 of these projects are multi-year and continued from 2013- 14.
In 2014, the HRDP continued with previous years’ eight target areas, aligned with the FCO’s human rights priorities. By focusing our efforts in this way, we believe we achieve greater impact. The areas were:
promoting women’s rights;
preventing sexual violence in conflict;
global torture prevention;
freedom of religion or belief;
freedom of expression;
business and human rights; and
abolition of the death penalty.
Countries of focus
HRDP projects complement the human rights work of individual British Embassies or High Commissions across the globe. Our designated HRDP priority countries are those where we actively encourage project bids; these are countries which:
are one of the FCO’s countries of human rights concern or country case studies; and/or,
offer particular opportunities to promote and protect human rights for one or more of our thematic priorities.
Examples of HRDP-funded projects can be found throughout this report. Below are some case studies of work the programme has supported in 2014.
Promoting women’s rights
Against the otherwise positive backdrop of Tunisia’s successful 2014 elections, local civil society remains deeply polarised. As a result of these tensions, women’s CSOs often struggle to interact and cooperate, despite their similar goals. To address this, in 2014 HRDP funded the NGO Search for Common Ground to work with Islamist and secularist women’s CSOs to promote a culture of cooperative dialogue on legal reform and other women’s rights issues. The project led to the expansion and diversification of an existing women’s dialogue coalition, Tunisian Women for Common Ground, and the organisation of regional events to promote dialogue on women’s rights. The project also supported a targeted legal advocacy campaign to reduce discrimination against women, and increase female parity in senior decision-making positions in the public sector.
Preventing sexual violence in conflict
A key theme for the HRDP in 2014 was the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI), with approximately 36% of funding in 2014-15 being targeted at 16 PSVI projects in 12 countries, including: Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burma, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Guatemala, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sierra Leone. This relatively high proportion of spending reflects the former Foreign Secretary’s commitment, in the G8 Declaration on PSVI in April 2013, to spend £5 million over three years on grassroots PSVI projects through the HRDP. As a result, we were able to support 20 PSVI projects between 2013 and 2015, and are on track to meet the £5 million target in 2015.
An example of one of these successful projects is in the DRC, jointly implemented by the Province of the Anglican Church of Congo and Tearfund. It aims to reduce the incidence and impact of sexual violence in conflict-affected areas of eastern DRC, an area with one of the highest levels of sexual violence in the country. Since the project began, 75 church leaders in North and South Kivu have received training to increase their knowledge about sexual violence issues and their role in promoting justice for survivors. All agreed to include such teaching in their future church activities. Another key output of this project is Tearfund’s “survivor mapping” exercise, which looks to understand the needs and priorities of survivors of sexual violence in the region. This work will be reflected in the report “If I Speak Out”, to be launched in March 2015.
Global torture prevention
One of our primary torture prevention projects is a multiyear (2013-15) project run by the Geneva-based Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) to support national initiatives to prevent torture in fourteen countries. This project aims to encourage states to sign and ratify the Convention against Torture (CAT) and its Optional Protocol (OPCAT), and to develop effective National Preventative Mechanisms (NPMs) mandated by the OPCAT. In 2014, one of the key achievements was Morocco’s ratification of the OPCAT in November. As a result, Morocco is required to develop and designate its NPM by 24 December 2015. Ratification creates legal obligations and sends a strong signal about a country’s commitment to preventing torture. It also establishes constructive dialogue on torture prevention between domestic and international experts.
Freedom of religion or belief
In financial year 2014-15, the HRDP funded several projects across South East Asia that focused on promoting and protecting freedom of religion or belief.
In Indonesia we funded a project to enhance the role of the judiciary in protecting religious minority groups. In early 2015, the implementer, ELSAM, will train over 100 Indonesian judges on human rights standards concerning freedom of religion and belief. At the end of the project, the training materials will be integrated into the Supreme Court internal training program.
We also funded a project with Christian Solidarity Worldwide, focused on Burma and Indonesia, to build relationships between religious freedom activists in both countries, sharing their experiences and common challenges. The project has provided training for these activists, by equipping them to share information, advocate effectively for religious freedom, and identify solutions to religious intolerance in both countries.
Supporting freedom of expression
For Russia in 2014, the pressure on the media community and freedom of expression increased as new restrictive media legislation was introduced. Through ARTICLE 19, a Londonbased international NGO, we funded a project to help protect and promote freedom of expression and freedom of the media, including on the internet, by improving the digital, physical and legal safety and protection of Russian journalists and bloggers. Using a holistic approach to protection, eight professional journalists and bloggers were taught how to carry out risk assessments, create security plans, stay informed of relevant changes to Russian media legislation, and use software and techniques to protect themselves and their information digitally. As there is limited availability of materials regarding digital and physical security in Russian, the project developed and produced a package of Russian language materials as part of follow-up “peer to peer” training sessions. The project also supported ARTICLE 19’s successful advocacy work, notably around the re-opening of the case of murdered Dagestani journalist Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev in September 2014, whose case had been suspended by local authorities in July 2014. In the long term, this project aims to improve the ability of journalists and bloggers to carry out their work with confidence, and to increase the availability of balanced information and analysis from independent online media sources.
An ongoing challenge in the public administration system of Uzbekistan relates to transparency and accountability of local and central government. In 2014, the HRDP funded the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to work on improving citizens’ access to public information, and the accountability of local government. The project was timed to coincide with transparency legislation currently passing through parliament in Uzbekistan. The project has trained approximately 200 employees, a quarter of whom were women, of Information Centres in the Tashkent Province, in order to develop their ability to: communicate effectively with citizens, CSOs and mass media; improve access to public information; and ensure transparency of local government activities. Working with the Academy of Public Administration under the Office of the President of Uzbekistan, the implementer also held a series of workshops with local government employees in pilot areas, including Tashkent and Namangan Provinces. These focused on accountability issues, local budget oversight, and how to coordinate better with civil society on issues such as regional development.
Business and human rights
In Colombia, we continued to build on our relationship with the Colombian government, companies and civil society in order to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). We did this by funding a project in 2013-14 to support the development of Colombia’s National Action Plan. The implementer, Fundación Ideas para la Paz (FIP), worked with the government to develop a draft chapter on business and human rights within Colombia’s Integrated Public Strategy on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. This draft led to the creation of public policy guidelines on business and human rights. FIP also partnered with the Procuraduría General (Office of the Attorney General) to develop an administrative directive that tasked all public officials to implement the UNGPs, together with sanctions for non-compliance. These projects support the long-term goal of improved operation and working conditions for thousands in the extractive industries in Colombia.
Abolition of the death penalty
Ten countries in the Commonwealth Caribbean region retain the death penalty in their laws, and capital punishment commands wide popular support. No execution has taken place in the region since 2008, but lack of movement towards abolition hinders worldwide progress, and this bloc of countries consistently votes against UN General Assembly resolutions calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. Civil society activists in the region are few and far between, with limited resources and ability to coordinate campaigns or lobbying efforts. To address this, the FCO supported the creation of a regional not-for-profit organisation, Greater Caribbean for Life, to direct and support the work of the Caribbean abolitionist movement. The FCO funded this organisation in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Funding in 2013-14 enabled the launch of the network in October 2013 at the Second Greater Caribbean Conference against the Death Penalty in Trinidad. FCO funding in 2014-15 worked to strengthen the network further by supporting Caribbean activists with training and material, and to mobilise further support for abolition. The network has undertaken speaking engagements across the Caribbean, including prominent United States death penalty activists, and has increased debate on local media programmes and print outlets.
Financial year 2015-16
Project proposals are considered annually by the HRDP Programme Board through a competitive bidding process. The bidding round for 2015-16 projects was launched on 4 November at an event at the FCO hosted by the FCO Minister for Human Rights, Baroness Anelay. Over 80 representatives from potential implementers, and relevant FCO staff, attended the event. It included a speech from Baroness Anelay, and a master class on putting together an effective bid. All materials and further information about the bidding round, which runs from November 2014 to March 2015, are available on our HRDP webpage. The event was complemented by the online publication of the new HRDP pamphlet, also available on our webpage.
Projects for 2015-16 will begin in April 2015.
Measurement and Evaluation of Human Rights Work
Human rights work is usually a case of long-term, incremental change, and a great deal of the progress we seek to achieve depends on the actions of other governments. However, the FCO makes serious efforts to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of our human rights work, and to adjust our approach in light of evidence gathered.
Monitoring and evaluation is an integral part of the HRDP. All projects have clearly defined purposes, outputs and outcomes, with quarterly monitoring and financial reports to track project delivery, and a completion report setting out what has been achieved at the end of the project. Effective project monitoring helps our Embassies, High Commissions and the London HRDP team assess the impact of projects against their objectives, identify lessons learned, and test value for money; this then helps to inform future project decisions.
The HRDP also aims to carry out in-depth project evaluations of approximately 10% of completed projects each year. In 2014, we evaluated eight projects with a total combined budget of approximately £496,000. These covered three projects in Colombia (one each on business and human rights, protecting women’s rights, and strengthening democracy), two democracy strengthening projects in Zimbabwe, two business and human rights projects in Kenya, and one freedom of expression project in Zambia. These will be published online, along with existing evaluations.
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 people, including women and girls, the persistently poor, ethnic minorities and other marginalised groups, can take advantage of economic opportunity without barriers.
In 2014, 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. The following section sets out DFID’s major achievements from the beginning of its operational plan commitments in 2010-11 up to the most recent published results in mid-2014.
Girls and women
DFID has put girls and women at the heart of international development. The Strategic Vision for Girls and Women aims to empower girls and women to have voice, choice and control over their lives. To achieve this, DFID is working to build an enabling environment for girls and women including by: addressing discriminatory social norms that underpin how girls and women are valued in society; supporting girls’ completion of primary and secondary education; supporting the economic empowerment of women, including through access to financial services; ensuring girls and women can live free from violence, including by accessing security and justice through the courts, police and legal assistance; and supporting universal sexual and reproductive health and right for all girls and women, including enabling more women to use modern methods of family planning and ensuring more births are attended by skilled birth attendants. From 2011-14, DFID provided at least 26.9 million women with access to financial services and helped 4.9 million girls access primary and lower secondary education. One example of DFID’s work is the flagship Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC), which will enable up to one million of the world’s most marginalised girls to complete at least one full cycle of schooling. To date, 37 GEC projects have been supported across 18 countries. See also the section on The Girl Summit in Chapter VI for further information on the UK government’s work on girls.
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 800 women every day, according to figures from the World Health Organisation. DFID’s work focuses on funding the provision of good-quality, cost-effective, basic health services by public, private and NGO providers to provide access for the poorest. From 2011 to 2014, DFID helped 4.9 million additional women to use modern methods of family planning, ensured that 3.6 million births were delivered with the help of nurses, midwives or doctors, distributed 50 million insecticide treated bed nets, and immunised 40.6 million children against preventable diseases. This has included 890,000 additional users of modern methods of family planning in Bangladesh and, in Pakistan, 700,000 births attended by a skilled birth attendant.
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 58 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. Between 2011 and 2014, DFID supported 10.2 million children in primary and lower secondary school; the highest numbers of children supported were in Ethiopia (2.8 million), India (1.4 million) and South Sudan (1.2 million).
Water and sanitation
Across the world, 2.5 billion people do not have access to sanitation, and 700 million people do not have access to clean water. Inadequate access to water and sanitation is the principal cause of diarrhoeal disease, which kills 1,600 children every day, and is the leading killer of children under five in Africa. In 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. From 2011 to 2014, DFID provided 14.8 million people with sustainable access to clean drinking water, and 14.5 million people with sustainable access to improved sanitation. In Bangladesh, for example, DFID worked with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the government on a national programme to provide arsenic-safe water and improved sanitation facilities, and promote improved hygiene. The programme led to 6.5 million people benefitting from latrines, and 1.89 million people gaining access to safe water.
Around 839 million people are in “working poverty”, defined as living under US$2 a day, predominantly in Africa and Asia. Vulnerable employment continues to affect women more than men (according to 2014 International Labour Organisation figures) and women are more than twice as likely as men to be out of the labour force altogether (according to 2014 World Bank figures). Economic development and growth is the main driver of long-term poverty reduction through the creation of more and better jobs, which result in higher incomes. More inclusive growth, particularly for girls and women, also requires action to tackle the structural barriers that deny various social groups the chance to raise their incomes and find jobs. This includes improving access to finance, ownership of assets, and employment opportunities. Between 2011 and 2014, DFID improved access to financial services for 54.4 million people, of whom 49% were women. In Kenya, access to financial services was extended to an additional 12.4 million people in 2013-14 alone, including five million women.
CHAPTER IV: Democracy
The UK believes that democracy offers the best system of government for protecting human rights, guaranteeing the rule of law, supporting economic development and preventing conflict. Protecting and promoting democracy is at the heart of our values agenda.
2014 saw serious challenges to democracy in many countries and regions across the globe. Examples included Ukraine, increasing pressure on civil society space in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and a military coup in Thailand. But there were positive developments that included free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections in Tunisia, and Fiji’s first election following a military coup in 2006. These events took place in the context of a perceived decline in democracy across the globe in recent years. Freedom House’s global report on civil and political rights, “Freedom in the World 2014”, concluded that freedom had declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2013. However, the same study also concluded that a majority (65%) of the global population lived in countries designated by the report as either “free” or “partly free”.
UK approach to democracy strengthening
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) does not seek to promote one particular model of democracy over another. Challenges to democracy are specific to each state, so we tailor our approach accordingly, taking into account context and needs. We encourage our diplomatic network to include support for democracy as part of their work. The tools at their disposal for doing so include diplomatic engagement with governments, parliaments, members of the public and civil society, and project funding under the FCO Human Rights and Democracy Programme (HRDP), the Arab Partnership Fund, or the Conflict Pool (which is replaced by the Conflict Security and Stability Fund in 2015).
Another important tool is the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), a non-departmental public body sponsored by the FCO (please see page 33.). The FCO also works with other groups, including the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, to promote inter-parliamentary learning. In addition, we support the work of multilateral organisations such as the UN, EU, Commonwealth and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to strengthen democracy.
The FCO works closely with the Department for International Development (DFID) across this agenda. We also work with DFID on implementing the Millennium Development Goals, and to secure the Prime Minister’s priorities on good governance and effective, transparent, and accountable institutions for the post-2015 development framework.
FCO Programme Funding
The FCO HRDP funded projects to support democracy in Burma, Uzbekistan and Venezuela. These projects ranged from working with parliamentarians from all parties on legislative reforms in Burma, to improving accountability and transparency of central and local government in Uzbekistan, and promoting competitive elections through transparent and equitable campaigns in Venezuela.
Elections and Election Observation Missions
The FCO, along with DFID, contributes to Election Observation Missions (EOMs) around the world through the provision of funding, UK observers, and other support to organisations in the field, chiefly the EU, OSCE and Commonwealth. We believe that EOMs can play an important part in increasing the legitimacy of elections by building voter confidence, deterring fraud and violence, and enhancing the overall credibility of the electoral process. They may also make recommendations that electoral stakeholders can use to improve future electoral processes, and to embed and strengthen democratic principles and values.
In 2014, the EU observed elections in Afghanistan, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Kosovo, Maldives, Malawi, Mozambiquem and Tunisia, and sent three observers as part of the MOG for the elections in Fiji. The UK provided a total of 16 observers for EU EOMs.
The UK also helped to ensure that elections in Ukraine met international standards, providing 100 UK observers to the OSCE/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) EOM to the presidential elections on 25 May, and 68 UK observers to the parliamentary elections on 26 October. In addition, we provided UK observers to join OSCE/ODIHR EOMs in Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova and Uzbekistan.
The Commonwealth sent missions to observe elections in Maldives, South Africa, Malawi, Antigua and Barbuda, Mozambique, Botswana, Solomon Islands, Namibia and Dominica.
Westminster Foundation for Democracy
The FCO is the sponsoring department for the WFD, which works to strengthen parliaments, political party structures and civil society organisations (CSOs). We work closely with DFID on provision of financial and policy support to WFD. Throughout 2014, the WFD continued its support to institutions of democracy overseas – principally parliaments, political parties and civil society – a role it has played for almost a quarter-century. Through its programmes in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, WFD’s goal is to strengthen the political institutions, vital to the development of democratic accountability, in emerging democracies and post-conflict countries.
Parliamentary and political party assistance
WFD contributes to the promotion and protection of democracy and human rights around the world by developing the effectiveness of parliamentarians and political parties, as the critical intermediaries between state and citizens. Parliaments perform vital legislative, representative and oversight functions that help ensure citizens’ voices are heard and their rights are protected. Political parties can help formulate progressive policies that protect democracy and human rights – including women, children, and minorities – and foster accountability that contributes to effective and inclusive governance. WFD has access to Westminster parliamentary experts, as well as to leading members of all the UK’s principal political parties, which work with their overseas counterparts (parliaments and “sister parties” respectively) in order to develop their skills and encourage democratic reform.
Building partnerships – shaping policy
In 2014, WFD supported parliaments in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the DRC, Georgia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tunisia and Uganda – in addition to conducting regional programmes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the Western Balkans, and East Africa.
Aside from programmes with sister parties, the British political parties also work to strengthen and encourage human rights agendas within regional networks of parties, including the Africa Liberal Network (ALN – whose membership rose to more than 40 political parties from across the continent in 2014). With support from the UK Liberal Democrats – the ALN’s biggest partner – 2014 was also notable for the ALN general assembly, which adopted a human rights resolution committing all members to outlaw discriminatory practices based on gender, race, religion and sexual orientation. The ALN will in turn support member parties in influencing and shaping national policy to advance human rights.
Promoting equal rights
WFD continued its support to networks in the MENA region that encourage members to work together to promote gender equality. One such network, remarkable for the speed with which it gathered momentum in 2014, is a coalition of MPs founded to combat violence against women – which, by end December, had enlisted a large number of MPs from 10 MENA countries. The formation of the coalition was in part the fruition of WFD’s “Enhancing women’s leadership in MENA” programme – one of many in its portfolio, past and present, that support women’s representation in political parties and parliaments. Common to many of these programmes is the development of skills and networks that can contribute to the formation and implementation of laws, regulations, polices and institutions that protect the rights of women and children. Prevalent among these in 2014 were efforts to tackle genderbased violence.
The promotion of greater inclusivity is reflected in WFD’s work on gender inequality throughout the MENA region, but also in the DRC, Nigeria and Pakistan. In addition, it launched a new programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina to address the under-representation of women in politics. To this end, WFD is working with leading Bosnian parties to build the capacity and profiles of their women candidates for public office, and helping break down any internal or external barriers to women’s involvement in politics. WFD also launched a new programme designed to protect the rights of women and girls in Uganda. The programme aims to strengthen the institutions that can implement national and international laws prohibiting gender-based violence and other discriminatory practices.
Working with civil society to support democracy and human rights
WFD promoted democracy and human rights overseas also by supporting civil society to defend and uphold the rights of citizens. The successful completion of one such programme in Georgia resulted in greater opportunities for CSOs to engage with parliamentarians to influence reform processes. This was further consolidated by the inclusion of human rights advocates on the advisory board of the Georgian parliament’s human rights committee. WFD’s civil society programme in Georgia resulted in improved voting facilities for disabled people, greater rights of defence in court trials, more access to health services for prisoners, better living conditions for single mothers and their children, the closure of a harmful landfill site, and draft laws on the environment.
Human rights are also at the heart of WFD’s democracy strengthening programme in Kyrgyzstan, where it has supported the parliamentary human rights committee’s inquiries into the rights of migrants and the practice of torture in prisons and detention centres. In 2014, these resulted in policy recommendations and changes in legislation to strengthen links between the Kyrgyz parliament and civil society.
Securing future human rights
Human rights will remain central in WFD’s new strategy to be published in early 2015. WFD will continue to focus on parliaments and political parties, but will forge closer alliances with organisations that have complementary skills in strengthening the foundations that underpin democracy: the rule of law, media, civil society, transparency, and accountability. In the year that will also see the emergence of a future set of post-2015 international development goals, WFD will support more evidence-based research into how interventions can most effectively assist the development of legitimate, multi-party, representative democracies – the guarantors of future human rights. For more information on the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, go to www.wfd.org.
In 2015, the FCO will continue to support democratic processes and values around the world, working through our network of Embassies and High Commissions, with DFID, and with bilateral and multilateral partners. The 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta offers an opportunity to reflect on and promote core values of democracy, the rule of law and individual rights; the FCO will seek to amplify these messages internationally. We will also work with the WFD to implement the recommendations of the Triennial Review to improve the organisation’s effectiveness, and its contribution to FCO objectives.
Freedom of Expression
Freedom of expression, including the ability of the media to operate free from intimidation, are essential elements of any functioning democracy, and provide the basis for an active civil society. In an increasingly digital world, restrictive laws and practices are focusing in particular on the internet and social media. In many countries, governments are using surveillance as a means of political repression, rather than for legitimate purposes such as national security and the detection or prevention of crime.
For these reasons, freedom of expression online and the protection of the existing multi-stakeholder model for a free, open and secure internet remained key priorities for the FCO in 2014. For democratic societies and economies to flourish, it must be possible for people to discuss, debate and challenge ideas. The rapid technological developments of the digital age have the potential to empower citizens, and “citizen journalists”. But there remains a vital role for the established media, in all its forms, to provide people with reliable and accurate information. The UK remains committed to the principle that the rights which exist offline also apply online.
2014 saw increasing threats to freedom of expression and the media across the world. There was an increase in the number of instances in which social media websites were blocked and online content censored. These actions either directly restricted freedom of expression or created a climate of self-censorship, discouraging others from posting online or engaging with the online community.
Countries have often used security concerns as justification for restrictions on social media and excessive regulation of the media. Whilst governments have a clear responsibility to protect their citizens, in particular from criminal activity and terrorism, this should be done in accordance with clear and transparent rule of law, and in line with obligations under international law. Furthermore, we have seen attempts by governments to restrict the definition of “journalist”, mainly in such a way as to limit the protection afforded to journalists to those directly under state control. In the digital age, the definition of “journalist” has expanded beyond traditional print media to include other media actors, including bloggers. We lobby for references to journalists in international resolutions to include the widest possible definition.
The UK continued to promote freedom of expression online through multilateral institutions, including the OSCE, the Council of Europe and the UN. We actively engaged in discussions on the right to privacy, which have intensified in the light of intelligence revelations. We actively participated in debates on this theme at the UN, which convened a panel discussion and produced a report, and at the Council of Europe. Brazil and Germany co-sponsored a resolution at the UN General Assembly Third Committee in November on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age, which was adopted by consensus. 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 UK continued to play a leading role in the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), a group of like-minded countries committed to promoting internet freedom. We engaged with other governments, civil society, industry and international organisations. The FOC’s ministerial conference in 2014 washosted by Estonia and produced a set of recommendations – the Tallinn Agenda – for responsible action in cyber-space. This included commitments by governments to conduct their activities with respect to human rights obligations and to the principles of rule of law, legitimate purpose, non-arbitrariness, effective oversight and transparency, with a call on others to do likewise.
The membership of the FOC grew in 2014, with Japan and Lithuania joining, bringing to 24 the total number of countries in the coalition. A number of other countries have expressed an interest in joining, or participated at the ministerial conference as observers. Apart from the annual conference, the FOC was active throughout the year in lobbying against restrictive legislation or actions that limit freedom of expression online. The coalition issued a number of statements throughout 2014, including on the blocking and restrictions of access to social media, and on the use and export of surveillance technology.
As well as working through multilateral institutions, the UK raised its concerns around freedom of expression bilaterally throughout 2014.
In Central Asia, 2014 saw a continuation of the process of using legislation, and criminal prosecutions, to limit freedom of expression, control the media, and create a “chilling effect” on free speech. New laws in Kazakhstan, for example, make it a criminal offence to “knowingly disseminate false information” with a penalty of up to ten years’ imprisonment. This is added to several existing laws on defamation in the Criminal Code. In Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, as elsewhere in the region, media outlets can be, and sometimes are, shut down for administrative violations. In Tajikistan one weekly publication, Khafta, had its registration revoked for publication of material not in line with the published statutes; it had only published one issue, which contained an interview criticising the authorities. In addition to restrictions on print media, there has also been the periodic and arbitrary blocking of hundreds of websites in Tajikistan, with no transparent or public process detailing the reasons. Targeted sites include those of political opposition groups, human rights organisations, and social media tools.
Freedom of expression continues to be a key priority of the HRDP in 2014. In financial year 2014-15, the FCO funded nine projects around the world, totalling over £500,000. These include projects in: Azerbaijan, aimed at increasing the capacity of the legal profession to litigate freedom of expression cases and encourage adherence to domestic and international obligations; Bangladesh, aimed at increasing understanding and commitment of key governmental actors and law-makers to an initial legal reform process, and informing bloggers and online activists about their rights; and Russia, aimed at improving the digital, physical, legal safety and protection of Russian journalists and bloggers. The Foreign Secretary’s Advisory Group on Human Rights has a Sub-Group on Freedom of Expression on the Internet. The group brings together representatives from academia, civil society and industry. The group met in July with a particular focus on the UK’s proposals around data retention law, and the various reviews which are taking place into the UK’s authorisation and oversight procedures.
CHAPTER V: Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law
In order to protect their societies from crime, states sometimes need to use force, and to remove the liberty of convicted criminals. How states impose such sanctions is a core component of human rights – recognised in the UK as long ago as Magna Carta, which stated (in 1215) that:
No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.
To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay, right or justice.
These principles remain part of British law to this day.
States which do not respect the rights of their citizens to just process are often the most dangerous and lawless places to live. Conversely, countries with the highest respect for human rights tend to be safer, less criminal, and more orderly. In other words, governmental respect for human rights and public respect for the law can, and should, go hand-in-hand.
But the UK recognises that this balance is hard to achieve, and that many of our international partners are seeking to do so in difficult circumstances. Our approach is always to provide practical assistance where we can. Rule of law and access to justice programmes by the Department for International Development have enabled 85 million people in the poorest countries to hold their authorities to account, and millions of women to access security and justice. For other situations, where progress requires us to work closely with local authorities, including in countries of human rights concern, we have developed the Overseas Security and Justice Assistance (OSJA) framework. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued revised guidance on the human rights aspects of OSJA in February 2014. The guidance ensures that officials do their utmost to identify risks of UK actions causing unintended human rights consequences. Where such risks are apparent, officials must do their best to mitigate them and ensure that ministers are appropriately consulted. As the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, told Parliament in March:
Our expertise is highly valued across the world and improves the standards and capabilities of law enforcement and security agencies operating in the most challenging environments. Through this work, we aim to improve security and increase respect for the rule of law. However, it is important that we ensure that the skills and expertise we impart are not used to cause harm. The OSJA guidance is the government’s tool for assessing the human rights risks of our overseas security and justice assistance work and identifying measures to mitigate such risks.
The Death Penalty
Global abolition of the death penalty remains a priority for the UK government 50 years after the last execution took place in the UK. We oppose the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. We contend that its use undermines human dignity, that it has no value as a deterrent, and that any miscarriage of justice in capital cases is irreversible and irreparable. To states which retain and implement the death penalty, we offer practical and more effective alternatives.
The international trend towards abolition of the death penalty received strong support in December 2014 by means of the largest-ever UN General Assembly (UNGA) vote in favour of establishing a worldwide moratorium. 117 out of 193 UN member states voted in favour of the resolution, an increase of six votes since the last UNGA vote on this issue in 2012. Equatorial Guinea, Suriname, Niger, Fiji, Eritrea, Kiribati and Sao Tome and Principe were the new states voting in favour. While not binding, the growing support for this resolution shows that world opinion is hardening against the use of the death penalty.
There were some reversals in 2014: Jordan resumed executions after an eight-year period during which none had been carried out; and Pakistan carried out executions, having observed a de facto moratorium since 2008. Jordan cited public concerns over crime, while Pakistan was influenced by an appalling terrorist attack on a school in which 132 children died. To both governments we expressed understanding of their responsibility to protect the public from crime and terrorism, but argued that the death penalty is not an effective way to do so.
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. First, 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 the non-execution of juveniles.
In 2014 we continued to place a particular focus on two geographic regions: Asia and the Commonwealth Caribbean.
The picture in Asia has been mixed. In a number of states and territories in the region, steps are being considered to reduce the number of offences for which the death penalty may be applied – often a significant step on the path to abolition. Our Posts are actively following these developments and offering expert UK assistance where possible. However, executions did take place – two in Singapore (the first since 2008), and five in Taiwan, as well as unconfirmed reports of executions in Malaysia. It is believed that China continues to implement the highest number of executions in the world. While official figures are a state secret, estimates are in the [low] thousands.
Project work funded by the FCO, together with other governments, will help to clarify the question of public opinion on the death penalty in Japan, which executed three prisoners in 2014. The Japanese government has traditionally maintained that over 80% of the public supports capital punishment. However, research we have funded in other countries suggests that this figure tends to drop once the public is better informed about the circumstances leading to capital convictions, and the possibility of errors in justice systems. International experts,including the UN Human Rights Committee, have expressed concerns over the trial system in Japan; in May the Japanese authorities ordered a retrial and the release of Iwao Hakamada – after 45 years in solitary confinement, he was the world’s longest-serving death row prisoner.
In the Commonwealth Caribbean, FCO-funded project work in recent years has helped to establish legal safeguards, which have effectively restricted the use of the death penalty (see Chapter III for further details).
The FCO supports the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, which is chaired by Baroness Stern, and which works energetically with parliamentarians worldwide to bring about abolition. In 2014 the FCO funded lobbying visits by its members to the United States, Vietnam and Suriname. The group has also held consultations with the Taiwan Representative Office following previous visits by APPG members.
One outcome of this work has been readiness by Suriname to take formal steps towards abolishing the death penalty. Following the APPG visit, our Embassy has been involved in setting up expert-level consultations, which will hopefully lead to legislation being tabled during 2015. Suriname has not carried out any executions for many years. Each country which formally abolishes the death penalty strengthens the abolitionist trend in world opinion.
World Death Penalty Day on 10 October provides an important annual focus for worldwide efforts to promote abolition. To mark the occasion, we held a joint event with the APPG in London, attended by representatives of around 70 diplomatic missions. Baroness Stern, Chair of the APPG, and FCO Minister for Human Rights, Baroness Anelay, delivered keynote addresses, supported by the Ambassadors of Mexico and El Salvador. We were able to discuss views with a number of representatives of retentionist countries on retiring the death penalty, and we look forward to continuing this exchange.
Our keynote speakers noted that it was 50 years since the last execution took place in the UK, and reaffirmed their belief that the death penalty has no place in the 21st century. They also welcomed the fact that more than 150 members of the UN had already renounced capital punishment, in law or practice, and hoped that all other states would soon follow.
Throughout 2014, we raised the death penalty regularly with individual states in the United States, including specific cases, both bilaterally and with EU partners. The use of the death penalty in the United States is declining. In 2014 there were 35 executions in just six states – only the third time in 20 years there have been fewer than 40 executions. In April, during an execution in Oklahoma, poor administration of lethal drugs led to the condemned man suffering for 43 minutes before death. This spurred President Obama to announce a federal review of the problems surrounding the application of the death penalty. So far, 18 out of 50 American states have abolished the death penalty completely.
In 2015, we will continue to implement our strategy. We will fund further project work in a number of countries. We will also seek to consolidate the gains made at the UNGA vote on a worldwide moratorium.
Torture is always wrong.
–Prime Minister David Cameron, 9 December 2014
Global torture prevention remains a priority for the UK government. Torture or other ill treatment is abhorrent and prohibited under international law. The impact on victims, their families and their communities is devastating. It can never be justified in any circumstance. The UK is clear that it does not participate in, solicit, encourage, or condone the use of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment for any purpose.
On 10 December, the international community celebrated the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).
To date, 156 countries are States Parties to the convention. Despite these commitments, torture is still widely practised. All too often the perpetrators go unpunished and steps are not taken to prevent the crime being repeated.
In 2014, we continued to pursue the three goals of the FCO Strategy for the Prevention of Torture 2011-15: to ensure that legal frameworks are in place and enforced; to develop political will and capacity to prevent and prohibit torture; and to fund projects to ensure organisations on the ground have the necessary expertise and training to prevent torture.
Preventing torture and tackling impunity for those who commit torture are not only the right things to do, but are integral to fair legal systems and the rule of law. All this work should be mutually reinforcing, and we have made clear our determination to address allegations of UK complicity in any wrong when it is alleged that mistakes have been made. The Detainee Inquiry is an example of this determination; see Chapter VII for more details. Torture prevention work also supports consular work by helping to reduce the risk of mistreatment of British nationals imprisoned abroad.
Throughout the year, we used our influence and diplomatic network to raise individual cases and concerns, both publicly and in private. To mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on 26 June, the then FCO Minister for Human Rights, Baroness Warsi, made a statement reiterating the government’s commitment to combating torture, and encouraging states that had not yet done so to ratify the CAT and its optional protocol (OPCAT). We harnessed social media to raise awareness of the global problem of torture. Working closely with the Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT) and the co-founder of Survivors Speak Out (a network of torture survivors), we used the day to ensure that our policy is not only informed by the experience of the survivors of torture, but that we also give them a voice.
We have continued to pursue the prevention of torture through multilateral organisations. In the UN, we pledged support for the secretariat to the Sub-Committee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and contributed to the Special Fund for the OPCAT. The UK strongly supported the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which was once again adopted by consensus, and the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate. In September, FCO Minister for Defence and International Security, Tobias Ellwood, made a statement at the UNGA during an event held by the Convention against Torture Initiative (CTI). The CTI has set itself the goal of universal ratification of the CAT by 2024, and a reduction in the risk of torture through sharing good practice and technical assistance. In his statement, Mr Ellwood gave the UK’s full support for this important initiative, and confirmed that the UK was joining the Group of Friends of the initiative.
At the UNGA Third Committee, we spoke during a session with the Chair of the Committee against Torture, the Chair of the Sub-Committee on Prevention of Torture, and the Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In the EU, we played a role in the “Task Force” on torture, and participated in discussions to mark the 30th anniversary of the CAT, and the global eradication of torture. In the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe, we contributed to discussions on a Ministerial Council decision on torture prevention. In the Council of Europe (CoE), we supported the work of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture. The committee is comprised of an independent expert from each of the member states, including the UK, and makes cyclical visits to monitor places of detention. Its work is closely considered by the CoE Committee of Ministers when monitoring situations of concern in countries, most recently in Ukraine and Russia. In November, the committee paid its first visit to Gibraltar to assess the conditions of detention, and the safeguards in place for persons deprived of their liberty. The committee also visited the UK to examine the treatment and conditions of detention of one person convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
The UK launched its Strategy for the Prevention of Torture in 2011. This global strategy may be the first of its kind. As the strategy makes plain, torture prevention is a human rights priority for the UK and an issue which we care deeply about.
-Mr Ellwood, speaking at the UN in New York, September 2014
Throughout 2014, we continued to work with local and international NGOs, prosecutors, prison services and other partners. Activities included:
encouraging governments to sign and ratify the CAT and OPCAT. We welcomed the accession to the CAT by Eritrea; the ratification of the OPCAT by Finland and Greece, and the accession to the OPCAT by Lithuania, Morocco and Mozambique;
dedicating Human Rights and Democracy Programme funds to eight torture prevention projects during the financial year 2014-15. These include a second year of a multi-country project carried out by the APT, which aims to promote an open and informed process of ratification and implementation, ensuring effective National Preventative Mechanisms (NPMs) mandated by the OPCAT are put in place. This has involved torture prevention work in Bahrain, Brazil, Fiji, Indonesia, Morocco, Burma, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey and Uganda. We have also funded an update of the Torture Reporting Handbook by the University of Essex; and
British Embassies and High Commissions marked International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. For example, the British Chargé d’Affaires to Kazakhstan made a statement emphasising UK support in the establishment and implementation of the NPM against Torture.
The FCO’s Advisory Sub-Group on Torture Prevention, including experts from academia, the legal profession, NGOs, former police officers and prison governors, continued to advise on implementation of the FCO Strategy for the Prevention of Torture, identifying lessons learnt so far, and providing advice on the focus of future work.
International Justice System
The UK’s support for international criminal justice is based on the principle that there must be no impunity for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
International justice can make a contribution to the promotion of long-term security by addressing the underlying causes of conflict, helping victims of atrocities and their communities obtain justice and come to terms with the past, and deterring those who might otherwise commit such violations in the future.
The UK has continued to provide political support and practical assistance and cooperation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (currently transitioning to a new mechanism for international criminal tribunals), and the voluntarily-funded tribunals for Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Lebanon. The UK provided financial contributions of over £16 million in 2014.
International Criminal Court (ICC)
The ICC is the world’s first permanent independent international criminal court with jurisdiction over the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.
UK support to the ICC is underpinned by the UK ICC Strategy, launched in 2013, which seeks 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.
There are currently nine ongoing situations before the ICC: Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Darfur (Sudan), Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Libya, Mali, and two investigations concerning the Central African Republic (CAR). In addition, there are now eight ongoing preliminary examinations, in Afghanistan, Honduras, Colombia, Nigeria, Georgia, Guinea, Iraq and Ukraine.
In May, the ICC Prosecutor announced the reopening of a preliminary examination into allegations of abuses by UK forces in Iraq. The UK government rejects the allegation that there was systematic abuse carried out by British forces in Iraq, but we also recognise that the Prosecutor must follow the proper procedures when serious complaints are made. We will continue to cooperate with her office.
The annual ICC Assembly of States Parties took place from 8-17 December in New York. With the UK delegation headed by Baroness Anelay, implementation of the International Protocol on Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence was a priority for UK participation. The UK also worked with other States Parties to agree a budget for 2015 and elect six new judges to take up post in 2015.
The Trust Fund for Victims was established by the Rome Statute with a dual mandate of implementing court-ordered reparations and providing physical, psychological and material support to victims and their families. In 2014, the UK contributed £1 million to projects for survivors of sexual violence in conflict through the Trust Fund for Victims. We will continue to support the ICC in its efforts to place victims at the centre of the response to international crimes.
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)
In 2014, the UK continued to support the ICTY and the tribunal’s work to deliver justice to the victims of the wars in the former Yugoslavia.
The timely completion of ICTY trial activity is a priority for the UK. In January , the ICTY Appeals Chamber upheld convictions in cases of Šainović, Pavković, Lukić, and Lazarević, four former high-ranking Yugoslav and Serbian officials convicted in 2009 for crimes committed against Kosovo Albanians in 1999. The trials of Radovan Karadžić, Ratko Mladić, and Goran Hadžić also all reached important milestones. In Karadžić’s trial, the defence case closed on 1 May, and closing arguments were held between 29 September and 7 October. In Mladić’s trial, the prosecution rested its case on 26 February (although it was subsequently re-opened following the discovery of new evidence) and the defence case opened on 19 May. Finally, in Hadžić’s trial, the prosecution rested on 9 April, and the defence case commenced on 3 July. However, progress on Vojislav Šešelj’s case has been delayed, and on 6 November he was provisionally released on humanitarian grounds and transferred to Serbia. His trial is expected to resume in 2015.
The UK continued to play a leading role in supporting the ICTY’s work by providing consistent political and practical support; such as granting access to UK records, UK-based witnesses, and other ad hoc requests for assistance.
In 2015, the ICTY will continue to hand over activities to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT). The UK fully supports this transition, and will continue to support activity that safeguards the ICTY’s legacy.
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)
2014 marked the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide and establishment of the ICTR. The genocide in Rwanda was a global tragedy, which has had a profound influence on the international community’s approach to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, and international justice. The ICTR’s work over the last 20 years has been instrumental in developing international law and ensuring that those most responsible for the genocide are held accountable.
The ICTR held a number of events to mark both of these important anniversaries, and continued its transition to the MICT. The UK believes that efforts must continue to apprehend the remaining ICTR fugitives.
The ICTR’s work is expected to conclude and its transition to the MICT to be completed in 2015. The UK will continue to support the ICTR’s work to tackle impunity, deliver justice to the victims of the Rwandan genocide, and secure the ICTR’s legacy.
Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)
The most senior surviving members of the Khmer Rouge regime, Kheiu Samphan and Nuon Chea, were sentenced to life imprisonment in the first phase of Case 002 in August. This phase focused on alleged crimes committed during the forced movement of people from cities in 1975-76. The ECCC is now hearing the appeal while continuing with the trial in the second phase of Case 002, which deals with such crimes as the genocide of the Cambodian Muslim population, forced marriage, and rape. Throughout the year, the court’s outreach program continued to help educate and inform Cambodians across the country about its work.
The FCO Minister for Asia, Hugo Swire, emphasised the importance of the court’s work, both privately and publicly, on his visit to Cambodia in January 2014. The UK also contributed £500,000 to the court in 2014, and helped the fundraising effort by lobbying new and existing donors to provide contributions. In addition, the UK also joined the UN and other members of the Principal Donors Group to secure UN authority to commit US$15.5 million to supplement voluntary donations. This provided the court with the financial stability and certainty it urgently needed. We will continue efforts to place the court on a secure financial footing in 2015.
The Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone (RSCSL)
The RSCSL opened on 1 January to carry out ongoing and ad hoc functions that remain in order to secure the legacy of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). It is responsible for supervising 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, is important for the long-term sustainability of international justice.
Charles Taylor, the first former head of state since the Nuremberg trials to be convicted for war crimes, is currently in a UK prison serving the remainder of his 50-year sentence for aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war.
The UK contributed L100,000 to the court in 2014. The UK will maintain its support for the RSCSL in 2015, including on the RSCSL oversight committee.
Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL)
On 16 January, the trials of four of the five individuals suspected of killing former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri began at the STL. The trial was adjourned in February to allow defence counsel for the fifth defendant to prepare, and resumed in June. All five individuals remain at large, but the STL continues to operate under the Lebanese criminal code, and is the first tribunal of its kind to allow trials in absentia.
The UK has contributed £5.5 million to the STL since 2009, and continues to support the STL’s work fully. As an independent tribunal, the STL has an important role to play in promoting stability and respect for the rule of law in Lebanon.
International Humanitarian Law (IHL)
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 established in customary international law, regulates the conduct of armed conflicts.
2014 was the 150th anniversary of the first Geneva Convention. To mark this important occasion, the FCO and the British Red Cross held an event entitled “150 years of International Humanitarian Law: the UK Experience” attended by ministers, MPs, government officials, foreign diplomats, NGOs, academics and members of the media. We also published a paper, “The UK and International Humanitarian Law”.
The UK has worked closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on their initiative to strengthen mechanisms of compliance with IHL. 2015 will see the 32nd quadrennial International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent take place in Geneva, at which the ICRC will provide an update on this initiative. The conference will also be an opportunity to further UK IHL and humanitarian policy objectives, and we will make a number of pledges on actions that we intend to take in coming years.
CHAPTER VI: Equality and Non-discrimination
Freedom of Religion or Belief
Freedom of religion or belief, based on the full definition set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, has continued to be a human rights priority for the UK government throughout the course of 2014. It is one of the most difficult areas in which to make visible progress, but it is a fundamental human right, and one that impacts on many other rights. A particular focus of government activity has been combating extremism, and preventing it from taking root. Our policies and initiatives in this area have focused on a wide range of countries where we judge that the UK is best placed to make an impact and have been aimed at promoting societies where everyone may freely practise his or her religion, change religion, or exclude religion from their own world view; and where everyone is encouraged to accept that others are entitled to live out their own belief, without persecution.
2014 presented a challenging global environment for the exercise of freedom of religion or belief. Particularly devastating has been the march across Iraq and Syria of ISIL, with its war cry of “convert, or die!” and its murderous rejection of all who do not subscribe to its perverted version of Islam. Muslims, Christians, Yezidis and others have all been affected. In Iraq, as in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa, the space for Christians has continued to close, with the Christian population in Iraq reportedly shrinking from 1.2 million before 2003 to just 350,000 today. In Syria, the continued brutality of the Syrian regime has radicalised many and stoked sectarian tensions, while extremist groups such as ISIL have obstructed the exercise of religious freedom, dramatically increased attacks on religious communities and buildings, and continued to target civilians on the basis of religion or belief. And across the Middle East and many parts of Africa, the extremist religious ideology espoused by groups such as the Taliban, Boko Haram and El Shabaab has spawned widespread human rights abuses directed at all whose beliefs are different from their own.
As in previous years, there have been many heart-rending individual cases, in many different countries, where individuals have been persecuted, imprisoned and discriminated against because of their faith or belief. Most of these cases do not attract wide public attention. However, during 2014, one story in particular prompted campaigning around the world – the case of Meriam Ibrahim, charged with apostasy and adultery and imprisoned in Sudan with her young son while heavily pregnant. Meriam, who was tried for choosing to follow and marry into the Christian faith while her father was a Muslim, was obliged to give birth to her daughter in chains. Prime Minister David Cameron, Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, and the then Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, all publicly condemned the treatment of Ms Ibrahim, and called on the government of Sudan to respect her human rights, including the right to freedom of religion or belief. Following wide media coverage and concerted pressure from the international community, plus support from her legal team (one of whom was trained in the UK) who worked tirelessly on the case, Meriam was eventually released. However, she was forced to flee the country and is now in the United States.
This was not an isolated case. Ms Ibrahim’s situation caught the world’s imagination; however, others, facing similar charges and pressures, but without publicity, are forced to renounce their faith and their families. We continue to press the government of Sudan to undertake a comprehensive review of the relevant legal issues to ensure its laws reflect both its own constitution and international human rights standards. On her departure to the United States, Mr Simmonds issued a statement that called on the government of Sudan to “reflect on the lessons of Meriam’s case and ensure that [freedom of religion or belief] is upheld for all.”
In Pakistan, the arbitrary application and misuse of blasphemy laws, and the lack of accountability for those who discriminate against or attack those from religious minorities, has led to many abuses of the right to freedom of religion or belief. Mr Cameron raised our concerns about the blasphemy laws with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in both April and December. The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, also raised these concerns with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on 13 November and FCO Minister for Pakistan, Tobias Ellwood, discussed the misuse of these laws with Pakistan’s High Commissioner in October. We will continue to raise these issues at the highest level in Pakistan; and to urge the government to guarantee human rights as laid down in Pakistan’s Constitution, and in accordance with international standards. We are concerned that Asia Bibi’s latest appeal against her sentence for blasphemy was rejected, and have expressed our hope that the verdict will be overturned on appeal. We were also shocked by the violent murder of a couple accused of blasphemy in November. FCO Minister for Human Rights, Baroness Anelay, issued a statement in response, urging the authorities to investigate and to bring to justice those responsible.
In addition, during the year there were increasing concerns about the high level of discrimination against the Ahmadiyya in Pakistan. In July, the then FCO Minister for Human Rights, Baroness Warsi, expressed her concern about the killing of an Ahmadiyya woman and two children in Gujranwala when a mob set fire to houses, following accusations of Ahmadiyyas posting blasphemous content on social media sites.
There has been no real improvement in the treatment of minority religious groups in Iran in 2014. The Baha’i community continue to be systematically persecuted. 2014 saw the desecration of a prominent Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz, which was halted following international outcry, but resumed a few months later. The Baha’i community continue to face restrictions on access to education and employment, and the seven leaders of the Baha’i faith remain in prison. Christians, and especially Christian converts, continued to face widespread persecution in 2014. Many Christians were arrested in the course of the year, the majority for their involvement in the house church movement. Sunni Muslims and Dervishes also suffered discrimination and human rights abuses. We continue to raise these issues at the UN and other international fora.
In Burma, 2014 saw continuing prejudice and discrimination against the country’s religious minorities. In addition to the ongoing desperate situation of the Rohingya Muslim community in Rakhine State, violence against Muslim minority communities flared up in locations across the country. This has corresponded with an alarming increase in hate speech and the rise of vocal minority Buddhist nationalist movements within Burma. Deeply troubling new laws have also been proposed on interfaith marriage and religious conversion. There have been reports of harassment, intimidation and threats against civil society activists who have voiced criticism of these laws. We have expressed strong concerns over religious intolerance and the proposed faith-based legislation to the Burmese government and parliamentarians. We are also pressing the Burmese authorities to take steps toward a long-term solution in Rakhine that brings peace and reconciliation, and protects the human rights of all communities. FCO Minister for Asia, Hugo Swire, spoke out publicly to this end on his visit to Burma in January 2014, and met representatives of the Rohingya community to hear their concerns first-hand.
Worldwide, we have continued to promote the right to freedom of religion or belief in four ways. We have: acted through multilateral organisations and with a wide range of international partners; raised issues bilaterally; funded targeted project work; and continued to improve the religious literacy of our own staff, to equip them better to engage with faith groups and to appreciate the many ways in which the right to freedom of religion or belief may be violated.
In the multilateral system we have worked to ensure that the two resolutions on this subject – the EU-sponsored text on Freedom of Religion or Belief and the parallel text led by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on combating religious intolerance – were again adopted by consensus at the March session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and then at the UN General Assembly (UNGA).
We recognise that individual countries’ actions to promote and protect the right to freedom of religion or belief and combat religious intolerance are more important than action in the UN. However, we continue to believe that preserving the UN consensus gives us a valuable point of departure for discussions on this issue with countries whose perspective differs radically from our own. Experience shows that language that gains currency in UN resolutions does slowly trickle down into domestic legislation. Again this year, we were able to strengthen the EU resolution on freedom of religion or belief slightly, including with a reference to the protection of religious minorities. We continued to support the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, and were pleased to be able to host a discussion of his report, “Tackling Religious Intolerance and Discrimination at the Workplace”, in the margins of the UNGA in New York. We also worked to ensure that country-specific resolutions, such as that adopted by the Iraq Special Session of the HRC in September, contained language on the right of people from all religions or beliefs to contribute equally to society.
Over the course of the year, every FCO minister has raised individual cases and discriminatory legislation and practices in the countries for which they are responsible. In addition to the Pakistan and Sudan examples cited above, Mr Ellwood spoke out in July to condemn attacks by ISIL on Christians and other religious minorities. He called on the international community to support the government of Iraq in its fight against ISIL. Baroness Warsi visited Oman and Saudi Arabia in February to discuss freedom of religion or belief. She gave a speech at the Grand Mosque in Muscat which commended Oman for pursuing mutual respect and understanding between religious groups. She raised the importance of this in Saudi Arabia with the Governor and Mayor of Makkah, the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques, and the head of the OIC. In April she visited Malaysia, to deliver a speech on freedom of religion or belief to an audience convened by the Global Movement of Moderates; and she attended a Christian church on Easter Day in Brunei.
Within the EU, we continued to work with partners and the European External Action Service to ensure that the EU’s Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief were implemented at country level and incorporated into national action plans and strategies. We also worked closely with EU partners on joint statements and démarches in individual countries, for example in Sudan and Pakistan.
Beyond the EU, we welcomed the creation, by the office of Canada’s Ambassador for International Religious Freedom, of an international contact group on freedom of religion or belief. We were also encouraged by the efforts of parliamentarians from across the globe to work more closely to raise the profile of freedom of religion or belief through the creation of an international parliamentary network.
Despite the intrinsic difficulty of designing effective projects on this topic, we increased the number of good quality bids to our Human Rights and Democracy Programme Fund. Amongst other projects, we funded a series of workshops to promote responsible media reporting on sensitive issues around religion and conflict in Burma, and worked to enhance the role of the judiciary through policy reform and training in Indonesia. We also pledged a contribution to and joined the Executive Board of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF). This is a new global fund, drawing on resources from both public and private sectors, dedicated to building resilience against violent extremist agendas through local community based projects.
We continued to run our programme of religious literacy training for our staff, holding our one-day training course three times in the year and continuing our regular series of lunchtime seminars. Topics covered this year have included the role of religion in Israel/Palestine, media reporting from religious hotspots, understanding Hinduism, militant Buddhism, and World Christianity and its influence on international affairs. A prominent speaker in this series was former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Rowan Williams. We have continued to welcome colleagues from different UK government agencies to take part in our courses.
A new development has been the setting up of an advisory group on freedom of religion or belief, as a sub-group to the Foreign Secretary’s Advisory Group on Human Rights. Its members are acknowledged experts in the field, drawn from a wide range of different backgrounds and perspectives. Like the other advisory groups, it met twice during the year, and we have consulted its members on an ad hoc basis between meetings. Their expert advice and challenge has strengthened policy formation in this area.
Looking ahead to 2015, we will aim, in particular, to encourage closer cooperation between EU member states on this issue, including through the convening of an international workshop in February, and to play an active part in the new Canadian contact group. We will continue to consult the advisory group and will design a religious literacy element of the foundation level curriculum for the FCO’s new Diplomatic Academy. We will be vigilant in ensuring that individual cases of persecution are raised promptly and at the highest level. We will do all that we can to stem the tide of persecution of individuals on the basis of their religion or belief.
Throughout 2014, the government continued to develop and implement strategies to address rising antisemitism both in the UK and internationally. We engage closely with civil society groups and law enforcement agencies to build greater victim confidence in coming forward to report incidents, as well as tackling hate crime itself. We encourage our Embassies and High Commissions across the world to remain vigilant to resurgent antisemitism and report to London on developing issues of concern. We work actively through multilateral organisations and bilaterally to tackle antisemitism wherever it is found. The UK is highly regarded within the international community for its efforts in this field, and is often invited to share best practice in international fora.
The FCO plays an active part in the Cross-Government Working Group on Antisemitism. Over the course of 2014, the group has continued to provide an invaluable opportunity to review long-term efforts between government and the Jewish community to discuss and tackle antisemitism. The group is coordinated by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), and consists of civil servants from across Whitehall, representatives of the Community Security Trust. Jewish Leadership Council, Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism. In this way, the government is kept fully informed of trends in antisemitism and threats to the Jewish community. The group also provides a forum for Jewish community leaders to hear directly from the government about steps being taken to address antisemitism.
During 2014, the group was addressed by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Communities Minister Stephen Williams. It also met the Cross Government Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hatred in order to share best practice. The government is fully committed to ensuring that the group continues in its current form. This has been welcomed by the Jewish community, which has expressed public and private support for its continuation.
In 2014, the group stepped up its efforts to tackle internet hate crime, engaging with major international social media sites to ensure perpetrators of such crimes cannot remain anonymous. Its government members collaborated to produce a report, published in December, “Government Action Against Antisemitism”, which constituted the government’s final response to the Enquiry of the All-Party Group on Antisemitism (2006).
In November, the Swiss Chairmanship-in-Office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) organised a “High Level Commemorative Event” in Berlin to mark the 10th anniversary of the Berlin Conference on Antisemitism. The event took reviewed commitments made in 2004 in light of new challenges relating to the rise of antisemitism in continental Europe, including after last year’s Gaza conflict. The UK sent a strong delegation, led by DCLG Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Penny Mordaunt. UK engagement was multidisciplinary, including the Ministry of Justice policy lead on hate crime, the Head of the FCO’s Human Rights and Democracy Department, and civil society in the form of the Community Security Trust. The Chair of the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism, John Mann, spoke at the event.
OSCE participating states followed up the Berlin meeting by agreeing a “Declaration on Enhancing Efforts to Combat Antisemitism” at the annual OSCE Ministerial Conference in Basel in December. The declaration expressed concern at the number of antisemitic incidents taking place in the OSCE area, condemned manifestations of antisemitism, intolerance and discrimination against Jews, and called on political leaders and public figures to speak out against antisemitic incidents whenever they occur. We attach importance to the work of the ODIHR in supporting the efforts of OSCE participating states to counter antisemitism, including through the facilitation of cooperation on issues such as hate crime and Holocaust remembrance.
IHRA (see below) continued to play an active role in monitoring and challenging antisemitism through its Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial. The committee considered reports on a number of countries during its meetings in London and Manchester as part of the UK Chairmanship programme, and made recommendations to the Plenary on how to fight antisemitism in all its forms.
The UK plays a leading role in international collaboration to ensure that the lessons from the Holocaust remain forever seared in our collective memory, focusing particularly on future generations. Our international efforts are spearheaded by Sir Andrew Burns, the UK Envoy on Post-Holocaust Issues, who aims to draw together the excellent work being done by UK non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Holocaust education, remembrance and research, and to facilitate the international sharing of best practice.
2014 saw the UK taking on the chairmanship of the foremost international body in this area, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). We hold the chairmanship until March 2015. As part of our chairmanship, we organised two Plenary meetings in the UK, in London in May and in Manchester in December, each attracting around 250 of the world’s leading Holocaust experts from IHRA’s 31 member states, eight observer countries and seven international partners. The May meeting was preceded by an academic conference on the Roma Genocide, organised by IHRA’s Committee on the Genocide of the Roma, in partnership with the Holocaust Education Centre of the Institute of Education, University of London. The December meeting was preceded by a conference, organised by Staffordshire University, entitled “What Britain knew: The Holocaust and Nazi Crimes”.
We used our chairmanship to facilitate discussions in the Plenary meetings on issues of real substance, continuing the shift away from a focus on procedural issues. Expert working groups analysed the impact of Holocaust education and sharing best practice. They conducted research into the killing sites, where enormous numbers of Holocaust victims met their death in quarries, woods and ditches at the edge of towns and villages across Eastern Europe. They also identified the scope and need for further liberalisation of access to Holocaust archives. In addition, they helped with the development of Holocaust remembrance in countries coming relatively new to the subject. The May meeting approved a new grant strategy and the December session adopted new guidelines on the use of social media in Holocaust education.
As IHRA Chair, Sir Andrew Burns visited many IHRA member countries, and countries considering IHRA membership, or partnering with IHRA in some other way. His visits included the Vatican City, Hungary, Turkey, Macedonia, Albania, Romania, Moldova and Greece. As a result of British efforts, and those of previous IHRA Chairs, Albania, Moldova and El Salvador joined as new observer countries at the December Plenary. Sir Andrew also contributed to ensuring that IHRA plays a more active role in discussions about how lessons learned from the Holocaust can help in future genocide prevention. The UK will be succeeded as chair by Hungary and then Romania. We have had extensive discussions with both about IHRA’s future leadership needs.
Sir Andrew represents the UK on the International Commission of the International Tracing Service (ITS), which oversees the management of archives from the concentration, slave labour and displaced persons camps. Under the professional supervision of its Director, Dr Rebecca Boehling, the ITS continues its transition towards a modern, outward-facing research resource. While continuing to prioritise research assistance for victims of the Holocaust and their families, the ITS is opening up its archives to public access. Good use continues to be made of the UK digital copy of the ITS archive, which is available for consultation at the Wiener Library in London. There were 241 requests for access in 2014, up slightly on the 2013 figure. There has been a steady increase in academic/thematic research. The remainder of the requests were from Holocaust survivors and their families. There was excellent cooperation throughout the year between the Wiener Library and other institutions holding copies of the ITS archive, with the aim of ensuring that the results of research are made available to all institutions, and that expertise in navigating this difficult resource is pooled.
Sir Andrew continued to try to make progress on the tricky area of restitution of property seized by the Nazis and their allies during and in the run-up to the Second World War. In 2014, he raised specific cases with the governments of Germany and Poland and joined with other member states of the European Shoah Legacy Institute in Prague in developing common strategies towards restitution of fixed property, restitution of cultural property, and improved social welfare for Holocaust survivors in countries where they lack adequate care.
The Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission continued its work during 2014 to consider how best the UK might ensure that it has a permanent memorial to the Holocaust and educational resources for future generations. In the margins of the IHRA Plenary meeting in May, we facilitated meetings between members of the commission and international Holocaust experts. The commission also visited Israel and the US as part of its evidence-gathering process.
Another aspect of post-Holocaust work is looking after the welfare of Holocaust survivors. A large number of these have chosen to make their home in Israel. Our Ambassador in Israel has continued to expand a network of social clubs for Holocaust survivors, known as Café Britain. There are now 21 clubs across Israel, attended each week by over 1,600 survivors. These clubs continue to provide an emotional lifeline, enabling the survivors to deal with the trauma of their wartime experiences in a warm and caring environment. The clubs continue to offer activities such as art, storytelling workshops and memoir writing, as well as educational trips throughout the country, exercise, dance, and yoga, and therapy for people with autism, dementia, or developmental disabilities. The British Embassy in Israel continues to work with the Joint Distribution Committee on this initiative.
Looking forward, 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen Belsen, and other concentration and death camps. The government will be actively involved in a busy programme of activities to mark this anniversary, spanning our own Holocaust Memorial Day events, as well as commemorations at the camps themselves. The Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission will publish recommendations in January. Within the IHRA, although we will be handing over the chairmanship to Hungary in March, we will continue to play an active role as the former chair. In particular, Sir Andrew will chair an international panel of experts to advise on the content of the new House of Fates museum in Budapest. IHRA member states reaffirmed in Manchester their continuing commitment to the undertakings they accepted 15 years ago in the Stockholm Declaration of 2000. This commitment will be reaffirmed in their public statements around Holocaust Memorial Day in 2015.
Measures to combat hate crimes against Muslims at local community level were the focus of an expert meeting on 28 April 2014 in Vienna, organised jointly by the Swiss OSCE Chairmanship and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The meeting brought together government officials, community leaders, civil society representatives and academics from 26 OSCE participating states. Iqbal Bhana from the UK’s Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crimes spoke at the event.
During the meeting, participants discussed a number of projects and initiatives aimed at enhancing cooperation between law enforcement officers and Muslim communities to combat hate crimes, including training police about anti- Muslim prejudice, and measures to increase inclusiveness and diversity in law enforcement agencies.
We attach importance to the work that ODIHR does to combat anti-Muslim hatred, including through the delivery of training workshops for community leaders and civil society representatives, as well as policy advice and training for law enforcement personnel, on preventing, responding to, and reporting on hate crimes against Muslims.
We also raise anti-Muslim hatred in our bilateral contacts. A current example of anti-Muslim discrimination is that of Burma, and its 2015 elections, which represent both an opportunity and a risk for human rights (see above). The UK is one of the largest bilateral donors in Rakhine and, since 2012, we have provided £12 million in humanitarian aid, and a further £4.5 million towards projects that support livelihoods. We are also supporting work throughout Burma, including through projects aimed at assisting activists in tackling religious intolerance, including through interfaith dialogue.
The UK’s cross-government Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group 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, some of its activities have an international focus. After the rise of ISIL during 2014, the group discussed what actions might be taken, and held meetings with local Imams.
The group extended its relationship with international organisations to work on a definition of anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia, and ways of addressing hatred on the internet. The UK continues to share best practice internationally, and is seen as an example of effective collaboration between government officials, police and civil society, who work together to combat hate crime. The Community Security Trust, a Jewish organisation with extensive experience in reporting antisemitic hate crime, has continued to assist the UK charity Faith Matters and its TELL MAMA reporting programme in further developing its data collection system.
The promotion and protection of women’s rights is enshrined in international human rights law, and it is essential for stable and prosperous societies, within which women fully participate in political, economic and social life. Without gender equality, development goals and poverty reduction cannot be fully realised. Without the participation of women in conflict resolution and peace-building, there can be no sustainable and equitable peace.
As FCO Minister for Middle East and North Africa, Tobias Ellwood, said in October:
when women face discrimination and are denied the freedoms we take for granted – like freedom of association and expression – all of society suffers; when women are denied an education, access to healthcare, and the chance to contribute to the economy – society suffers.
A partnership across government
Women’s rights are a priority for the FCO. We work in many countries around the world, and at all relevant multilateral bodies to promote and protect them. It is why the FCO hosted the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, and why the Department for International Development (DFID), the Home Office and the FCO worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the Prime Minister’s Girl Summit on ending female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) – see case study below.
We often work in partnership with DFID to help translate political commitments, made by countries at the UN and obligations in their own laws and constitutions, into education, jobs, equal participation, and leadership positions for women. And we work to prevent victimisation and violence against women to ensure that they are a visible force in every society.
For example, the UK government played a significant role in pushing hidden, sensitive and neglected issues into the spotlight, including FGM (see Chapter IX for details on the UK’s work on FGM for British nationals), sexual violence, and intimate partner violence in all contexts, including in humanitarian emergencies. In autumn 2014, a report showed that, since 2012, DFID had increased programming by 63% to address violence against women and girls – with a six-fold increase in humanitarian programming that includes prevention or response to gender-based violence.
FCO officials also attend regular meetings with other UK government departments to ensure that all our efforts are consistent and complementary, including meetings chaired by the Home Office to chart progress against the government’s Violence Against Women Action Plan. Within this plan, the FCO has specific commitments, which include raising awareness of forced marriage and supporting the ratification and lobbying for the full implementation of the Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
UK action at the multilateral level
The UK government worked hard during 2014 to ensure that the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which is the UN’s primary forum for promoting gender equality and the human rights of women and girls, called for the rights of women and girls to be reflected as a stand-alone goal, and to be integrated through targets and indicators into all goals of the new post-2015 development framework. This was a good outcome, achieved despite determined efforts from some countries to roll back previously agreed positions on women’s rights. We also achieved robust language on UK priorities including: ending violence against women and girls; economic empowerment; leadership and participation in decisionmaking; and ending harmful practices, including CEFM and FGM.
We successfully introduced similar language within UN Human Rights Council (HRC) resolutions on the elimination of discrimination against women, and on accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women. Our negotiators at the UK Missions in Geneva and New York also helped generate international momentum to end CEFM, including helping to find global consensus on two worthwhile resolutions at the HRC and in the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) Third Committee. During the Universal Periodic Review process, the UK raised women’s rights, including CEDAW implementation, with Afghanistan, El Salvador, New Zealand, and Vanuatu.
A key element of women’s empowerment is ensuring girls and women have voice, choice and control on matters of sex, marriage and having children. 2014 was the 20th anniversary of the International Conference on Population & Development (the “Cairo” declaration) that laid the basis of international agreements on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The UK played an active role in ensuring the Cairo agenda was reaffirmed at the UN this year, and that it will inform the post-2015 development framework. We will continue to champion universal access to SRHR through discussions on the post-2015 development framework.
The UK leads on the Women, Peace and Security agenda in the UN Security Council and continues to champion it internationally. 2014 saw the launch of the UK’s third National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. As with the previous NAP, it continues to have bilateral focus covering Afghanistan, Burma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, Somalia and Syria. 2014 also saw the launch of our first Implementation Plan (IP).This will be used to assess the impact of UK efforts on Women, Peace and Security throughout the life of this NAP, and will capture and report lessons to inform future activity. More detail on Women, Peace and Security, including the NAP and IP, is covered in its own section in this report.
Furthermore, the UK government continues to challenge the international community to do more to address sexual and gender-based violence in emergencies, most recently at the Call to Action event at the UNGA in September 2014, where the Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, called for increased efforts to protect vulnerable women and girls in the face of today’s unprecedented humanitarian needs.
UK action at country level
Whilst the international system is key to setting the standards, real change that breaks down discriminatory attitudes and behaviour, and leads to better, more equitable and fairer lives for women, can only happen when states fully realise these standards. The FCO works around the world to ensure this is the case by addressing violence against women, and by promoting female economic emancipation and political participation.
In 2014, DFID supported an innovative mobile phone-based application called Safetipin, which gives users information on how safe an area is, and provides locations and numbers for services such as the police, hospital and taxi stands. The application has been rolled out in several cities, both in India and other countries. In Guatemala, an Embassy supported project titled “Never Again” worked particularly with indigenous communities to tackle the taboos related to sexual violence in conflict, helping them overcome the effects it caused individually and socially. In the Philippines, we funded a project to build on the momentum of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and to ensure that the final law, which will bring this agreement into practice, is gender-sensitive. We are also working to understand how best to ensure Bangsamoro women are involved in the ensuing peace process, and hosted a summit one day before International Women’s Day to entrench women’s participation in the establishment of a new devolved government in Mindanao. In response to typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, DFID took action to ensure that its partners included protection of girls and women as part of its overall response. We deployed technical specialists in violence against girls and women to support the UN, coordinated efforts, and contributed £77million to the humanitarian response. DFID led a post-response lessons-learned review, with participation from UN and NGO partners, which produced recommendations for improvements on gender-based violence programming in future responses.
In Brazil, FCO funding helped develop a smartphone application called Smart Women App. This app provides routes to the nearest place to get help if threatened with violence, offers information regarding the Maria da Penha law on domestic violence, and provides access to a helpline. The initiative was later federalised by the Brazilian government and now reaches the whole country. In the Dominican Republic, the Embassy supported a project aimed at empowering women; the project won first prize at the GEM-Tech Awards 2014, which encourage young women from science, technology, engineering and mathematics clubs to continue their higher education.
We often make use of high-profile events to ensure our messages are heard and heeded. For example, a number of our Embassies and High Commissions marked International Women’s Day, held on 8 March. The High Commission in Jamaica brought together 17 of Kingston’s young, most forward-thinking and influential women to discuss the empowerment of women and girls in Jamaica. Among them were representatives of the media and two senators, one of whom had recently called for a parliamentary committee to consider gender quotas for political representation.
The FCO network made full use of International Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls Day on 25 November and the subsequent 16 Days of Activism. A host of initiatives marked the day, only some of which are recorded here. The British Embassy in Washington painted their red telephone box orange; in Brunei, staff wore orange; and in France our Embassy published a video blog on domestic violence which attracted over 1,000 views on Facebook and Twitter in a single day. In the Seychelles, our High Commission sponsored and took part in the “orange” march organised by the Ministry of Social Affairs that kicked off their 16 Days of Activism. The British Embassy in Tel Aviv engaged in two online campaigns: a local campaign called “I’m Changing”, led by a civil society organisation, and the UN’s UNiTE campaign to end violence against women. And, in Nairobi, our High Commissioner co-wrote an article with the Australian and Canadian High Commissioners, saying that they would never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women, and that they encouraged all Kenyan men to join in this pledge.
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. With this in mind, the protection and promotion of children’s human rights, including those of children who are victims of armed conflict and children at risk of abduction (on which there are specific sections contained in this report), form an important part of the FCO’s wider international human rights agenda.
Much of our work is focused at the UN and at other international institutions. For example, in 2014, at the March HRC, the UK co-sponsored the annual resolution on the rights of the child, which had as its theme “access to justice for children”. This called upon all states to translate into concrete action their commitment to remove any possible barriers to children’s access to justice, including by adopting special protective measures to safeguard the rights of children in particularly vulnerable situations, and to ensure that children are able to participate in proceedings. During the June session of the HRC, we supported the renewal of the Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
At the UNGA, towards the end of 2014, we negotiated an omnibus child rights resolution in partnership with members of the Latin American Group of States. This was a mammoth task, taking seven rounds of negotiations and a large number of bilateral meetings over two months, to arrive at a final text for adoption. The final agreed text reaffirmed the general principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including that the best interests of the child, and nondiscrimination for all children, should provide the framework for state actions concerning children.
In December, the FCO supported the government’s #WeProtectChildren Online Summit to end child sexual exploitation. Delegations from more than 50 countries, 26 leading technology companies, and 10 NGOs took part in the two-day summit at Lancaster House in London. The summit agreed concrete global action to tackle online child sexual exploitation, and to establish strong partnerships with industry.
Participants agreed a coordinated global response to tackle the proliferation of child sexual abuse, and to remove material in circulation since the dawn of the internet, where millions of appalling images and videos remain available. They also unveiled a number of ground-breaking technological initiatives, which will make it much more difficult for criminals who seek to exploit the almost limitless potential of the digital age to abuse children for sexual purposes. World-leading UK measures included a new law making it illegal for an adult to send a sexual communication to a child; new joint teams, including staff from the National Crime Agency and the Government Communications Headquarters, which will specialise in online child sexual abuse; and a £50 million pledge over five years to contribute to a newly established global child protection fund, administered by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) – the first of its kind.
Away from the multilateral world, 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, to raise individual cases, and to lobby for changes to discriminatory practices and laws. The FCO will continue to raise child rights with other governments when necessary.
We also 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. For example, in Guatemala, the British Embassy supported civil society organisations in raising awareness of the harm child marriage causes, and promoting adoption of legislation that would raise the minimum marital age for girls. In Fiji, the British High Commission funded a two-day workshop attended by young people in the district of Solaira Tikina as part of the “All Women and Children Empowered Now” project, which aims to address the serious problem of gender violence through improved access to information and clinical reproductive health services. The Kenyan National Crime Agency, supported by the British High Commission in Nairobi, is running a campaign called “Every Child Matters”. FCO funds will allow officers to carry out a strategic assessment of child protection issues in Kenya, run an awareness-raising workshop, and launch the International Child Protection Certificate. In December, two senior Kenyan delegates, funded by the FCO’s Drugs and Crime Fund, attended the Prime Minister’s London conference on ending child sexual exploitation. This will hopefully act as a catalyst for further concerted effort by the Kenyan government, and all other countries that attended, to tackle online abuse and safeguard children.
The terrorist group Boko Haram have committed numerous human rights abuses against children in Nigeria, including abductions and fatal bomb attacks targeting education establishments. The abduction of over 270 schoolgirls from Chibok on 14 April 2014 was a particularly heinous example of their brutality. The UK has increased its support to the Nigerian government to help locate the missing Chibok schoolgirls and tackle the threat posed by Boko Haram. We are also providing support to children in north-east Nigeria affected by the activities of Boko Haram. A joint DFID/USAID partnership will draw one million more schoolchildren in this region into education by 2020, which includes increased support for girls’ education. In addition the UK has committed £1 million to the UN Safe Schools Initiative in Nigeria.
During 2015, we will continue to work actively to ensure that child rights are protected, including through the UN, and that child rights are taken into account in our work on a range of issues, including forced marriage and preventing sexual violence against children in conflict.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGB&T) Rights
We believe that the international community must stand firm against all forms of discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and that we should all accept, respect and value diversity. This is why we and like-minded countries work through the UN to address discrimination and violence against LGB&T people, and why we work with individual countries to review, revise and abolish discriminatory laws and policies.
We have seen some progress over the past year in many parts of the world. In many countries however, people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender continue to experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and intolerance, including restrictions on their freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly; discrimination in employment; restricted access to health services and education; hate crime; torture, inhuman or degrading treatment; and, in some cases, violation of their right to life.
In addition to our work to ensure that the most basic and fundamental rights of LGB&T people are protected, we have worked closely with the Government Equalit ies Office to encourage other countries to recognise same-sex marriages and civil partnerships conducted under the new UK law. A number of countries have already confirmed they will recognise UK marriages of same-sex couples (for example, Canada, Denmark, France and the Netherlands) and civil partnerships (Argentina, Finland, Germany, and New Zealand). Some other countries have permitted UK consulates overseas to carry out services of marriage locally, and these services are starting to be publicised on social media and in local media. We continue to press for mutual recognition.
We strongly supported the adoption of the UN’s second ever resolution on sexual orientation at the HRC in September. The resolution, led by Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay, passed by a much bigger majority than the first resolution on this issue in 2011, and requests the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to write a follow-up report on violence and discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity.
In this respect, we also warmly welcomed the personal commitment of the newly appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, to tackling discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as other forms of discrimination.
In 2014, the UK became a member of the UN LGB&T Core Group in New York, an informal network of UN member states which ensure that the rights of LGB&T persons are appropriately protected in UN fora. We actively participated in the group’s activities, including taking part in high-level events on LGB&T rights during the opening of the UNGA in September, and on respect for the diversity of families on Human Rights Day on 10 December. The core group and the UN jointly hosted a “Free and Equal Photo Booth” during the opening of the UNGA, where visiting diplomats, UN staff and friends and family had the opportunity to show their support for LGB&T rights, and were offered the chance to publicise this through social media.
At the UNGA we continued to be a leading voice for the recognition of the rights of LGB&T persons in relevant intergovernmental resolutions and decisions. We worked hard to retain language in the biennial resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, which specifically calls for the protection of the right to life of all people, including those targeted on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We also supported language on non-discrimination and inclusion in resolutions on the rights of the child, bullying, sport for peace and development, and the relationship between the UN and the Council of Europe.
We warmly welcomed the decision of the UN Secretary- General to amend UN staff guidelines to recognise all legal unions of UN staff by reference to the law of the competent authority where it was established, and to ensure that benefits and protections for legal partners that come with employment at the UN are provided regardless of sexual orientation. We will continue to support the Secretary-General in this regard.
Throughout the year, we raised the importance of respect for LGB&T rights at the HRC during the UPRs of Cyprus, Dominica, Italy, San Marino and Uruguay.
We continued to encourage the Commonwealth to do more to promote the rights of its LGB&T citizens. In March, the former Foreign Secretary, William Hague, wrote to the Commonwealth Secretary-General urging him to take concrete action following developments in some member states which were contrary to their agreed commitments in the Commonwealth Charter. We welcomed the statements by the Secretary-General who called for the Commonwealth’s values to be upheld in respect of sexual orientation and gender identity. FCO Minister for the Commonwealth, Hugo Swire, has repeatedly encouraged the Commonwealth Secretariat and Commonwealth member states to do more to realise this. More details of our approach to LGB&T rights can be found in the section of this report on the Commonwealth.
We believe that the Commonwealth’s non-governmental networks provide an excellent forum in which to discuss issuesthat are difficult to discuss at an intergovernmental level. In 2014 we made good use of these networks – academic, professional and civil society – to increase the debate on a wide range of human rights issues, including on LGB&T rights.
Our Embassies and High Commissions continue to lobby at the highest levels on LGB&T rights, particularly in countries where same-sex relations are criminalised. They also fund projects and support local LGB&T civil society groups.
We welcomed the decision of the Ugandan Constitutional Court to annul the Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda in August, and continue to raise our concerns with the Ugandan government about any new legislation which could lead to persecution and discrimination against LGB&T people. In The Gambia, we were appalled by the continued rhetoric against LGB&T people, including President Jammeh’s statement on 18 February. The UK and the EU High Representative issued a statement on 21 February deploring the President’s statement. We remain deeply concerned by the Aggravated Homosexuality Bill that was confirmed publicly on 19 November, and we worked closely with the EU on a statement condemning the bill when it was published. In Nigeria, we were disappointed by the assent given in January to the Same-Sex Marriage Bill that further criminalised same-sex relationships. Mr Hague said on 15 January that, “We are concerned by the prospect this raises of further action against an already marginalised section of society”.
These new pieces of legislation are part of a wider trend of legislation and violence against LGB&T people across Sub- Saharan Africa. This new legislation focuses on the promotion of homosexuality and the funding of civil society groups. We remain in regular contact with LGB&T communities and civil society both locally and in the UK, and raise our concerns at the highest levels. We will continue to support training, advocacy, and legal cases related to the protection of LGB&T rights across Sub-Saharan Africa.
In the Caribbean, we have supported civil society’s defence of LGB&T rights, including through a regional workshop for LGB&T rights defenders. This workshop focused on promoting international dialogue and training on LGB&T human rights issues, strengthening the Caribbean response, linking regional and international advocacy around the world, and documenting human rights abuses. In Jamaica, we worked with the Jamaican police to improve the investigation of complaints and set up a public forum to tackle homophobic bullying in schools. We also worked with the UK civil society organisation, Kaleidoscope, on a project in Trinidad &Tobago that encouraged public and political support for progress towards the repeal of legislation discriminating against LGB&T citizens.
A number of Embassies and High Commissions across the globe marked the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) in May by holding events with civil society and local LGB&T organisations. Staff also attended Pride marches and organised events around them. Examples in 2014 included a pre-Pride reception to mark Delhi Queer Pride, and a video blog by our High Commissioner in Pretoria. In Trinidad & Tobago, the High Commission has facilitated bimonthly safe space coffee mornings for the LGB&T community, with discussions on how they can best defend their rights.
In China, we have been a consistent and influential supporter of LGB&T rights. Our support through messaging on online channels, micro-funding of civil society groups, and prominent annual displays of the rainbow flag for IDAHOT, has positioned us a trusted defender of LGB&T rights by LGB&T persons in China.
We were pleased that Serbia hosted a successful Pride Parade in September. Embassy staff, including our Ambassador, took part. This was the first such parade since 2010, when the event was marred by violent clashes between groups of protestors and police. This year the British Embassy in Belgrade, as part of its wider work to encourage respect for LGB&T rights, worked with Dutch colleagues to coordinate international political support for the civil society groups organising the parade.
Looking ahead to 2015, we will continue to work to ensure that no-one is persecuted or discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We will remain an active member of the UN LGB&T Core Group and continue to support civil society groups in their work.
Protecting LGB&T rights is also important for poverty reduction – where people are marginalised due to their sexuality they are more likely to be poor. UK Aid is used to support an environment in which all people can claim their rights and share in the benefits of development, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. In November 2014, DFID finalised a new strategic approach to working on LGB&T issues, and is building new partnerships with civil society, faith groups and the private sector, which can all play an effective role influencing decision-makers and changing social norms and attitudes. Through support to the Institute of Development Studies “Sexuality, poverty and the law” research programme, toolkits and guidance material is being produced to assist development practitioners.
The UK government is committed to creating opportunities for disabled people that enable them to achieve their potential as fully participating members of society, whilst removing barriers which impede this. The FCO supports international initiatives which help realise this vision for all disabled people around the world.
We believe that wider ratification and implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ratified by 151 countries at the time of writing) remains key in this regard. As such, we continue to advocate for states to sign and ratify the convention. We do this through instruments such as the UPR at the HRC.
We were pleased that the disability rights legacy of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games was visible in Sochi, reaffirming the power of sport to deliver the empowering vision of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It was good to see Russia following through on its commitment made in the UK-drafted Olympic and Paralympic Games communiqué of 2012, in which Russia, Brazil and the Republic of Korea pledged to use their games to promote and embed respect for disability rights.
The British Embassy in Moscow and the Russian disability civil society organisation (CSO) “Perspektiva” also supported the visit of two British Paralympic athletes to Moscow. The Paralympians met school children at an inclusive education school and shared experiences with a group of young leaders with disabilities. With our support, Perspektiva is building a legal advocacy network of disability NGOs to support people with disabilities in eight Russian regions.
The FCO is also helping to improve the situation of people with disabilities in China, supporting families with autistic children in Xinjiang, and providing social activities for mentally disabled children and their parents in Gansu. Chinese and UK experts held a workshop on disability rights as part of the 21st UK-China Human Rights Dialogue held in May.
We believe that progressive outcomes from international bodies are key to ensuring a robust international approach to disability rights which will filter down to the national level. The UK is therefore active on disability rights in a number of multilateral bodies.
We consistently advocate special consideration of the rights of persons with disabilities in all relevant UN intergovernmental negotiations. Officials at the UK Mission to the United Nations in New York engaged actively at the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee (on social, humanitarian and cultural issues) and during the Commission on Social Development to agree resolutions focused specifically on promotion of the rights of persons with disabilities.
The UK co-sponsored resolutions that highlighted the need to realise the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally-agreed development goals for persons with disabilities, and to mainstream disability in the UN development agenda beyond 2015. We also remained strong advocates for national and international data collection systems that disaggregate relevant data by age, sex, and disability, in order to improve policy formulation and service delivery for persons with disabilities.
At the March HRC in Geneva, the UK co-sponsored a resolution on the right of persons with disabilities to education in line with Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We also joined the EU’s statement during the Council’s Annual Discussion on Persons with Disabilities.
Looking forward, we will continue our London Olympic and Paralympic disability legacy work with a high-level dialogue between the UK and Brazil in March 2015. The dialogue will help realise commitments made in 2012 by President Dilma and the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to share experience and cooperation in staging the games, and to ensure accessibility and wider disability rights are factored into them. See also Chapter VII for details on disability rights at the Brazil World Cup.
The FCO will work with DFID to explore how our actions to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities can better complement DFID’s new disability framework, launched on 3 December. The framework sets out how DFID will strengthen inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities across UK government development programmes, including through bilateral and multilateral partners. This includes specific new commitments to strengthen disability inclusion in humanitarian response, water and sanitation programmes, violence against women and girls programmes, as well as to strengthen national level data on disability and building staff expertise on disability inclusion.
Indigenous people continue to be amongst the poorest and most marginalised in the world. As such, we continue to work overseas and through multilateral institutions to improve the situation of indigenous people, and continue to provide political and financial support for the economic, social and political development of indigenous people around the world.
We continue to call on those states that have indigenous populations to sign and implement the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (DRIP), and to ensure other relevant safeguards are in place, through international human rights mechanisms such as the UPR. In this regard, we believe that the UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples that took place in New York on 22 and 23 September provided an important venue that ensured indigenous people’s voices were heard and heeded as they again called for the realisation of the DRIP. We were pleased that this was reflected in the conference outcome document along with a call for an effective UN-wide approach to indigenous issues.
British Embassies and High Commissions monitor human rights in their host countries, and routinely raise our concerns with their governments. In 2014, they have continued to work with international and local NGOs on a variety of UK-funded projects to encourage local communities to participate more actively in the democratic process. For example, in Colombia, we worked with women’s civil society groups and indigenous communities to create community networks to prevent sexual violence and provide support to victims, whilst promoting coordination between indigenous authorities and local government to strengthen referral mechanisms and improve access to services for victims (further details are contained in the section of the report on preventing sexual violence). In Bolivia, we continue to work with EU partners to ensure indigenous communities are protected, and we are supporting projects on police and prison reform, as well as on strengthening the judiciary. All of these elements directly impact indigenous people’s access to justice. In Brazil, we are working with EU partners to help empower and protect indigenous communities, especially through the joint human rights defenders (HRDs) project between the EU and the human rights secretariat of the Brazilian government.
More widely, 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 strongly depend on natural resources. In line with our commitment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as articulated in our 2013 Action Plan on Business and Human Rights which we are implementing across government, we continue to promote responsible business behaviour on the part of UK companies operating in the UK and internationally. We encourage UK companies to engage with those who may be affected at all stages of project design and implementation, in a manner that ensures free and informed participation and takes into account potential barriers to effective engagement, paying particular attention to indigenous people and other groups.
The UK government remains committed to tackling all forms of racial intolerance and discrimination, and to standing up for victims of racism around the world. The fight against racism is integral to the UK’s human rights policy.
The UK plays an active part in the key international institutions fighting racism. The UK is represented on the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) by an independent expert, Michael Whine MBE, Government and International Affairs Director at the Community Security Trust. ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, intolerance and discrimination on grounds such as race, national/ethnic origin, colour, citizenship, religion and language (racial discrimination). It prepares reports and issues recommendations to member states. ECRI is currently engaged in drafting a General Policy Recommendation on Hate Speech, and is re-invigorating its third area of responsibility, which is with specialised bodies and expert CSOs.
We continued to work through the UN to ensure that states take practical measures to implement HRC Resolution 16/18 (combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatisation of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against, persons based on religion or belief), which focuses the international community on combating religious intolerance, protecting the human rights of minorities, and promoting pluralism in society.
In 2014, the UK negotiated constructively with international partners the text of UN Resolution 68/237 – relating to the International Decade for People of African Descent. We hope that the decade, which commenced on 1 January 2015, will be used to galvanise efforts to implement existing commitments and make concrete progress to tackle racism in all parts of the world. During 2015 and beyond, we will seek to ensure the international community focuses on strengthening national, regional and international legal frameworks in accordance with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the International Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination, and ensuring their full and effective implementation. We also hope the decade will enable the UN, member states, civil society, and all other relevant actors to join with people of African descent to take effective measures for the implementation of the programme of activities.
The UK supports the work of the UN in tackling racism. 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 through its various processes and mechanisms.
The UK remains committed to fulfilling its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The government believes that strong and effective laws already exist in the UK under which individuals may seek enforceable remedies in the courts or tribunals, if they feel that their rights have been breached. We do not therefore believe that ratification of the Optional Protocol is necessary.
We will continue to remain vigilant to any manifestations of racism, and work actively with international partners to ensure that the aims of equality and non-discrimination are advanced through the multilateral system and bilaterally.
Any form of discrimination or ill treatment on the ground of someone’s identity is unacceptable. The UK works at the international level to stand against intolerance towards the Roma/Sinti, who in certain cases across Europe are still subjected to violence, denied access to employment, excluded from health care, and forced to live in segregated housing. We work through experts in international organisations and through our network of embassies to confront this issue.
The government believes it is important the international community works together to assist national and local authorities in combating anti-Roma discrimination and promoting integration. However, individual states have responsibility for tackling inequality between Roma and non- Roma communities in their own countries. 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, and Gens du voyage.
The genocide of the Roma at the hands of the Nazis and their allies during the Second World War, and its implications for the community today, is a lesser 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. As Chair of the IHRA during 2014, the UK encouraged member countries to report on activities aimed at remembering the Roma genocide, and to include experts on the Roma genocide in their national delegations. We were delighted that the IHRA’s Committee on the Roma Genocide, in cooperation with the Institute of Education, University of London, organised a conference in May to bring together many of the organisations active in research and project work in this area. Preserving the memory of and raising awareness about the genocide plays an important role in combating anti-Roma sentiment in the world today. As in previous years, British Embassies in countries across Europe took part in commemorations to mark the Roma Genocide on 2 August. 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 June, the British Embassy in Slovenia attended a conference organised by the European and Slovenian Roma associations. The conference focused mainly on the situation of Roma in the EU. There were 15 countries represented in 2014 and, unlike 2013, the conference included representatives from Western Europe, rather than just the Western Balkans and Central Europe.
In Bulgaria, the Embassy maintained contacts with a number of Roma NGOs to support their work. For example, it launched a project to promote education among Roma girls, which included a campaign to compare the lives of two Roma women – one dropping out of school and getting married at a very young age, the other becoming a medical doctor and starting a family in her twenties. In November, the Deputy Head of Mission opened the conference, entitled “Successful models for empowering Roma women and young people”.
In Romania, the Embassy sponsored a project to train Romanian Roma local councilors in Yorkshire and the surrounding area. They also supported a local NGO in a project focusing on a new local rural mixed community in Cluj county.
In Slovakia, the Embassy funded the training of social workers on the prevention of human trafficking. The course was aimed mainly at social workers working with poor Roma communities living in eastern Slovakia.
In Hungary, the Embassy sponsored four main projects in this field. In March, it organised a Fourth Human Rights Movie Day, focusing on current social questions, and emphasising the work individuals and organisations had done to promote human rights in Hungary. In between the films, roundtable discussions took place about the films and some of the most pressing human rights issues of today’s Hungary. Also in March, the Embassy sponsored the purchase of new office equipment for the Roma Police Union. The organisation actively works on recruiting young Roma to the Hungarian police force as well as breaking down prejudices about Roma and criminality. In November, for the fourth time in a row, the Embassy organised an in-house collection (clothes, books, toys, non-perishable food items) for the impoverished Roma community of the town of Versend in the south of Hungary. In December, the Embassy sponsored a Roma student mentoring/twinning programme run by the Real Pearl Foundation, who have long supported the education, talent development and integration of socially disadvantaged and Roma children/families. Through their year-long “twinning education” programme, carefully selected teacher trainees from Budapest universities are paired up with students or a small group of underperforming, poor Roma students in south-east Hungary to help them with their studies and their overall integration process.
Embassies in relevant countries will continue to be active in this area in 2015. We will continue to support the work of the IHRA’s Committee on the Roma Genocide.
CHAPTER VII: Human Rights in Safeguarding the UK’s National Security
International terrorism remains one of the greatest security challenges we face today. It confronts us with gross abuses of human rights, such as the atrocities carried out by the so-called Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, Boko Haram and others. During the course of 2014, terrorist groups carried out attacks that resulted in the murder, rape and torture of thousands of unprotected civilians.
In order to combat terrorism in an effective and sustainable way, we must build stability and promote human rights and the rule of law in other countries. 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 protects our security and upholds human rights at the same time. To ensure this, all our counter-terrorism capacity-building work is assessed against the government’s Overseas Security and Justice Assistance (OSJA) Guidance.
Working in partnership
A central strand of our work overseas is developing justice and human rights partnerships with countries where there are both threats to the UK’s security and weaknesses in law enforcement, human rights and the criminal justice architecture. These partnerships provide a systematic process for identifying shortcomings in capability, and addressing these through the provision of UK assistance and expertise.
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. During the course of 2014, our assistance has both helped partners to disrupt terrorist attacks and improved the evidential and human rights standards of several counter-terrorism systems.
The Counter-Terrorism Programme Fund (CTPF) is one of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) largest strategic programmes. The allocation for 2013-14 was £15 million. The main areas of focus in the programme in 2014 were on developing justice and human rights partnerships, increasing protective security around airports and vulnerable targets overseas, and work to prevent and tackle extremism and radicalisation. The programme aims to help tackle the threat to British nationals, in the UK and overseas. An integral part of this is strengthening the professionalism and human rights standards of overseas partners.
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.
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 non-governmental organisation (NGO) or national human rights institution, to ensure compliance with the terms of the agreement in each case. 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.
In 2014 we had functioning DWA arrangements with Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Ethiopia and Morocco. To date, the UK has removed 12 individuals under these arrangements. While no deportations took place in 2014, we continued to progress the case of W & Others (Algerian nationals) and a Court of Appeal judgment is expected in early 2015. Monitoring by local independent NGOs of compliance with the specific assurances also continued to take place in 2014. In Jordan, VV and Abu Qatada were acquitted of local charges and released from detention by the Jordanian courts. We will continue to pursue further deportations and expect overseas visits by the UK Special Representative for DWA in support of this aim in 2015.
The UK government believes that indefinite detention in Guantánamo Bay is wrong, and that the detention facility should be closed. In 2014 President Obama reiterated his commitment to closing the facility. In total, 28 detainees were transferred out of Guantánamo Bay in 2014, to Algeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Georgia, Uruguay, Afghanistan and Kazakhstan. 127 prisoners remain. The UK supports President Obama’s continuing commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.
UK efforts to secure the release and return of the last former legal UK resident, Shaker Aamer, continued throughout 2014. Senior members of the government, including the Foreign and Defence Secretaries, raised Mr Aamer’s case with their US counterparts and made it clear that we want Mr Aamer released and returned to the UK as a matter of urgency.
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. Ministers and officials will continue to work with the United States government in 2015 to secure his release and return to the UK.
Oversight of the Agencies
The UK has one of the strongest systems of checks and balances and democratic accountability for secret intelligence anywhere in the world. The oversight regime was strengthened in 2013 through the Justice and Security Act, which further reinforced the parliamentary and independent oversight of the Agencies – in particular through extending the statutory remit of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) and the Intelligence Services Commissioner. In 2014, the UK government introduced emergency legislation (the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act) to clarify a number of existing investigatory powers. Several new safeguards were included as part of the legislation, including more regular reporting by the Interception of Communications Commissioner. The government also invited the Independent Reviewer of Counter-Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, to undertake an independent review of the powers. This will be followed by a parliamentary review of investigatory powers legislation in the next parliament.
The government’s position 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 continues to be 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.
On November 27 2014, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, gave direction under section 59A of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 specifically placing this element of the Commissioner’s work on a statutory footing.
The government remains absolutely committed to ensuring that serious allegations of UK complicity in alleged mistreatment and rendition of detainees held by other countries overseas are examined carefully. In July 2010, Mr. Cameron asked Sir Peter Gibson, a former senior Court of Appeal judge, to lead an inquiry into whether Britain was implicated in the improper treatment, or rendition, of detainees held by other countries in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001.
Due to related police investigations, the Detainee Inquiry had to halt its work in January 2012. The then Minister Without Portfolio, Kenneth Clarke, presented the Report of the Detainee Inquiry’s preliminary work to Parliament on 19 December 2013. As the inquiry was not able to hear from witnesses, the report did not make findings as to what happened or draw conclusions. Nevertheless, the report is a substantial piece of work, and the product of an extensive independent analysis of some 20,000 relevant documents, some of which had not been examined by any previous review. The report highlights themes and issues for further examination.
The government has asked the ISC to inquire into the themes and issues raised by the Detainee Inquiry, take further evidence, and report to the government and to Parliament on the outcome of their work. Additional resources have been made available to the ISC to assist them with this task, and work on analysing the primary material is underway. On 11 September 2014, the committee issued a public call for evidence. The ISC will remain open, throughout the course of its work, to constructive inputs from all interested parties.
The ISC has said publicly that the scale of its examination into detainee treatment is such that it will not be completed before the General Election in May 2015, when the committee will, in the usual way, be dissolved at the end of this Parliament. It would fall to the new members of the ISC, when it is reconvened in the next Parliament, to complete the work and make the judgements which will underpin its conclusions and recommendations. In light of the ISC 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 is necessary, in order to add any further information of value to future policy-making in this area and the national interest.
Countering proliferation of conventional weapons
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 there is 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 entry into force of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on 24 December 2014 was a historic moment. For the first time, countries have agreed to be bound by international rules governing everything from small arms to warships. The UK was at the forefront of the process to develop the treaty from the start, and was one of the first states to sign the ATT on 3 June 2013 and to ratify it on 2 April 2014. The treaty was the result of outstanding collaboration between the government, civil society and industry, and represents the culmination of over 10 years of work within the UN system to place human rights and international humanitarian law at the heart of decisions about the arms trade. If these rules are implemented globally and effectively, they have the power to stop arms from reaching terrorists and criminals, and fuelling conflict and instability around the world.
Our top priority now is to continue to support states in acceding to and implementing the treaty, and to ensure the success of the first Conference of States Parties to be held in 2015. We are working closely with partners and supporters of the treaty to ensure that the conference decides on robust and sustainable structures and processes to support the treaty (for example, location and format of the Secretariat). This will include advice as well as implementation assistance funding, and we are likely to provide more than £350,000 in 2014-15 for this purpose.
Properly regulated, a responsible arms trade helps countries to meet their legitimate defence and security needs. Exports of defence and security equipment help governments to protect their citizens and protect their fundamental freedoms. The UK’s export licensing system is one of the most rigorous and 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 car manufacturing, life sciences research, or to build mobile phone networks. However, we will not issue an export licence if there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression, including in our countries of concern. Furthermore, the UK’s 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. The 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 2014. 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 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, and assesses the capabilities and possible uses of the equipment to be exported. Assessment also considers the nature of the organisation or unit which will be the ultimate user of the equipment (including its track record on respecting human rights), taking account of all available information about how similar equipment has been used in the past, and how it is likely to be used in the future. Advice is sought from FCO experts in the UK and in Embassies and High Commissions overseas, technical experts in BIS, GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) and the MOD, and reports from NGOs and the media are taken into account. Any applications considered sensitive or finely-balanced are submitted to ministers for a final decision before the FCO provides advice to BIS on whether to approve or refuse a licence.
An example of how the “clear risk” test under Criterion 2 features in FCO assessments can be seen in relation to policing equipment including radios and body armour. If the government has concerns about how internal security agencies police demonstrations, or monitor political dissent in a potential destination country, and there is a clear risk of human rights violations in which exports might play a part, a licence might not be issued. This decision would be taken on the basis of an assessment both of what is happening in the destination country at the time the export licence application is received, and whether there is any evidence that the authorities are tackling the areas of concern.
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. The government can and does deploy a “suspension mechanism” for extant licences and new licensing in circumstances where we have concerns about political and security developments in a country of destination for an export licence; for example, where the security situation is unclear, fluid or changing rapidly, and where it is not possible to make a licensing decision. The suspension mechanism was applied to export licences for Ukraine in 2014. In February 2014, the UK with its EU partners agreed to suspend licences and new licensing for exports of equipment that might be used for internal repression in Ukraine. As a result, the government suspended 27 licences. Later in the year, the situation in Ukraine had changed substantially and we agreed with our EU partners to lift the suspension. The government continues to assess all licences for Ukraine on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated criteria.
In 2013 (the last complete year for which statistics are available), 44 export licences, out of a total of over 13,578 issued, 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 2014 edition is due in July 2015). These demonstrate how human rights and other considerations 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 mines
The UK government is committed to ending the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions. These munitions indiscriminately threaten the lives of civilians across many parts of the world, particularly in areas of former conflict. Dealing with them is critical for allowing people to live in safety, as well as for the development of affected areas’ economy and society. The UK works to this end diplomatically through engaging in international treaties, and in practical support through DFID Mine Action programmes.
The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) 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. 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.
Similarly, the UK has been a State Party to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (Ottawa Convention) since 1998. One of our obligations under the Ottawa Convention is to clear all remaining anti-personnel mines laid during the Falklands War. We continue to de-mine the Falkland Islands, and in 2014 began mobilisation for the largest de-mining project there so far. The clearance phase of this project will start in early 2015.
Through DFID’s global Mine Action programmes, the UK has long been a leading international donor of work to clear mines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war. Following the end of a £38 million programme from 2010-2013, in 2014 we began our next three-year programme in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Mozambique. We plan to expand operations into additional countries in 2015. Over the course of the next three years, these mine action projects will destroy thousands of mines, cluster munition remnants and other explosive remnants of war, returning land safely to communities across the world. The projects will also provide risk education to hundreds of thousands of people and help build the capacity of national authorities to manage their own programmes.
In 2015, we will continue to work diplomatically to pursue the goal of a world free of the suffering and casualties caused by anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions, by encouraging all states to refrain from the use of such weapons. Over the course of the year, the UK will expand the reach of our global Mine Action programmes, continue de-mining the Falkland Islands and, in September 2015, we will play an active part at the First Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Reducing Conflict and Building Stability Overseas
The Conflict Pool (CP)
The CP is a joint fund for conflict prevention, stabilisation and peacekeeping support, managed by the FCO, DFID and the MOD. CP programmes support the UK’s conflict prevention priorities as set out in the Building Stability Overseas Strategy (BSOS). The focus is to invest in upstream prevention, as well as rapid crisis prevention and response, helping to build strong, legitimate institutions and robust societies in fragile countries with the aim of lowering the likelihood of instability in the future. The CP works closely with other bilateral actors, the international system (including the UN and African Union) and civil society to fill gaps and complement the efforts of others in fragile and conflict-affected states.
In 2014-15, CP funding has been used to help support the following:
building free, transparent and inclusive political systems;
building effective and accountable security and justice sectors;
security sector reform and capacity building in international organisations (including military reform);
increasing the capacity of governments, local populations and regional/multilateral institutions to prevent and resolve conflict;
anti-corruption initiatives; and
the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI).
The CP’s budget for 2014-15 (excluding peacekeeping) was £239 million. It operates through regional programmes in Afghanistan, Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and wider Europe, which were responsible for disbursing the CP funding allocated to them.
In the Middle East and North Africa, the CP funds work in Yemen to increase the capacity of civil society organisations (CSOs) to work with government representatives to promote more gender-sensitive security provision. In Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories we continue to promote respect for human rights through work with local Israeli and Palestinian implementing partners, and by building constituencies for peace within Israel. In Egypt we are working with the British Council to support the establishment of Victim Support Units, which will provide expert help to victims of sexual violence and harassment, drawing on UK experience. In Syria, Syrian human rights activists are being given the training and tools necessary to promote accountability, including the collection of forensic and other evidence of human rights violations and abuses, including sexual violence, for future use in criminal proceedings.
In Ukraine, the CP works to deliver a peaceful path to territorial integrity and conflict resolution through a range of projects focusing on peacebuilding, strategic communication, and assistance to the Ukrainian government. In addition to this bilateral support, CP funds are used to contribute to the essential monitoring and stability work of international organisations currently operating in Ukraine. This includes the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission, which is the only organisation of its type operating in the conflict-affected areas of Eastern Ukraine.
In Africa, the CP funds work in Sudan to support the development of human rights monitoring mechanisms and capacity building for media practitioners in support of freedom of expression. At the African Union (AU) we support the capacity building of gender and child policies within peacekeeping operations. We do this by funding a child protection adviser in the Peace and Security Department. In support of PSVI we fund the programme coordinator of the AU’s newly established gender peace and security programme – with the objective of mainstreaming gender best practice into all AU peace support operations. In Mali, the CP has continued to fund up to three civilians as part of the UK contribution to the EU Training Mission in Mali. They have provided practical training to the Malian military on human rights and international humanitarian law.
In the North Caucasus, CP project partners monitor grave human rights violations and have sought justice for victims in both domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights. Project partners also work to build the capacity of grassroots human rights organisations, to promote women’s rights, and to foster an atmosphere of tolerance and constructive dialogue amongst different parts of society in order to prevent conflict and youth radicalisation.
In wider Europe, the CP funds work in Bosnia and Herzegovina on the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict. A series of PSVI projects and activities were launched and supported by the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, and other senior government officials, including, significantly, the judiciary and the military. The Bosnia and Herzegovina Peace Support Operations Training Centre has trained over 100 military personnel who may deploy on operations overseas in the prevention of sexual violence. An SOS helpline for survivors of sexual conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina was also launched, allowing women and men immediate access to local expert help and assistance.
In South Asia, the CP in Pakistan works with local civil society partners to sensitise over 5,000 NGOs and community groups on democratic governance and human rights. Through this intervention, it has developed a cadre of strong NGOs that are now better equipped to deliver interventions in priority areas of human rights. We have also worked with project partners to promote the participation of minorities and women in parliamentary politics, and to deliver innovative ways of improving rule of law and service delivery for minorities and other disenfranchised communities in 10 districts of southern Punjab and Sindh.
The National Security Council (NSC) has introduced the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) to replace the CP in April 2015. This will enable the UK government, for the first time, to look strategically at the alignment of its resources deployed overseas in countries at risk of instability.
Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
The concept of R2P was borne out of a failure of the international community to prevent mass atrocities in the 1990s in places such as Rwanda and Srebrenica. At the UN 2005 World Summit, all member states recognised that a country’s first and foremost responsibility was to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. It also recognised that the international community had a responsibility to help implement the concept of R2P.
The UK directly supports this work through our funding of the UN Joint Office of the Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect; and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. This support helps the Joint Office in their work to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. Our funding also helps the Joint Office to build the capacity of states to develop early warning mechanisms through training and technical assistance. The Global Centre conducts research designed to further understanding of R2P; supports increased engagement with emerging powers and regional organisations on its implementation; and devises strategies to help states build capacity on conflict prevention. The centre also helps to organise the annual meeting of the Global Network of R2P Focal Points. In 2014, this took place in Gaborone and was attended by the British High Commissioner to Botswana. Participants discussed issues such as the role of private companies in conflict prevention and the need for better accountability for mass atrocity crimes.
The UK actively participates in the annual interactive dialogue in the UN General Assembly and attends regular meetings with the Group of Friends of R2P. The UK ensured that the principles of R2P were incorporated in key UN resolutions such as the UK-led Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2171 on conflict prevention.
Women, Peace and Security
Women and men suffer in distinct ways during times of conflict. Women in particular suffer from heightened levels of specific forms of violence, including sexual and gender-based violence. They also suffer from poverty, displacement, loss of social networks, and limited or no access to health and medical care due to infrastructure breakdown. Women and girls continue to be excluded from the processes of preventing conflict, making peace and ensuring recovery, even though evidence shows that the effective participation of women helps to secure more sustainable peace. Despite the groundbreaking UNSCR 1325, which highlighted the vital importance of women’s “equal participation and full involvement” in peace processes and elections, globally only one in five parliamentarians is female, and only one in 40 peace treaty signatories over the last 25 years has been a woman.
The UK continues to lead efforts to address this situation. 2014 was a pivotal year for UK policy on Women, Peace and Security. At the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in June, the then Secretaries of State for the FCO and MOD, William Hague and Philip Hammond, respectively, and the Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, launched the UK’s third National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace and Security. The NAP reaffirms and strengthens our ambition to put women and girls at the centre of all our efforts to prevent and resolve conflict, and to promote peace and stability.
The NAP focuses on six countries: Afghanistan, Burma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Libya, Somalia and Syria. In December we published our first Implementation Plan which we will use to assess the impact of our efforts on Women, Peace and Security throughout the life of this NAP, and to help us capture and report lessons to inform future activity. The Implementation Plan establishes baseline data and indicators to measure progress against outcomes at country level in the six focus countries. The NAP integrated, for the first time, the work on Women, Peace and Security with all the UK’s broader work on women’s rights, access to justice, and the prevention of violence. The plan therefore includes activities relating to the Prime Minister’s Special Representative’s Initiative on PSVI and DFID’s Strategic Vision for Girls and Women.
The Implementation Plan illustrates the wide range of interventions being carried out across the six countries by the three departments. For example:
in Afghanistan the signing in early 2014 of the Strategy for the Management of the Affairs of Afghan National Police (ANP) Female Personnel was a significant step in improving the working conditions and retention of female ANP officers. Through the European Mission to Afghanistan (EUPOL), we are working with the Ministry of the Interior to ensure full implementation of this policy, though progress is slow;
in Burma we are supporting the Programme for Democratic Change, which aims to increase the percentage of parliamentarians who are women;
in DRC we are continuing to implement the UK’s PSVI programme, including through working with key Congolese partners such as the Personal Representative of the Head of State for Sexual Violence and Child Recruitment, relevant ministries, parliamentarians, and civil society actors;
in Libya we will promote and support, when circumstances permit, the integration of women into the Libyan security sector and in any forthcoming security sector reform;
in Somalia we are continuing to work with 300 communities to secure the abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation through the Joint Health and Nutrition Programme; and
in Syria we are providing women and children with access to mental health services, psychosocial support, safe spaces, and reproductive healthcare.
In the NAP, we pledged to ensure that women were fully and meaningfully represented at international peacebuilding events hosted by the UK, by encouraging government delegations to include women representatives fully. At the London Afghan Conference in December, 23 out of the 53 elected Afghan civil society delegates attending a session on Afghan civil society were women. Two of these delegates fed back outcomes from this event to a main plenary session on women and girls. The plenary session also included reflections from the 23 November Oslo Symposium on “Women’s Rights and Empowerment in Afghanistan”. The FCO Minister for Human Rights, Baroness Anelay, attended the symposium and highlighted in the closing speech the priority we place on women, peace and security in Afghanistan.
The UK has continued to lead on the women, peace and security agenda at the UN Security Council (UNSC). Throughout 2014, we have consistently pressed for language on women, peace and security to be included in UN peacekeeping mandates, and for the UN to carry out its commitments to incorporate women’s voices in their work, and to deploy the necessary gender expertise in peace support missions.
For the UNSC debate on women, peace and security in October, the UK drafted and saw the adoption of a Presidential Statement, which reiterated core principles on women’s leadership and gender equality. The statement called on member states to enhance protection and services for displaced women and girls; called for sex- and age-aggregated data to inform policy and programming; and highlighted the tremendous impact of violent extremism on women – urging states to protect and engage with women in addressing this trend.
Looking ahead, 2015 will be another significant year for progress on women, peace and security, with the 15 year anniversary of the adoption of UNSCR 1325. The UN will publish a global study on its implementation and hold a High Level Review in October. We will continue our close collaboration with UN Women to help shape these key events, and to ensure that together we help achieve real change for women affected by conflict.
Protection of Civilians (POC)
Civilians bear the brunt of modern day warfare. 90% of casualties in conflicts are civilians. 2014 repeated this pattern with conflicts in areas such as Iraq and the Occupied Palestinian Territories claiming thousands of civilian casualties. This is despite civilians being entitled to protection under international humanitarian law from threats of violence and coercion. This protection also extends to those trying to help civilians, in particular humanitarian and relief bodies providing essentials such as food, clothing and medical supplies.
The UK is committed to helping prevent, manage and resolve conflicts around the world, and the POC is a core element of our approach. The UK’s BSOS directs our approach and mainstreams POC into the UK’s conflict and stabilisation policies. Part of that approach utilises the multiplier effect of multilateral organisations such as the UN, where the UK is the lead on POC, to deliver UK objectives.
To help mark fifteen years of UNSC engagement on the POC agenda, the UK drafted a Presidential Statement to reiterate the basic principles of POC. The statement was adopted in February at the biannual POC open debate. In the statement, the UNSC condemned violations of international humanitarian law, and reaffirmed the state’s responsibility to protect its own civilians and the need to end impunity for violations and abuses of human rights.
We have also continued to chair the Informal Experts Group on Protection of Civilians, which receives briefing from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) about its current protection concerns ahead of peacekeeping and political missions mandate renewals. This further helps us to ensure that protection-related issues are adequately addressed in those mandates, including from a gender perspective. Of 17 peacekeeping missions, 10 have POC as a core part of their mandate. This highlights not only the importance of the issue, but also the growing need to protect civilians from deliberate attacks. The UK works closely with the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations, including through financial support to their POC Coordination Team, which produces guidance and technical support for missions, to improve the implementation of POC and address existing challenges.
In August, UK-led negotiations secured the unanimous adoption of UNSCR 2175 on the protection of humanitarian workers. This was the first time since 2003, when the UN compound in Baghdad was attacked, that a resolution had been adopted on the issue, and was against the backdrop of increasing attacks on humanitarian aid workers. The resolution calls for an end to impunity for these acts, and for states to ensure better accountability for such attacks.
In 2015, the UK will continue to work both multilaterally and bilaterally to strengthen international action on protecting civilians. We will lobby to ensure that POC is a key component of the Secretary General’s Review of Peace Operations.
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. If we fail to protect children it has an effect on a country’s ability to emerge from conflict, undermining future generations and the potential of their leaders.
The UK has taken a prominent role in pressing for action to protect children in conflict. We have worked closely with the UN Special Representative (UNSR) for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), Leila Zerrougui, whose office we continued to fund in 2014. We have concentrated our efforts on helping to prevent the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict; and on protecting children from sexual violence in five priority countries: Burma, Chad, the DRC, Somalia and South Sudan. We have focused on accelerating the implementation of UN action plans on children and armed conflict, as well as encouraging work on preventative measures to tackle underage recruitment, such as birth registration.
During the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in June, the then FCO Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, hosted a ministerial roundtable on children and armed conflict, which Ms Zerrougui attended. This provided an opportunity to discuss the issue of child soldiers with ministers from the DRC and Somalia, while drawing on experiences from Sierra Leone, which has successfully ended child recruitment. Mr Simmonds also hosted a fringe event at the summit with NGOs, including War Child and Watchlist, as well as hearing courageous testimonials from child survivors in Sierra Leone and Uganda.
Following the summit, DRC President Kabila appointed Jeannine Mabunda as his Personal Representative for Sexual Violence and Child Recruitment – a key appointment, for which the UK and international partners had lobbied. Ms Mabunda will play an important role in implementing DRC’s UN Action Plan.
We built on the discussions at the summit during the UNGA in New York in September, where FCO Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, co-hosted a roundtable with Ms Zerrougui. This was attended by Foreign Ministers and senior representatives from Afghanistan, Burma, Chad, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen, as well as AU Commissioner, Smail Chergui. The meeting brought together countries that have been successful in ending the recruitment of child soldiers with those that have yet to make progress, in order to share experiences and lessons learned.
During this roundtable, Burma announced the recent release of 109 children from their army, and South Sudan recommitted to the UN Action Plan it had signed in June. In addition, Chad shared its success in completing its UN Action Plan, which resulted in its removal from the list of countries of concern in the Secretary General’s annual CAAC report.
The UK is an active member of the UNSC Working Group on CAAC, which leads the international response on protecting children in conflict. This includes pressing offending parties to commit to concrete action plans to verify and release child soldiers, as well as preventing other grave violations against children.
Under the Luxembourg Presidency of the UNSC in March, the UK worked closely with partners to secure the unanimous adoption of UNSCR 2143. This outlines practical steps for combating violations against children, while also drawing attention to attacks on schools and their military use in armed conflict.
The UNSC Working Group agreed conclusions on the DRC in September, expressing concern about continued violations and abuses against children. It also agreed conclusions on Syria in November, condemning strongly the widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities, as well as the human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by armed groups.
Looking ahead, 6 March 2015 will mark the first anniversary of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General’s Campaign “Children, Not Soldiers”, which aims to end the recruitment and use of children by armed forces by the end of 2016. We expect that lack of humanitarian access, a rise in violations against children by extremist groups, and military use of schools will remain key concerns in the protection of children in armed conflict. We also look forward to working with the newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group on Protecting Children in Armed Conflict, which is conducting an inquiry into the government’s approach to protecting children in conflict zones.
UK stabilisation capacity
The Stabilisation Unit (SU) helps the government to 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. SU is a uniquely integrated civil-military unit jointly owned by FCO, the MOD and DFID, designed to be agile and well-equipped to operate in high threat environments. It is funded by the CP and will be funded under the new CSSF in 2015. 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 unit ensures lessons from practical experience are captured as best practice and used to improve future SU, CP, and wider delivery in support of the BSOS. SU has an operational role across all three pillars of the strategy: early warning; rapid crisis prevention and response; and investing in upstream conflict prevention.
The SU’s Business Plan for 2014-15 set out its objectives for the year. Priorities included integrated working across government on fragile and conflict-affected states; supporting the development of National Security Council (NSC) country strategies as well as bids and programming for the new CSSF (including lessons learnt from the CP); and implementing some of the UK’s obligations in the UK NAP on Women, Peace and Security. The unit has also continued to act as a hub for the Joint Analysis of Conflict and Stability, which brings departments together to enable joined-up work across government in addressing conflict, and helps promote a shared understanding of contexts where the government is engaged, including on human rights issues. For example, the unit contributed to the development of a Joint Analysis of Conflict and Stability in Pakistan.
The SU actively responded to crises that erupted during the year, for example by addressing the potentially destabilising effects of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone through deploying civilians to help the government’s emergency response centres at national and district levels. It also provided equipment vehicles to the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force and tents used to build UK treatment centres. In addition, the SU has provided support to the crisis response in Ukraine. It deployed 26 people to the OSCE in Europe Special Monitoring Mission; provided non-lethal equipment to the Ukrainian government; coordinated formulation of the UK government’s and the NSC’s strategy, and funded options for Ukraine within the CSSF.
In 2014, the SU recruited, prepared, deployed and sustained – safely – experts to meet a total of 455 ongoing and new deployments in 40 countries, including Iraq, Kosovo, Somalia, Ukraine and the Syrian border. It provided support to more than 30 military exercises and study days worldwide. It drew on SU core staff and the pool of deployable civilian experts to share best practice with UK and international partners, and to develop the UK’s integrated response to managing conflict. Those deployed by the SU work on a wide range of activities, including supporting multilateral missions, for example in Kosovo (EU) and Somalia (UN); missions within the FCO-led PSVI; and parent department programmes in fragile and conflict-affected states.
The SU continues to support the PSVI, and was involved in the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in June. The PSVI team of experts are now integrated into the unit’s pool of experts and maintained by a function manager recruited in June, to ensure that the team continues to meet demand. The SU also offers cross-governmental training courses on women, peace and security, conflict and stabilisation, and security and justice.
Peacebuilding refers to activities designed to consolidate peaceful relations and strengthen political, socio-economic and security institutions capable of handling conflict, in order to lay the foundations for sustainable peace and development. It is about addressing the underlying causes of conflict; supporting a state’s ability to manage disputes; and assisting them to carry out core state functions such as protection of civilians. Peacebuilding helps countries prevent or overcome the effects of conflict and to build longer-term resilience and prosperity. This is critical to the UK’s national security objectives, and integral to promotion of the rule of law, democracy, and human rights.
The UN plays a key role in addressing post-conflict peacebuilding challenges. The UK pursues several of its peacebuilding goals through the UN. Much of our work has focused on strengthening and improving the peacebuilding tools at the UN’s disposal, so these deliver in as effective, accountable and coordinated a manner as possible. We do this through our support for UN Special Political Missions (SPM), which are the UN’s primary tool for delivering peacebuilding activities in conflict-affected states and through the UN Peacebuilding Fund. An increasingly important area for us is supporting civilian UN policing, which is vital to the long-term success of helping countries transition out of conflict.
At the heart of all of these activities is a focus on human rights. SPM mandates and UN policing activities are increasingly geared towards the protection of civilians and their human rights. SPMs focus on political peacebuilding activity rather than military peacekeeping tasks. Many SPMs, including UNAMA in Afghanistan and UNSOM in Somalia, have mandates to monitor and protect human rights. The UK supports this work through funding to the UN Department of Political Affairs, and through our position as a permanent member on the UNSC, which involves setting and reviewing mission mandates. The UK has continued to adopt a strategic approach to SPMs, including by taking a concerted look at their mandates, leadership and resourcing. One of our overarching aims is to institutionalise a gender-based approach to peacebuilding at the UN.
In March, the UNIPSIL mission in Sierra Leone closed, marking the culmination of fifteen years of UN peace operations in the country, and the end of a successful UN effort in post-conflict peacebuilding. The UK played a key role in ensuring sustained and constant political attention via the UNSC, as well as engaged and focused international support. This ultimately helped enable the UN mission to withdraw.
There have been some new conflicts or relapses into conflict in 2014, where the UK has worked through the UN to help stabilise the situation. For example, we deployed a team of UK police officers to South Sudan, where they are helping the UN to deliver community policing and protection of civilians to vulnerable populations, many of whom remain in internally displaced persons camps.
We have been the largest supporter of the UN’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), committing £55 million over four years from 2011. The purpose of the fund is to strengthen international support for post-conflict states, filling the gaps where other funding mechanisms cannot help. In Burundi, the PBF funded the demobilisation of combatants to transform the National Forces of Liberation into a political party and provided crucial support to elections. In Cote d’Ivoire the PBF helped the reconstruction of 34 public administrative buildings destroyed in the conflict. In 2014, we continued to fund the UN’s network of Peace and Development Advisers, who work in countries such as Nigeria and the DRC to advise the UN and national governments on how they can build peace through development programmes.
There are many peacebuilding challenges ahead in 2015. How the UN supports Afghanistan following the draw-down of military troops will be hugely important to Afghanistan’s post-conflict transition. We will be working through the UNSC to support the UN mission (UNAMA) to deliver its mandate. 2015 will be a busy election year for Africa, which will see 18 elections across the continent. We will need to be alert to the distinct challenges each will face: the Central African Republic is still in the throes of bitter internal conflict; Burundi saw a long-standing UN peacebuilding mission withdraw in 2014; and Cote d’Ivoire is responding to the threat of Ebola.
CHAPTER VIII: Human Rights in Promoting Britain’s Prosperity
We believe that the promotion of business and respect for human rights should go hand in hand. We live in a world where companies are increasingly transnational, and where legal standards and working conditions differ from country to country. Human rights violations and abuses and business risks often share the same root cause, in governance failings. UK business and government have a shared interest in working together to tackle these failings, and uphold British values.
Incorporating human rights into business operations across the world matters. It matters to companies, protecting and enhancing reputations, as well as reassuring stakeholders, attracting investors, and increasing the value of brands. It matters to the reputation of the UK and the prosperity of its people. And it matters to the health, safety and livelihoods of employees and the communities to which they belong.
We believe that respect for human rights lays a strong foundation for the long-term success and sustainability of British business. We will continue to work with business, civil society and other governments to this end.
Promoting Responsible Business Practice and the UK Action Plan on Business and Human Rights
The government is committed to promoting the widespread implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). In the UK this is carried out through our National Action Plan, launched jointly by Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) ministers, and administered by crossgovernment working groups. We have continued to encourage other countries to follow our lead in publishing an action plan, and during 2014 we were able to share our experience with other governments, including EU partners.
In 2014, our focus was on the implementation of the specific commitments set out in our action plan, which is based around the three pillars of the UNGPs.
At the government level we:
incorporated provisions relating to supply chain transparency into the draft Modern Slavery Bill and the accompanying Modern Slavery strategy, which was launched on 29 November. This legislation, the first of its kind, creates the Office of the Anti-Slavery Commissioner, and sets out measures to tackle slavery in the UK and overseas;
provided financial support under the FCO Human Rights and Democracy Programme Fund for projects in countries including Angola, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Kenya, and Malaysia, as well as for the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre’s online hub – a tool for providing guidance, information and best practice on business and human rights available in six languages;
increased and extended support to the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business in Burma; and
continued to provide support, through the International Labour Organisation (ILO), to improve the safety standards and working conditions in the ready-made garment sector in Bangladesh.
We continued to provide support to business to enable them to meet their responsibility to respect human rights throughout their operations. In particular we:
launched guidance for the cyber security sector advising on human rights risks involved in the export of their products and services. This was in conjunction with the industry body, techUK, and civil society (Institute for Human Rights and Business – IHRB);
re-launched the Overseas Business Risk service, providing guidance to businesses entering or working in markets across the world;
issued guidance to UK Trade and Investment officers across the network on providing human rights advice to UK companies;
supported a global programme of research by the Economist Intelligence Unit on business awareness, commitment and progress on human rights, for launch in February 2015;
supported the December launch of the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark. This will be the world’s first free assessment and ranking system for the human rights performance of hundreds of companies in four key sectors – extractives, apparel, ICT, and agriculture; and
extended the UK’s support to the UN Global Compact for a further five years.
OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are voluntary principles and standards of responsible conduct for multinational businesses. They include a chapter (added in 2011 and based on the UNGPs) on the responsibility of businesses to respect human rights.
Each country adhering to the guidelines provides a National Contact Point (NCP), to promote the guidelines and to consider complaints against businesses. The UK NCP is provided by BIS, with support from the Department for International Development (DFID).
The process generally takes about a year from receipt of a complaint. Complaints accepted in an initial assessment stage either proceed to mediation between the parties or to further examination by the UK NCP. Initial assessments on all complaints and final statements on those mediated or examined are published by the UK NCP on the gov.uk website. Issues raised with the UK NCP include the direct impacts of business operations (for example the impacts on local workers and communities) and impacts of business partnerships (including with state agency partners).
The UK NCP received complaints against six businesses in 2014, and published assessments of complaints against a total of 14 businesses (including complaints received in 2013). The UK NCP also made two new final statements during 2014, reporting a mediated outcome in one case, and findings and recommendations in another. Complaints against seven businesses were ongoing at the end of 2014.
The NCP’s work to promote the guidelines in 2014 included a range of meetings, workshops and presentations to over 70 businesses and NGOs in the UK and overseas. The UK NCP also participated in training to build capacity of sister NCPs in other countries. In 2015, the NCP will continue its work to promote the guidelines, and will continue to address both ongoing and new complaints.
Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights
The Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights (VPs) 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 (PSCs), and to conduct effective risk assessments so that their security operations do not lead to human rights abuses or exacerbate conflict. They also help to encourage investment by reducing the operational, legal and reputational risks that companies face in connection with security, where their work affects the daily lives of local people. The Voluntary Principles Initiative is a forum for companies, governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to work together to find solutions to complex security and human rights challenges.
The UK assumed the Chairmanship of the VPs in March 2014 for one year. Our priorities were to encourage more governments and UK companies to join the initiative, to help companies to use the VPs to manage risks more effectively, and to make progress towards bringing the initiative further into line with the UNGPs, through increased accountability and transparency. We have made progress in all of these areas.
In May, Ghana became the first African country to join the Voluntary Principles Initiative and, following a workshop in Angola, which the UK supported, the Angolan government made a commitment to accede to the VPs. We also funded workshops on the VPs in Mozambique and Kenya, which brought together representatives of governments, extractive companies and civil society. These workshops have provided the foundations for further dialogue on the VPs in these countries. We have also promoted the VPs in Argentina, EU, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mozambique, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, and Thailand. We have done this through bilateral lobbying by FCO ministers and overseas missions, workshops, articles, blogs, and participation in mining conferences and other events. One UK oil company, which participated in a meeting in 2013 at the FCO on the VPs, joined the initiative this year.
We also took steps to strengthen the initiative by working with other participants to develop verification frameworks. These frameworks will help measure participants’ implementation of the VPs and of their roles and responsibilities within the initiative. All participants have committed to greater discussion of their efforts. We started a process to identify case studies relating to the VPs, which we can use to demonstrate to other stakeholders, including governments, how the principles are having an impact on the ground.
Before our chairmanship concludes in March 2015, we will host two events at the Mining Indaba (annual professional conference dedicated to the capitalisation and development of mining interests in Africa) in South Africa in February, to encourage African governments to join the initiative, and showcase our achievements over the past year. In March, we will host the annual plenary meeting of the VPs in London. We will use our plenary to promote the benefits of membership to invited governments, and provide a space to discuss and review participants’ implementation of the VPs for the first time. Following our plenary, we will hand over the chairmanship to the US. We will continue to work with the US and other participants to expand government membership, support more effective use of the principles, and encourage implementation of the new verification frameworks and the development of a more robust reporting process.
Private Security Companies (PSCs)
Legitimate PSCs that work to high standards play a vital role in the protection of diplomatic missions, businesses and NGOs working in complex and dangerous environments around the world. We are pursuing a policy to raise the standards of all PSCs working in complex environments overseas, and to recognise those that work to high standards. The UK is a signatory to the Montreux Document on private militaryand security companies, which 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 or Private Security Providers (ICoC) and for the professional standards which flow from it.
In 2014, the government maintained the strong progress we had made in raising the standards of PSCs working in complex environments overseas, and ensuring independent oversight of these standards and recognition for those companies working to these standards. We continued to work closely with our industry partner, the Security in Complex Environments Group, and with civil society.
In March, the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) completed its pilot to accredit independent certifying bodies to certify PSCs to public, professional standards. These standards are ANSI/ ASIS PSC.1, a standard for land-based PSCs, and ISO 28000, incorporating the requirements of the guidance ISO PAS 28007, for maritime PSCs providing armed guards on ships. The UKAS pilot, part-funded by the FCO, is the first of its kind in the world. Following the pilot, UKAS is developing guidance for accredited certification bodies, which is in part intended to ensure they maintain an up-to-date understanding of the areas of human rights and international humanitarian law applicable to the work of PSCs in complex environments. To this end, we are facilitating contributions to the draft from academic and civil society experts.
The British government is contributing to the international process to consider revisions of the PSC.1 and ISO PAS 28007 standards, to ensure that the revised standards are at least as vigorous as the current versions on human rights, and that they continue to be usable by PSCs. This process started in 2014 and will continue in 2015.
At the international level, our support for the ICoC Association, which will oversee compliance with the code, remained strong. Through the UK’s seat on the Board of the Association, we helped to develop the processes by which the Association will admit, certify and monitor its members. We made the case to clients of PSCs, including companies, governments and NGOs, that Association membership should be recognised in contracting policies in order to provide commercial recognition for PSCs working to the highest standards.
In the coming year, we will continue our relationship with UKAS to ensure it has access to industry and civil society expertise, and continue to ensure that revisions to the PSC.1and ISO PAS 28007 standards respect human rights. We will work closely with government, industry and civil society partners in the ICoC Association so that it delivers the needs of each. We will promote our approach to PSCs through participation in the newly-establish Montreux Document forum.
Responsible sourcing of minerals
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 who should expect to benefit from a valuable economic resource. We address 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 using their trade 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, and the UK Border Force are responsible for preventing illicit diamonds entering or leaving the UK. In 2014, authorities seized one shipment of rough diamonds which was not compliant with the Kimberley Process minimum requirements. The GDO continued its work with the UK’s rough diamond industry to provide expert advice, and audited thirteen rough diamond traders as part of its oversight of industry compliance with Kimberley Process minimum standards. It also inspected twelve shipments of rough diamonds entering or leaving the UK, and issued Kimberley Process certificates for rough diamond exports worth over US$63 million.
In 2014, we supported stronger implementation of the Kimberley Process minimum requirements worldwide. Côte d’Ivoire was shown to have satisfied the provisions of the Kimberley Process as far as possible under the UN Security Council’s embargo on rough diamond exports, which was lifted on 29 April 2014 after nine years. We will continue to provide political support to re-integrate the Central African Republic into the Kimberley Process, following its suspension in 2013. Both situations demonstrate that the Kimberley Process remains a credible and effective conflict prevention tool.
We will continue to support the Kimberley Process efforts to deliver good governance through the Regional Approach to the Mano River Union countries of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire. Supported by the EU, this initiative will help these states improve their internal controls, and to raise standards of Kimberley Process compliance collectively.
Amending the Kimberley Process mandate better to address the risks around today’s diamond supply chains, which include human rights abuses and violence by states and other armed groups, remains contentious. We will continue to make the case for reform in 2015 under the Angolan chairmanship of the Kimberley Process. Angola has identified the VPs as a way of tackling human rights abuses around diamond mines. As current Chair of the Voluntary Principles Initiative, we will work with Angola on promoting the use of the VPs among Kimberley Process participants.
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. OECD’s “due diligence guidance for responsible supply chains of minerals from conflict-affected and high-risk areas” includes specific guidance on gold andtin, tungsten and tantalum, all of which are used in consumer electronics. Some companies and trade bodies have already put in place programmes to implement the guidance, and we continue to support and encourage relevant UK importers to carry out full and transparent due diligence.
The EU has also given its political backing to the guidance, by releasing in March a draft regulation to set up a selfcertification system for companies that are implementing the guidance, alongside a joint communication setting out other areas of support for companies to implement the guidance. We support the intention of the draft regulation, and the measures set out in the joint communication, particularly support to small- and medium-sized enterprises to implement the guidance. We will continue to work on the draft scheme in 2015, our aims being to ensure support for and consistency with the OECD guidance, and to deliver a scheme which is accessible to importers, and which supports trade with conflictaffected and high-risk areas. Our position will continue to be informed by regular contact with industry and civil society.
Anti-corruption and transparency
Corruption harms societies, undermines the rule of law and economic development and threatens democracy. It corrodes the fabric of society, creates barriers to doing business, and deters private sector investment. Corruption also threatens our national security, economic prosperity and international reputation. The World Bank estimates that bribery can add up to 10% to business costs globally, and that over US$1 trillion is paid in bribes each year.
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. Our Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates throughout the world have continued to be active in supporting the implementation of the UK Bribery Act 2010. They carried out campaigns to highlight the issue on International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December, often in cooperation with civil society and other governments. DFID’s development assistance programmes also contribute to strengthening anti-corruption systems in partner countries, both through direct assistance to anti-corruption institutions and oversight bodies, as well as to improving public financial management and delivery of public services.
On 18 December, the UK published its first Anti-Corruption Action Plan. We developed this as part of our second Open Government Partnership National Action Plan; it sets the strategic direction and targets for all anti-corruption activity – both at home and overseas. It sets out how the government is doing more to increase transparency, tackle money-laundering and ensure the UK is at the forefront of efforts to raise global standards; promote sustainable growth; increase transparency; identify illicit financial flows; and return stolen assets. It will ensure greater collaboration and consistency around UK efforts to tackle corruption.
The UK played an active part in G20 activity. At the G20 Summit in Brisbane in November, leaders agreed an ambitious two-year anti-corruption action plan, which sets out work in six priority areas: beneficial ownership; bribery; high-risk sectors; public sector transparency and integrity; international cooperation; and private sector transparency and integrity. The action plan includes the development of best practices and the possible development of high-level principles, to tackle corruption in the extractives sector, alongside other high-risk sectors such as customs, fisheries and primary forestry, and construction. The G20 has also committed to account for its anti-corruption commitments by reporting annually to G20 leaders on progress made, and publishing these reports.
In 2014, the FCO broadened its work with others across Whitehall to improve international architecture for assetm recovery. We supported the delivery of the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery in November, deploying the network to lobby on the forum objectives, securing high-level attendance, and facilitating discussions in its margins. This built on our delivery of the Ukraine Forum on Asset Recovery in April 2014, attended by over 200 delegates from 30 countries, including four UK Ministers, which facilitated international cooperation and identified concrete actions to advance asset recovery work.
The FCO’s Prosperity Fund and Arab Partnership Participation Fund have continued to run nearly 40 projects that focus on anti-corruption and transparency. Some involve capacity building or providing technical assistance to promote domestic reform or to help meet international commitments. Projects often involve working directly with private sector partners. In Mexico we shared UK technical expertise on making public works planning and execution, and the public’s interaction with bureaucracy, more transparent. In Angola, we supported the establishment of an institute for ethical business practices and good governance standards. And in South Africa we ran a project to identify gaps in the current legal framework for whistleblowers.
The FCO’s Overseas Business Risk (OBR) online web service is aimed at helping UK businesses identify and mitigate overseas business risks. Covering 80 overseas markets, the intelligence shared by our network of British Embassies and High Commissions includes information on levels of bribery and corruption; political and economic stability; threats from terrorism and organised crime; human rights risks; protective and cyber-security advice; and the protection of intellectual property.
In 2015, our activity to tackle corruption will be underpinned by the new Anti-Corruption Action Plan to raise global standards further and promote sustainable growth. This will include working with the Ministry of Justice to facilitate workshops with our international partners focused on sharing the UK’s experience of drafting and developing the UK Bribery Act; working with Cabinet Office to coordinate the UK’s international engagement on corruption; and using the FCO overseas network, as well as our membership of international organisations, such as the G7 and the G20, to promote further action to tackle corruption.
Arms export licensing
Britain has one of the most robust arms export-licensing systems in the world. All licence applications are assessed ona 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 Chapter VII – Countering Proliferation of Conventional Weapons).
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. These agreements generally accompany and are linked to trade agreements that the EU negotiates with third countries. Essential element clauses state that respect for human rights and democratic principles is a central pillar of the framework agreement. This makes compliance with the essential elements clause of the framework agreement a requirement of the trade agreement as well. If there are serious violations of human rights, the situation can be examined and appropriate measures taken by the EU.
The EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiationsm concluded in October 2014. The FTA highlights the commitments of both parties to upholding human rights, and references their Partnership and Cooperation Agreement of 2013, which contains an “essential elements” clause.
The EU-United States Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is currently under negotiation. As stated in the European Council’s negotiating directives to the European Commission for the negotiations, we expect the TTIP text to confirm that this partnership is based on common principles and values shared by the EU and the United States, including the protection and promotion of human rights. For example, we expect the Trade and Sustainable Development chapter of TTIP to promote dialogue and cooperation between the EU and United States on upholding labour rights, both domestically and in an international context.
In April 2014, the EU and Cuba opened negotiations for a bilateral Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (PDCA). The final EU-Cuba PDCA is likely to cover the full scope of relations between the EU and Cuba, including trade relations. One of the main purposes of this agreement (and PDCAs in general) is to develop a dialogue based on the respect for and promotion of human rights, democracy and good governance. We hope the EU-Cuba PDCA negotiations will resume in 2015.
The EU-Central America PDCA, between the EU and its member states, and Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, entered into force on 1 May.
In November, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) reached an agreement to implement the Bali package, which was negotiated at the WTO Ministerial Conference in 2013. The agreement includes a number of trade measures for Least Developed Countries, which will help them better integrate into the global trading system and support jobs and economic growth.
Trade and development
The EU this year concluded negotiations for Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with three regions in Africa (East, West, and Southern). The EPAs are based on the fundamental principles and the essential and fundamentalelements that are set out in the Cotonou Agreement, which includes obligations stemming from respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law.
The EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) supports jobs and economic development through the reduction of tariffs on exports to the EU. These preferences can be temporarily removed from countries if they show a “serious and systematic violation” of the principles contained in 15 international conventions on human and labour rights. Under GSP+, the EU gives additional trade preferences to countries that give a binding undertaking to implement effectively and maintain ratification of 27 international conventions.
On 25 December, Philippines became a GSP+ beneficiary. Existing GSP+ beneficiaries are Armenia, Bolivia, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Georgia, Guatemala, Mongolia, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. These countries are committed to reporting on their implementation of the international conventions, which will contribute t the production of a progress report from the European Commission at the end of 2015.
Sanctions, such as asset freezes and travel bans, are one of the tools used by the international community to promote human rights and democracy, in particular in conflict and postconflict situations. Targeted measures against human rights abusers can be effective in either coercing a change in the target’s behaviour, or constraining their ability to continue that behaviour. The UK is active on the UN Security Council (UNSC) and within the EU to promote its policy of smart sanctions that are legally robust and effective in delivering our human rights goals.
The UNSC and EU have established a number of sanctions regimes that include measures targeting human rights abuses, in countries such as Belarus, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Zimbabwe. In 2014, the UK took action to ensure that these measures were reviewed so that they remain effective in supporting wider human rights work in these countries. We also supported the imposition of new EU sanctions regimes concerning the situations in South Sudan and Ukraine, both of which contained specific criteria targeting persons responsible for serious violations of human rights in those countries. One individual has so far been listed for human rights violations under the new South Sudan measures, resulting from his role in an attack on Bentiu (a town in the north of the country) in April which resulted in the deaths of 200 civilians. A new UN regime was also established in February 2014, which included measures targeting individuals responsible for human rights abuses in Yemen.
Sanctions are also used to counter terrorist groups that commit human rights abuses such as Al Qaeda and ISIL. In 2014, the UNSC responded to the growing terrorist threat by adopting a series of resolutions, including new measures to choke off financial support for ISIL.
CHAPTER IX: 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, developed a Consular Strategy (2013-16) which focuses our support 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, detained, 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 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) in the UK and overseas; they provide invaluable support, expertise and advice to supplement what we are able to do.
In 2014, the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) conducted a review of Consular Services. The committee commended our work in many areas, including our focus on the most vulnerable British nationals needing our assistance and the high-quality support we provide in areas such as kidnapping and forced marriage. We recognise many of the areas the FAC has identified as areas for improvement, including our policy and support to the families of victims of murder and manslaughter to access justice, and will work to improve our services in these areas.
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 the senior political level when necessary, and did so in a number of countries in 2014.
At the end of 2014, there were 14 British nationals under the sentence of death in countries across the world. The most common offences were for drugs and murder, with one case of blasphemy and one of terrorism. Where death sentences have been imposed, we seek their review or commutation.
Representations were made on behalf of British nationals in a number of countries including Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt and the US. In one particular case in the US, we worked closely with lawyers on the FCO Pro Bono Legal Panel to submit an Amicus Curiae (Third Party Interventions) Brief in support of a British national on death row.
We work closely with legal teams employed by British nationals who are facing the death penalty and we are supported indoing so by the NGOs Reprieve and the Death Penalty Project (DPP). In 2014, we worked closely with Reprieve on cases of British nationals in Indonesia, Egypt, the United States, Ethiopia and Pakistan. We worked closely with DPP on cases in Kenya, Malaysia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, St Kitts and Ghana. In 2015, we will continue to intervene in these and all such cases.
At the end of September, we were aware of over 2,190 British prisoners detained overseas in 99 countries, which is a reduction from 2013. Of these, drug offences account for 35% of cases and child sex offences for 7% – a slight increase in each from 2013. Immigration detentions have decreased from 10% to 5%. We offer consular assistance to all British mono-nationals and dual nationals in a third country whether they are in police custody, awaiting trial, or serving a prison sentence, regardless of the crime with which they have been charged. In certain exceptional circumstances, we can help dual nationals in the country of their second nationality and nationals of other European and Commonwealth countries.
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 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 Englishspeaking lawyers and interpreters, and the availability of legal aid.
We support the welfare of British detainees overseas in close partnership with Prisoners Abroad. This UK charity offers grants and vitamin supplements to improve the health and well-being of prisoners held overseas, and provides resettlement assistance on return to the UK. We work with them on over 1,000 cases a year, particularly those of prisoners with medical concerns. For example, we collaborated on a project to review and update 50 prisoner packs which offer guidance to detainees on legal and prison systems in each country. These packs are shared with prisoners during the first consular visit, and are available publicly on the gov.uk website. The project will continue aiming to update all packs by September 2015.
We are concerned about the increased number of deaths in custody during 2014. Some have been cases of detainees suffering from terminal illness. We are revising our internal guidance to assist consular staff in the correct, consistent handling of all deaths in custody; this will be completed in 2015. Along with Prisoners Abroad, we hold a review of each case to establish the facts ofthe case, and consider the assistance we provided and whether lessons can be learned for future cases.
We also part-fund and work closely with other NGOs to extend the level of legal or procedural support available to British prisoners held overseas. DPP, Reprieve, and Fair Trials International provide help and advice for British nationals who require specialist legal support, particularly when they are at risk of the death penalty, or have been convicted in countries where we have concerns for their right to a fair trial or safe treatment.
In 2015, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) will continue to work closely with our partners to assist British nationals imprisoned overseas. We will develop a new torture and mistreatment e-learning programme, and a new two-day workshop targeted at our staff in priority high-risk countries. By the end of 2015, we aim to have trained 36 staff in relevant roles. We will also continue to develop Prisoner Transfer Agreements with priority countries, to enable more British prisoners to serve their sentences in UK prisons, closer to family and support networks, and therefore better prepared for rehabilitation and release into society.
Murder and Manslaughter
We provided consular support in approximately 70 cases of murder and manslaughter overseas. This work includes helping bereaved families and friends seek access to justice. To support families doing this further, as part of our 2014 review of policy and services in this area, we are setting up a new and specialist Access to Justice Unit within our Consular Directorate.
The UK continues to remain one of the world leaders in tackling forced marriage. It is recognised as child abuse, domestic abuse, a form of violence against both women and men, and ultimately an abuse of human rights.
Following an extensive public consultation and a subsequent robust parliamentary process, forced marriage is now a criminal offence in the UK. The new legislation criminalises the use of violence, threats, deception or any other form of coercion for the purpose of forcing a person into marriage or to leave the UK, with the intention of forcing that person to marry. In addition, it also criminalises breach of a forced marriage protection order (FMPO) which can include forbidding a person to be taken overseas, or ordering that they be returned to the UK.
The new offences not only send out a clear message that this unacceptable practice will not be tolerated in the UK, but also ensure that perpetrators face severe penalties. The new legislation is part of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, and came into force on 16 June. We know that legislation alone is not enough, which is why we will remain focused on the provision of prevention, support, and protection for victims and those at risk of becoming victims.
The UK continued to tackle the issue of forced marriage through the work of the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU), which is a joint FCO and Home Office unit. The FMU leads on the government’s forced marriage policy, outreach and casework. It operates both inside the UK, where support is provided to any individual, and overseas, where consular assistance is provided to British nationals, including dual nationals. 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.
The FMU provided advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in well over 1,000 cases, involving more than 60 countries. The assistance provided ranged from telephone advice, to aiding a victim to prevent their unwanted spouse moving to the UK, and returning victims of forced marriage overseas to the UK.
Our key message has been to raise awareness of the difference between forced and arranged marriage, as well as setting out how the new law works in practical terms. In 2014, the FMU delivered over 100 outreach events, seminars, and workshops for professionals across all agencies, schools and communities. It also co-funded a short film on forced marriage called “Our Girl”, which premiered at the Girl Summit in July. The FMU has continued to remain active on social media. In July, as part of an awareness week, it delivered a digital campaign to highlight the issues around forced marriage, and also raise awareness of the support that is available for victims and potential victims.
We funded nine UK-based NGOs to carry out projects raising awareness of forced marriage, the consequences for perpetrators, and the wider support available for those who were at risk. Projects included reviewing the support available for learning disability victims, an education and awareness programme for schools and universities, empowering survivors,and a community radio project aimed at promoting zero tolerance of forced marriage and honour-based violence. Our Embassies and High Commissions also funded local NGOs, enabling women’s shelters and refuges to accommodate victims prior to their repatriation back to the UK. The British High Commission in Dhaka also oversaw forced marriage community projects to promote awareness in Attock, Jhelum and Rawalpindi, and ran a poster competition in Sylhet.
We have continued to raise awareness of forced and child marriage to our global workforce. In October, a second forced marriage training conference was held in Dubai. This was aimed at raising awareness with those colleagues overseas responsible for managing forced marriage cases, or in countries where evidence has identified a strong possibility of cases taking place.
The FMU has also been instrumental in pushing for forced marriage to remain high on the agenda of member countries of the International Partnership Board (IPB). The IPB is made up of members from Embassies and High Commissions based in London. The aim is to raise awareness of what is currently being done in the UK, exchange ideas and experiences, and build an international coalition working towards ending the practice of forced marriage.
We have remained committed to maintaining close working relationships with the EU and wider international partners, for example by delivering a presentation and sitting on an expert panel on forced marriage at the “Too Young to Wed” event in Oslo, as well as at an event in Copenhagen looking at honour-related conflicts. The FMU also attended Almedalen Week in Visby to speak about the UK’s forced marriage approach, coinciding with the introduction of new forced marriage legislation in Sweden in June. We provided contributions to the UN Committee on the UK’s implementation of the Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child.
Forced marriage is considered a child protection and public protection issue in the UK. Our main focus in 2015 will be to ensure that implementation of the new legislation is fully embedded within all agencies responsible for safeguarding children and those at risk. To complement this activity, we will continue to raise awareness across communities in the UK, and expand our work in order to provide high-quality support to victims and those at risk of becoming victims.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The procedure is also referred to as “cutting”, “female circumcision” and “initiation”. It is medically unnecessary, extremely painful, and can have serious physical and mental health consequences both at the time when the mutilation is carried out, and in later life.
FGM’s prevalence in the UK is difficult to estimate because of the hidden nature of the crime. However, a new report by Equality Now and City University, published in July, estimated that approximately 60,000 girls aged 0-14 were born in England and Wales to mothers who had undergone FGM. It also estimated that approximately 103,000 women aged 15-49 and 24,000 women aged 50 and over who have migrated to England and Wales are living with the consequences of FGM. In addition, approximately 10,000 girls aged under 15 who have migrated to England and Wales are likely to have undergone FGM.
The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where FGM is most prevalent. It is also highly prevalent in Indonesia, and takes place within parts of Western Europe and other developed countries, primarily amongst immigrant and refugee communities.
UK communities that are most at risk of FGM include Somalis, Kenyans, Sudanese, Sierra Leoneans, Egyptians, Nigerians, Eritreans, Yemeni, Kurdish, Indonesian and Pakistani women and girls. FGM is not a religious requirement or obligation. It has no link with Islam and is not condoned by Christian teachings or the bible. While the UK recognises the practice of FGM is a criminal offence, it often takes place within loving families, who believe that it is in the best interests of their child.
In the UK, FGM has been a criminal offence since the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985. The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 made it an offence for the first time for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to carry out FGM either at home or abroad, or to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad, even in countries where FGM is legal.
In 2014, we continued to work with the Home Office, the Department of Health, and the Department for Education, to assist in tackling FGM. A joined-up approach across frontline agencies will be required to safeguard girls and protect women and, in December, the government launched a specialist cross-departmental FGM Unit to drive a step-change in nationwide outreach to safeguarding professionals and affected communities. Tackling FGM forms a key commitment in the UK government’s “The Call to End Violence against Women and Girls: Action Plan”. We are currently amending UK law to ensure that it applies to habitual as well as permanent UK residents, and to ensure that victims of FGM are granted life-long anonymity.
The FCO participates in cross-government work on FGM. Comprehensive guidance on how to handle cases is available to all staff. Our Embassies in the relevant countries display information on FGM. We have trained consular staff in East Africa on how best to respond to consular cases involving FGM, and are looking into options for further training. We are also working to establish links with local organisations that may be able to assist with such consular cases, and will continue to coordinate our action with local colleagues from the Department for International Development.
At the Girl Summit in July, the government announced an unprecedented package of measures to tackle FGM – See “Case Study: the Girl Summit – Ending Female Genital Mutilation and Child, Early and Forced Marriage” for further details.
International child abduction and the wrongful retention of children continues to be 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, the impact is profound. Children are denied regular close contact with the parent and family 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 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 countries where the 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.
In 2014, the FCO provided direct advice and assistance to 553 British families dealing with new international child abduction and cross-border custody cases. We offered parents advice and information about child abduction in the local context, provided assistance through informing relevant foreign authorities, helped to find local lawyers, and, where appropriate, made political representations. We also worked closely with UK police, social services, courts, lawyers and the specialist NGO Reunite to ensure families received coordinated support in the UK.
With the number of child abductions on the rise, we also worked to alert parents to the problem. On 19 December, the FCO ran its annual child abduction awareness-raising campaign, through which 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. The FCO film “Caught in the Middle”, which underlines the traumatic and lasting impact child abduction can have on the whole family, was also re-released.
The FCO continues to encourage 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 2014, FCO ministers continued to raise the issue with their counterparts, and we worked closely with China to promote the reciprocal benefits of the convention. Lady Justice Black, the Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales, paid a visit to China and engaged with local authorities and government on how the Hague Abduction Convention could help families. We also provided funds for a Pakistani judge to attend a conference of Hague liaison judges, to learn more about how the different Hague family law conventions work in practice.
In 2015, we will continue this work, by organising a number of family law and child abduction conferences in Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, bringing judges, officials and NGOs together to explore how the Hague Abduction Convention works. Through continued high-level political representations to foreign governments and projects with foreign activists, we will persuade more countries to sign and operate the Hague Abduction Convention, to the benefit of children around the world.
CHAPTER X: Working through a Rules-Based International System
The UN is a key vehicle for advancing the UK’s priorities on human rights: it enables scrutiny of human rights violations worldwide; provides a forum for dialogue between states; and provides technical assistance to states on human rights in country. In 2014, the UK resumed its seat on the Human Rights Council (HRC), the UN’s main intergovernmental human rights forum, which meets in Geneva three times a year. Throughout 2014, there was significant ministerial engagement with the HRC, which helped deliver UK priorities.
Other important UN human rights bodies include the UN General Assembly Third Committee (UNGA 3rd Committee) which meets annually in the autumn. Its main activity consists of resolutions on country situations and thematic issues to highlight progress or areas of concern, or to urge a state to do more e.g. to protect members of a particularly vulnerable group. These resolutions are voted on by all UN members. The UN Security Council (UNSC), which has primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, also focused in 2014 on a number of conflicts and situations where human rights concerns were significant.
The UK supports the UN’s expert human rights mechanisms, including Special Rapporteurs and treaty bodies (expert committees that monitor states’ compliance with their human rights treaty obligations), as well as the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). This year we welcomed Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to the role of High Commissioner. We applaud his high level of engagement with the UNSC, and the strong stance he has taken on issues such as ISIL, Syria and Sri Lanka.
We maintained our financial support for the operational structures of human rights in the UN, providing £2.5 million of funding in 2014, on top of our contribution to the UN Regular Budget. We provided a further £1.57 million to support OHCHR field offices around the world, including building capacity on human rights issues in Tajikistan, and promoting stability in Kyrgyzstan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). We also support efforts to make OHCHR more effective and to broaden its donor base. In 2014, the UK, as one of around 30 current members of the UN’s Committee on Programme Coordination, worked with partners to secure a hard-won agreement on OHCHR’s programme of activities for the next two years. This gives OHCHR a clear framework for its work.
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, and in the field.
In March, the UK, alongside four other countries, led a HRC resolution calling on the government of Sri Lanka to make progress on human rights and reconciliation. FCO Minister for Asia, Hugo Swire, visited Geneva to speak out about the importance of the resolution, which also established an independent international investigation into the most serious violations and abuses of human rights during the Sri Lankan conflict. This was a major step forward which should make a positive contribution to long-term reconciliation in Sri Lanka and to establishing the truth about what happened. On 25 June, the UK welcomed the appointment by the High Commissioner for Human Rights of three distinguished experts to advise the independent investigation: Martti Ahtisaari, Dame Silva Cartwright, and Asma Jahangir. The council received an update on the investigation in September, where the UK called on Sri Lanka to engage with the process, and expressed our concern about threats and intimidation against those wanting to give evidence.
The UK has continued to play a leading role on Syria in human rights fora and has secured some important advances, including robust language on accountability and on the atrocities of ISIL. We also renewed the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) for a further year and brokered strong condemnation of the Assad regime, focused on the humanitarian crisis and continuing denial of access to Syria for the COI. In July, the UK hosted an Arria (informal) meeting of the UNSC with the COI, enabling council members to be briefed on their findings. Votes were harder at the three HRC sessions, where the current membership is less favourable towards country specific resolutions. But our Syria resolutions carried, nevertheless, and at the UNGA 3rd Committee the text attracted greater support than in 2013.
The damning report of the COI into human rights in North Korea (the DPRK), published in early 2014, highlighted the gravity of human rights concerns in the country, and provided important momentum for action over the past year. At the HRC, a resolution endorsed the main points of the report and established a new field office (to be based in Seoul) which will continue to document human rights violations in the DPRK as an important step towards future accountability. It also renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. We secured powerful language on accountability, which recommended the UNSC consider referring the human rights situation in the DPRK to the “appropriate international criminal justice mechanism“. Mr Swire travelled to Geneva in June to draw attention to the report at a briefing by Special Rapporteur Marzuki Darusman. This was followed by an Arria briefing of the UNSC in New York on human rights in the DPRK. The UK, as part of the EU, brought a UNGA 3rd Committee text that went one step further and made clear that the appropriate criminal justice mechanism would be the International Criminal Court (ICC).
On 22 December, the UNSC convened under a new agenda item of “the situation in the DPRK” to discuss the human rights situation. The procedural vote establishing the agenda item was carried by eleven votes in favour (including the UK) to two against (China, Russia) with two abstentions. The UNSC then heard briefings from Assistant Secretary-Generals for Human Rights (Ivan Simonovic) and Political Affairs (Tayé- Brook Zerihoun), which was the first ever formal meeting of the council on DPRK human rights.
Russia’s destabilisation of Ukraine sparked action across all three HRC sessions of 2014. In March, the UK supported a United States-led cross-regional statement on Ukraine that expressed deep concern at the deterioration of the situation in the country and challenged Russia’s narrative of human rights violations as a justification for its military incursion. In June, a resolution supporting UN technical assistance to Ukraine on human rights, and condemning violence by illegal armed groups, was adopted following sensitive negotiations and a difficult vote. In October, the UK used the publication of the OHCHR’s 6th report on human rights in Ukraine as a peg to request an open UNSC session. At that session, the UK stressed its support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and condemned violations by armed groups in eastern Ukraine and Crimea supported by Russia. We further supported Ukraine’s sovereignty in the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) – the UN’s specialised agency for information and communication technologies – reiterating UN Resolution 68/262 (2014) on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
For the March HRC, the UK worked closely with the Libyan authorities to agree a strong resolution that provided technical assistance to Libya and requested a report from the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation. The adopted text was stronger than the previous year’s and passed by consensus.
The March HRC also voted to renew the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran for a further year. The more substantive text on Iran in UNGA 3rd Committee detailed numerous human rights concerns, including use of the death penalty and the harassment of journalists. On 31 October, the UK took part in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran’s human rights situation. The UK urged Iran to put an immediate moratorium on the execution of juveniles and those who committed crimes not recognised as “most serious”; and to allow detainees access to a lawyer at all stages of pretrial detention.
Resolutions on the human rights situation in Burma passed by consensus in both the HRC and the UNGA 3rd Committee. Both were negotiated in close cooperation with Burma and included concerns about the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine State, whilst recognising the efforts to bring about reforms in some areas. The HRC resolution also renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further year, and urged Burma to establish an OHCHR country office with a full mandate.
The September HRC resolution on Sudan was stronger than previous years, giving the Independent Expert a solid mandate to report on the human rights situation. It condemned aerial bombardments of civilians, restrictions on the media and civil society, and the killing of protestors in September 2013. However, the resolution could have been tougher on torture, the treatment of apostasy, and legal reform. Not fully satisfied with the outcome, the UK led a joint statement calling on Sudan to demonstrate its commitment to the HRC, and setting out areas where we will look to Sudan to make progress over the next year. The FCO Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, has also written to the new UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, expressing our deep concerns.
UK diplomatic efforts helped achieve other important decisions, such as the renewal of the UN monitoring mandate on human rights in Belarus, which included tougher language on the death penalty and political prisoners; the establishment of a COI on Eritrea and renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur; the renewal of the UN’s monitoring and reporting role on Yemen for a further 12 months; and agreement to discuss at the HRC in September 2015 the impact of assistance provided to the DRC. Despite a UN report which found that “gross violations of human rights and serious violations of humanitarian law have occurred on a massive scale” in South Sudan since the outset of the conflict, and that there were “reasonable grounds to believe crimes against humanity occurred,” a weak resolution deferring any further UN scrutiny until 2016 was presented to the HRC. South Sudan agreed to revisions to the final resolution which gave the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights a mandate to monitor and report on the human rights situation. We will use this to facilitate a robust UN response and to maintain pressure on the South Sudan government. The UK also supported crossregional statements on the human rights situations in Bahrain and Egypt, and raised our concerns on a range of country and thematic situations through our national statements.
The HRC also met for three Special Sessions in 2014 on the Central African Republic (CAR), Gaza, and the rise of ISIL in Iraq. The January Special Session appointed an Independent Expert to investigate the continued and widespread violations of human rights in the CAR. Her mandate was extended in September for another year, in a strong resolution which called for an end to impunity, and referred to the CAR’s decision to request the ICC prosecutor to investigate violations. The July Special Session was in response to the Gaza crisis, and resulted in a mandate to establish a COI to investigate all violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and human rights law during the crisis, and to report back to the HRC in March 2015.
The UK continues to work hard to ensure that the COI is balanced in its treatment of both sides and contributes positively to peace. In September, a Special Session of the HRC unanimously condemned ISIL human rights abuses in Iraq, sending a resounding message of solidarity with the government and people of Iraq. Over 70 states from all regional groups addressed the HRC, with widespread calls for accountability. The session mandated the OHCHR to despatch a mission to investigate and report on violations and abuses.
Several important thematic issues were the subject of HRC and UNGA 3rd Committee attention. In these fora, we continued to demonstrate global leadership, with particular focus on our six human rights priorities. The EU’s freedom of religion or belief resolutions were adopted by consensus by both the HRC and the 3rd Committee. The resolutions delivered an unambiguous statement on the importance of states taking action to protect the right to freedom of religion or belief, including the right to change one’s religion. The resolutions are run in parallel with the Organisation of the Islamic Conference resolutions on religious intolerance.
The EU-led death penalty resolution in UNGA was adopted with the highest ever vote count in favour in the history of the resolution. The text was also stronger than in previous years, including a call upon states to restrict the use of the death penalty on persons with mental disabilities. This result reflects the UK and partners’ sustained long-term efforts to work with countries to commit to a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
The UK supported the adoption of the second ever Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) resolution at the September HRC session. The initiative sought to reduce polarisation and reinforce agreement on the inadmissibility of violence (a highest common factor approach). But the resolution was nevertheless a high stakes exercise, with implications for the enjoyment of human rights by LGB&T persons, and for the ability of the HRC to uphold the universality of human rights. With like-minded countries, the UK lobbied middle ground states to support the resolution. This likeminded group also worked to protect SOGI language and to strengthen concepts of inclusion and non-discrimination in other UN human rights resolutions.
The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict and the London Girl Summit were important landmarks in the progression of the rights agenda for women and girls and were recalled in relevant UNGA and HRC resolutions. However, it remains difficult to secure a strong and progressive stance on sexual and reproductive health and rights in the UN context.
We continued to oppose a number of initiatives that, in the UK’s view, misrepresent human rights or would be counterproductive in practice. For example, contradictory resolutions on business and human rights were adopted by the HRC. We supported the resolution which focused on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), and opposed the resolution which called for the establishment of a legally binding mechanism. The adoption of this second resolution damages the international consensus which has existed since the UNGPs were agreed in 2011, a point made vigorously by the UK, EU and other proponents of the first resolution.
Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
The UK is a prominent supporter of the UPR process, whereby the human rights records of UN member states are subject to peer review in a four-and-a-half-year cycle. The UPR examined 42 countries in 2014, including Afghanistan, Vietnam, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Yemen, the DRC, the DPRK, Egypt, Iran and Iraq.
During 2014, the UK took two initiatives to underscore our faith in the utility of UPR, and our commitment to following and sharing best practice. In August, the UK submitted a voluntary mid-term report (produced by the Ministry of Justice), which updated the HRC on action taken on recommendations from our UPR examination in 2012. At the 27th session of the HRC in September, the UK, represented by FCO Minister for Human Rights, Baroness Anelay, staged jointly with Morocco’s Minister for Human Rights a well attended event which generated expert discussion on the benefits of UPR, and how best to prepare national reports.
Treaty Monitoring Bodies
British experts, who work independently of the government, continued to play distinguished roles on a number of human rights treaty monitoring bodies. Professor Sir Nigel Rodley worked as Chair of the Human Rights Committee; Professor Malcolm Evans as Chair of the Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture; and Diane Mulligan on the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Patrick Thornberry, the UK’s former expert member of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, chaired the 2014 Forum on Minority Issues on “Preventing and addressing violence and atrocity crimes targeted against minorities” in November. We admire their contributions to the UN’s crucial human rights treaty monitoring system, and those of many other independent UK experts in a host of different capacities.
We strongly support efforts to improve the system’s efficiency, and welcome the conclusion of negotiations in the UN General Assembly during 2014 on reforms to the UN’s human rights treaty monitoring system. Our priority now is to ensure that momentum is maintained with full implementation of the agreed recommendations. We want to see a stronger focus on the independence of treaty monitoring bodies, and the protection and involvement of civil society organisations that support them.
EU Common Foreign and Security Policy
The UK government works through the EU to promote and amplify its work on human rights and democracy around the world. The EU’s reputation and its status as the world’s largest aid donor and major economic actor, gives it significant influence in promoting respect for human rights worldwide. Working through the EU and its member states, and speaking with one voice on issues of shared concern, can increase our impact in individual countries and strengthen delivery of UK human rights priorities in multilateral fora.
This involves the UK and other member states working closely with the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the European Commission to make full use of the EU’s human rights tools. These include: making joint representations or public statements on issues of concern; bilateral and multilateral meetings with international partners; EU human rights dialogues with third countries; the use of development assistance programmes to fund projects that contribute to human rights objectives; and the mainstreaming of human rights in policy areas such as trade and investment and Common Security and Defence Policy.
In November, Mrs Federica Mogherini succeeded Baroness Ashton as the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission. Mrs Mogherini has stated that human rights will be one of her overarching priorities; since taking office, she has spoken forcefully on human rights issues. 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.
EU Special Representative for Human Rights (EUSR)
In 2014, the EUSR, Mr Stavros Lambrinidis, continued to fulfil his mandate to contribute to the effectiveness, visibility and coherence of the EU’s external human rights policy. He articulated the EU’s messages on important human rights themes, including the death penalty, freedom of religion or belief, LGB&T rights, freedom of expression online and offline, business and human rights, women’s rights, and the rights of the child. The EUSR represented the EU’s position on human rights in a number of important multilateral and international fora, including the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (March), the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict (June), the Girl Summit (July), the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (September) and the 3rd UN Forum on Business and Human Rights (December).
Mr Lambrinidis has engaged with multilateral and regional organisations, including the UN human rights mechanisms in Geneva and New York, the Council of Europe, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as with individual countries. He engaged extensively with countries that have an important role in international human rights fora and countries facing serious human rights challenges. He also visited a number of countries, including Egypt, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, the United States, and Burma, where he co-chaired the first EU-Burma Human Rights Dialogue in May. In November, he hosted the first delegation of the Independent Commission on Human Rights of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation to visit the EU in Brussels.
Human rights dialogues
The EU’s human rights dialogues with third countries are indepth meetings dedicated to human rights, and are a valuable tool for developing mutual understanding and cooperation. They enable the EU to exchange views with partner countries, to raise specific issues of concern, and to acknowledge progress where appropriate. During 2014, the EU held bilateral human rights dialogues with (in addition to Burma): Mexico (March), Brazil (April), Kyrgyzstan (April), Tajikistan (June), Ukraine (July), South Africa (November), Uzbekistan (November), Kazakhstan (November), China (December) and Armenia (December). The EU and Laos held the fifth round of their annual Working Group on Human Rights and Governance in May.
The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR)
The EIDHR is the EU’s worldwide funding programme for human rights and democracy. In March, the EU adopted a regulation which renewed EIDHR for the period 2014-20, with a total financial envelope of more than €1.3 billion. The annual programme for EIDHR in 2014 included allocations of €20 million for supporting human rights and their defenders where they are most at risk, €82.3 million for supporting local civil society through country-based schemes, €5 million for supporting national human rights institutions, and €4 million for supporting the OHCHR.
EU Guidelines on Freedom of Expression
In May, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council adopted EU Guidelines on Freedom of Expression online and offline, which is one of the UK’s six priority human rights themes. The guidelines reaffirm the pivotal role that freedom of expression plays in a democratic society, both as a fundamental right in itself and as an essential element in a full range of human rights, such as freedom of association and freedom of religion or belief. The UK helped to develop the guidelines; we consider them to be a valuable tool for EU delegations and embassies of EU member states in their work to ensure that the right to freedom of expression 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 expression.
The guidelines complement the 10 existing policy guidelines that the EU had adopted before 2014 for the advancement of other human rights themes. These cover the death penalty; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; freedom of religion or belief; LGB&T rights; human rights dialogues with third countries; children and armed conflict; human rights defenders (HRDs); the rights of the child; violence and discrimination against women and girls; and international humanitarian law.
In June, on the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the EU Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, the EU Foreign Affairs Council reiterated its strong support for HRDs all over the world, and committed the EU to intensifying its political and material support for them.
Freedom of expression online and offline was the theme of the 16th EU-NGO (non-governmental organisation) Human Rights Forum, held in Brussels on 4-5 December. This event provided a platform for hundreds of civil society organisations from across the globe to have their voices heard by representatives of the EU institutions, international and regional human rights organisations, and member states, including the UK.
In 2015, the EU’s external human rights policy will continue to be guided by the Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy. The EU has implemented this policy through an Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, which was adopted alongside the Strategic Framework in 2012, and which is due to be renewed in 2015.
Through the action plan, the EU has upgraded its working methods, set up a network of human rights focal points in EU delegations and at headquarters, and adopted guidelines to support EU policies in key human rights areas. The EU has also developed nearly 150 human rights country strategies and continues to engage in human rights consultations with many countries. The UK has participated in discussions on a new action plan, which we believe should build on the progress made by focusing on areas where there is a need for further action and where the EU can make a real difference.
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 2014, which will be published in 2015.
The UK remains a strong supporter of conditions-based EU enlargement to all the countries of the Western Balkans and Turkey. This includes support for the emphasis the EU accession process places on human rights. The importance of applicant countries adhering to the EU’s human rights values and laws is emphasised throughout the accession process that governs their road to EU membership. Institutions that guarantee human rights are a core part of the Copenhagen Criteria for accession to the EU. Enlargement therefore provides a powerful vehicle to drive human rights reform and compliance among all countries seeking to join the EU. The government’s Balance of Competences report on EU enlargement, published in December 2014, also received evidence on the impact of enlargement on respect for human rights across Europe. It concluded that “evidence suggested that enlargement had successfully helped extend… greater respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
In its October 2014 Annual Enlargement Strategy, the European Commission, in reaffirming the importance of countries’ respect for human rights, noted that enlargement countries “need to put in place a more robust institutional framework for the protection of fundamental rights”, including a stronger role for Ombudsmen. It noted that “too often recommendations of [human rights] institutions go unheeded, with inadequate follow-up by state bodies”. It also highlighted the need to nurture “a culture of acceptance of the work of NGOs and HRDs”.
As part of its role in supporting a firm but fair conditionsbased approach to enlargement, the UK championed the “new approach”, under which candidate countries begin negotiation of rule of law issues – including fundamental rights – from the beginning of the accession process. We welcome the fact that financial EU assistance to candidate countries through the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA II) will be provided in line with this “new approach”.
The EU’s next enlargement is expected sometime in the early 2020s. Eight countries are recognised by the EU as having the potential to become members, but one of them – Iceland – has suspended its accession negotiations. Turkey has been in accession negotiations since 2005. Montenegro opened its accession negotiations in 2012. Serbia commenced accession negotiations in 2014. Macedonia and Albania have attained candidate status, in 2005 and 2014 respectively, but neither country has yet opened accession negotiations.
Albania achieved candidate status for EU membership in June. The UK welcomes the European Commission Annual Progress Report on Albania of October, which notes progress on fundamental rights issues. We would encourage the Albanian government to sustain the process of reform and, in particular, to put substantial effort into further judicial reform to underpin other activity. FCO 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.
The European Commission report makes clear that fundamental rights are generally respected in Albania. However, the Albanian government needs to continue to implement measures to protect vulnerable groups, including increased child protection capacity. Cooperation between state authorities and civil society on LGB&T issues has improved. In order to provide an objective assessment of the situation, we engaged an independent expert to produce an update to the 2010 report for the Council of Europe on LGB&T rights in Albania. This describes considerable progress over the 2010-14 period, and strong commitment from government to engage on this issue. We have also engaged the Albert Kennedy Trust, a UK NGO established to serve LGB&T young people who are homeless, living in a hostile environment, or in housing crisis, to assist the establishment of a shelter in Tirana.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has strong legislation in the field of human rights, but problems remain with selective implementation. The International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict was first launched in Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with the associated training modules to improve work in preventing and responding to sexual violence. To support survivors, we launched an NGO-run helpline offering those affected by conflict, including sexual violence and children born out of rape, immediate access to local expert support.
The UK also contributed funds to the International Commission on Missing Persons to support the recovery and identification of human remains from one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s biggest mass graves. With the UK’s timely contribution, the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) allowed the prosecution to reopen and strengthen its case against Mladiæ by presenting this evidence, to achieve the ICTY’s aim of bringing war criminals to justice.
Ethnic minorities, the Roma population, persons with disabilities, LGB&T persons, and other vulnerable groups still suffer from discrimination. Our Embassy was one of the few international organisations to fly the rainbow flag on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, thereby demonstrating our support for LGB&T rights. Freedom of speech and the right of peaceful assembly and of association has deteriorated, as has the position of HRDs. We worked with HRDs and local NGOs to support their presentation of a shadow UPR report, ensuring their assessment was highlighted in an international arena.
In Kosovo, the UK continues to support a number of human rights-related projects, primarily in the areas of minority rights, victims’ rights, and property rights. We have provided training to build the capacity of legal professionals dealing with war crimes; worked with the Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for the Victims of Torture to help improve care for victims of sexual violence and to develop new legislation that recognises the victims of sexual violence in conflict; and supported minorities in accessing education and developing business opportunities. We continue to fund a number of secondees to the EU’s rule of law mission (EULEX) and to Kosovo institutions to strengthen the rule of law and minority rights.
As noted in the 2014 European Commission progress report, Kosovo made some progress on human rights last year, in particular on freedom of thought, conscience and religion, but there remain areas of concern, in particular the need to strengthen the institutional framework to ensure adequate protection of minority rights. Kosovo took another step towards closer EU integration with the initialling of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement in July 2014. With the new government in place, we hope 2015 will see progress on key areas such as electoral reform and visa liberalisation.
The UK welcomes the latest European Commission progress report on Macedonia, which states that, given its cumulative progress over several years, Macedonia continues to meet the political criteria in terms of alignment with the EU acquis (the EU’s entire body of law). However, that positive recommendation is increasingly overshadowed by serious concerns over lack of political dialogue, politicisation of institutions and services, and media freedom. The UK continues to believe that the best way to address these concerns is through the opening of EU accession negotiations and the EU’s scrutiny of Macedonia’s compliance with its standards and requirements.
Over the coming year, the UK will be calling on all stakeholders in Macedonia to make efforts to resolve its political crisis, increase the space for independent voices, and develop a joint approach to a multi-ethnic society. The UK would also like to see more done to counteract intolerance of LGB&T persons, and notes with concern the attack on an LGB&T centre in Skopje on 23 October, which should be fully investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice. The FCO uses its programme tools to contribute to these goals, such as supporting inter-ethnic education, increasing awareness of the concept of hate speech, and making information on government services open to all citizens.
The UK funded a number of projects in Montenegro primarily in the areas of fundamental rights and justice. We supported a project aimed at strengthening the protection of the right to a fair trial, and funded another on the journalistic code of ethics. We also worked with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to organise a conference focusing on strengthening the social skills and social development of children in education. Another project targeting primary schools promoted women’s rights and the fight against human trafficking. In addition, our Embassy directly supported the organisation of Montenegro’s third ever Pride parade in Podgorica, which took place peacefully. The UK also continues to work with Montenegrin judges on the application of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The 2014 European Commission progress report acknowledged some further progress on fundamental rights, noting positively Montenegro’s gradual familiarisation with international reporting mechanisms, welcome amendments to its Ombudsman law, and its Roma action plan. However, the report also noted that progress was uneven, with a continuing gap between legal alignment and implementation of human rights standards. There remained concerns about attacks against the media, LGB&T persons and activists, and the ongoing overall discrimination against the Roma community. In Serbia, the UK has continued to be at the forefront of advocacy for human rights and minority rights.
In September we welcomed the staging of the first Pride parade in Belgrade since 2010, having consistently pressed the Serbian government on ensuring the conditions to allow it to go ahead. Our Embassy has also played an important role in supporting the adoption of the national Anti-Discrimination Strategy Action Plan. In addition, we have supported several projects promoting human rights, including one that is helping Serbia develop its training curriculum on European human rights law for the Serbian judiciary, and another seeking to strengthen the capacity of Serbia’s Office of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality.
The 2014 European Commission progress report noted that the legislative framework for protection of human rights and minorities is generally in place, but that the Serbian government still needs to do more to ensure that rights are consistently respected in practice and vulnerable groups protected. Having started accession negotiations to join the EU in 2014, Serbia is currently drafting an action plan for the provisions dealing with fundamental rights. Progress in this area will remain important for the overall pace of Serbia’s negotiations. The UK will continue to use the process of EU accession as a tool to encourage further progress on human and minority rights in 2015.
The EU accession process can provide an effective framework for the promotion of democratic reform and human rights in Turkey, and, in 2014, Turkey re-affirmed its commitment to the EU accession process. The UK continues to call for the opening of accession negotiation chapters 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights) and 24 (Justice, Freedom and Security) as a means of facilitating a dedicated dialogue between the EU and Turkey and intensifying cooperation with Turkey on human rights reform. The 2014 European Commission progress report highlighted where progress has been made, but also areas of concern around the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, the rule of law, and restrictions on freedom of expression, including temporary bans on social media imposed by the Turkish government.
The UK supports the Commission’s assessment of Turkey’s overall performance. In 2014, we saw the adoption of an Action Plan on Prevention of European Convention on Human Rights Violations, and Turkey continued to build and develop the capacity of its human rights institutions. However, there is still much to do to implement action plans, strengthen further the human rights institutional framework, and bring Turkish human rights legislation into line with European and global standards, including on rights for minority religious and ethnic groups.
In 2013-14, the UK government committed funds worth nearly £1 million to support human rights and other projects aimed at promoting EU standards in Turkey. The UK also maintains links with NGOs and HRDs operating in Turkey.
European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)
The 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 in order 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 2014, the newly appointed EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, announced that a review of the ENP would be a priority in 2015. The UK strongly supports such a review. It must take a substantive look at how we can make the EU and the ENP more effective, flexible and focused on delivering substantive change in a very wide range of partner countries.
Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine signed Association Agreements with the EU on 27 June 2014. The benefits of the agreements include closer economic and political ties with the EU. The agreements also seek to strengthen the stability, independence and effectiveness of institutions to promote democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. The European Commission will prepare a public annual progress report to assess the quality of implementation.
Alongside the human rights commitments created under the EU Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, Georgia has made good progress on human rights in 2014. In March, the Georgian government adopted its Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan, an outcome of wide consultation, including with the EU’s Special Adviser to Georgia on Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg. This was a welcome initiative, but Georgia must now look to its implementation. Georgia’s anti-discrimination legislation, passed in May, was also an important step forward, demonstrating Georgia’s commitment to protecting the rights of minorities. The legislation covers all forms of discrimination and was a condition of progressing the EU Visa Liberalisation Programme. While good progress has been made in reforming the justice sector, more remains to be done. There are concerns over the independence of the Prosecutor’s Office, and we encourage Georgia to ensure that all prosecutions follow the rule of law and due process.
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights’ (ODIHR) report on the parliamentary elections held in Moldova on 30 November 2014 found that they were generally well administered. Although the late de-registration of the Russian-backed Patria Party raised questions about timing and circumstances, the OSCE/ODIHR Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions, issued on 1 December, concluded that the “elections offered voters a wide choice of political alternatives” and the technical conduct of the elections was “in line with international standards and norms”.
The human rights situation in Moldova is improving. However, there are still considerable issues around discrimination against the LGB&T community, minority groups (particularly the Roma) and persons with disabilities. De facto authorities in Tiraspol continue to control the breakaway Transnistria region of Moldova, making it difficult for the Moldovan government in Chişinău to enforce country-wide human rights standards.
The results of presidential and parliamentary elections held in Ukraine during 2014 showed that the Ukrainian people overwhelmingly want to see their country break with its past and adopt European standards of governance. Following the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, President Poroshenko announced a raft of reforms in order to align the country more closely to European standards, including on anti-corruption, judicial reform and police sector reform. The EU is providing support to Ukraine in these areas. In July, the EU established a civilian Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) advisory mission to support security sector reform, policing and the rule of law. The EU is also funding projects to support governance, democracy, human rights and support for economic and institutional reforms.
In October, President Poroshenko signed a decree to initiate a National Human Rights Strategy to cover wider human rights concerns in Ukraine, such as the right to freedom and personal inviolability, and the right of freedom of expression and access to information. The development of a National Action Plan for Human Rights, which will guide implementation of the strategy, was discussed at a meeting in Kyiv in December, held under the auspices of the UN and co-organised by the OHCHR and the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe. The UK welcomes the positive steps the government of Ukraine is taking to address human rights concerns at a time when the country is facing daunting challenges to its security, integrity and development. We will continue to support Ukraine in this work, and we encourage them to continue to draw on the advice and expertise of international organisations, such as the UN and OSCE, as they tackle the challenges ahead.
The situation in Crimea and eastern Ukraine is discussed in a dedicated section in this report.
The EU/Morocco relationship reflects the UK’s objective to support democratic reform in Morocco. In 2014, the UK endorsed the implementation of the 2013-2017 EU-Morocco Action Plan. Through this, the EU provides Morocco with political and financial assistance, including through a wide range of projects which support democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and good governance. Projects include support for: Morocco’s National Council and Inter-Ministerial Delegation of Human Rights; its National Equality Plan; its Justice Reform programme; its migration policy; its literacy programme; and the “Hakama” (governance) programme. Morocco has benefited from the EU’s programme for strengthening democratic reform in the Southern Mediterranean in the areas of: improving the efficiency of the courts; the independence and transparency of the judicial system; good governance; and the fight against corruption. The EU also supports Morocco’s Education Strategy, focusing on increasing access to education for girls and children from impoverished families. Much has been achieved in 2014, but more needs to be done to make progress in crucial areas required to implement the 2011 constitution. Morocco’s human rights achievements include its new migration policy, the reform of the code of military justice, the adoption of the organic finance law, and the deposition of instruments of ratification of the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.
In Jordan, the UK has played a prominent role in protecting the rights of over 620,000 refugees from Syria, alongside EU partners. This work has formed part of the UK’s overall commitment of more than £220 million to Jordan since the start of the Syria crisis. Following the closure of Jordan’s border with Syria in late September, the UK worked with EU partners to press for its reopening and for Jordanian authorities to assist vulnerable women and children. Subsequently, Jordan partially reopened its border. The UK has also engaged with the Jordanian government on reducing restrictions to educational and health services for refugees. On 4 December, the European Neighbourhood Instrument announced a package worth approximately £51.6 million to assist the Ministry of Education host up to 140,000 Syrian refugee children in Jordanian schools. In addition, the UK committed £15 million bilaterally to improve the quality of education for all early grade primary school children in Jordan, and to help integrate Syrian refugees into the education system. On 21 December, the Jordanian authorities executed 11 death row inmates, the first executions to take place since 2006. The UK and EU issued statements condemning the use of capital punishment. The UK, in tandem with EU partners, continues to lobby for the introduction of a moratorium on all further use of the death penalty. In line with the EU-Jordan Action Plan, the UK and EU continue to support the King’s vision of political and economic reform in Jordan, including greater freedom of expression.
In Lebanon, international efforts continued to provide humanitarian and development assistance to protect the rights of over 1.1 million refugees from Syria and vulnerable host communities. Since the start of the Syria crisis, the UK has contributed approximately £150 million to help provide food, shelter, health and education to vulnerable groups in Lebanon. On 4 December, the European Commission announced a package worth approximately £57 million to help Syrian refugees and host communities in Lebanon. In 2014 the Lebanese Parliament passed new legislation on domestic violence but, due to political paralysis, the Parliament did not adopt the National Human Rights Action Plan, nor did it consider pending legislation on torture, which the UN Committee against Torture concluded was “a pervasive practice” in Lebanon. The EU-Lebanon dialogue on human rights addressed the committee’s report and other human rights issues in line with the EU-Lebanon ENP Action Plan, including women’s and children’s rights, human rights in law enforcement, and implementing the agreed recommendations in the UN’s UPR for Lebanon. In October, the EU allocated more than £101 million to Lebanon for the period 2014- 2016 for a variety of sectors, including justice and security reform. The UK Ambassador to Lebanon also participated in a university debate on human rights in challenging security contexts, organised by the Delegation of the EU to Lebanon to mark Human Rights Day. On 16 January 2014, the trials in absentia of four of the five individuals suspected of killing former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri began at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL); the UK has contributed £5.5 million to support the STL’s essential work thus far.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 countries committed to the shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The UK has long recognised and sought to develop the potential the Commonwealth offers to promote and enforce human rights standards across its membership. In 2014, we continued in this vein providing over £15 million in funding to the Commonwealth Secretariat. We encouraged the secretariat to focus on areas of comparative advantage where it can add value, especially around its convening and networking roles, and by pressing for the secretariat and member states to be more vigilant in ensuring commitments enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter are upheld.
The charter brings together the 16 core values and principles that unite the Commonwealth, including democracy, human rights, tolerance, respect and understanding, freedom of expression, rule of law, and gender equality. While recognising that member states are at different stages of implementation of the charter, the UK believes the commitments within should be adhered to and kept under review by member governments, parliaments and civil society organisations. As FCO Minister for the Commonwealth, Hugo Swire, has made clear, we believe that member states “not only have a moral obligation to uphold and promote what they agreed to in 2012 – but that it is in their own national self-interest to do so.” Throughout 2014, we encouraged the secretariat and members of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) to ensure that member states are putting in place the necessary measures to realise their charter commitments.
In 2014, in line with the Commonwealth’s Strategic Plan 2013/14 - 2016/17, the secretariat continued its work to strengthen public institutions and promote and protect human rights in the Commonwealth. Election monitoring remained a key strength of the organisation, an area where the Commonwealth can offer needed experience and expertise. The UK also provided additional funding in support of the national elections in the Solomon Islands. We acknowledge the vital role the Commonwealth special envoys can play in helping member states implement the recommendations made by the Commonwealth’s election observation missions.
The secretariat maintained its technical assistance to the Commonwealth Forum for National Human Rights Institutions (CFNHRI). We welcome this: the CFNHRI has played an important part in ensuring that internationally accepted human rights standards result in improved enjoyment of human rights within Commonwealth countries. We particularly welcome CFNHRI’s work in highlighting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, which has been identified as a key issue, particularly by the African members of CFNHRI. Throughout 2014, the UK has continued to press Commonwealth members to respect the rights of the LGB&T community. We welcome the increased number of statements on this issue by the Commonwealth Secretary-General. Nevertheless, discrimination remains and we will continue to urge action from the secretariat and member states to uphold the Commonwealth’s values of tolerance, respect and understanding for all its communities.
The secretariat continued to strengthen member states’ engagement with the UN’s UPR process. This included providing much needed technical assistance to member states to implement the UPR recommendations. In March, the secretariat, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, continued its series of regional seminars to strengthen parliamentarians’ understanding of their role in the protection and promotion of human rights under the UPR. The seminar for African parliamentarians was held in Mahé, Seychelles. African Commonwealth parliamentarians agreed the Mahé Declaration, recognising parliament as a key institution safeguarding and upholding the rights of citizens and its corresponding role in the promotion and protection of human rights, and affirming the values and principles as contained in the Commonwealth Charter.
In May, the UK attended the triennial Commonwealth Law Ministers’ meeting in Gaborone, Botswana. The theme was “Consolidating the Rule of Law and Human Rights in the Commonwealth”. The meeting was attended by Law Ministers and Attorney Generals from 28 countries. Ministers discussed human rights successes in the Commonwealth and agreed that the secretariat should, amongst other recommendations, continue its technical assistance and capacity-building programmes to address violence against women and provide assistance upon request to countries regarding accession to the Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. They also acknowledged civil society could have a valuable role in an open and transparent democratic process.
In September, CMAG agreed to lift Fiji’s partial suspension from the Commonwealth in recognition of the significant steps that Fiji had taken on the road to full democracy. This was an example of CMAG enforcing its role as the custodian of Commonwealth values. We welcomed the Secretary-General’s statement that the CMAG members will consider the full breadth of its enhanced and constructive mandate when the group next meets in March 2015.
In December, the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Human Rights Unit marked Human Rights Day with an important event at Lancaster House, on the theme of women’s empowerment. The Secretary-General introduced a panel of eminent speakers, who addressed issues ranging from sexual violence in warzones, and child and early forced marriage, to girls’ access to education – the latter theme brought to life by the participation of young women from Zambia whom education had launched on new careers (in one case making documentary films about domestic violence). The occasion was an example of the Commonwealth at its best, forging links between member governments and civil society to tackle difficult issues of human rights and economic development.
Last year also saw continued human rights contributions from the Commonwealth Foundation (CF) and Commonwealth accredited organisations. The UK provided over £1 million to the CF, which continued to encourage and create opportunities for civil society and governments to interact. In 2014, the CF supported programmes to strengthen the capacity of people affected by post-election violence to engage in national dialogues on justice and reparations; to reform mental health legislation in selected Commonwealth countries; and to forge civil society action against child domestic labour. A number of other organisations – the Royal Commonwealth Society, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association, and the Commonwealth Journalists Association – continued to highlight the importance of human rights issues, including the elimination of early, child and forced marriage, the right to information, freedom of expression, and the importance of the independence of the judiciary and rule of law.
In 2015, the UK will continue to encourage the secretariat and Malta, as the next hosts of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in November, to ensure that human rights feature on the agenda. Working with NGOs and through our high commissions we will continue to promote tolerance and non-discrimination against LGB&T persons, and to address discriminatory laws, in particular those countries that criminalise homosexuality. We will also explore ways in which the Commonwealth can help address the global challenge faced by human trafficking and modern slavery.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
The British government values the OSCE as a forum for political discussion and action on wider European security and foreign policy issues, including the protection and promotion of human rights across the OSCE area. The UK strongly supports 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 (RFOM) and the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM). We are also committed to safeguarding, and enhancing, the vital role that civil society plays in holding OSCE-participating states to account on human rights through the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (Europe’s largest human rights conference).
The OSCE’s work in 2014 was dominated by the crisis in and around Ukraine. ODIHR undertook its largest ever election observation mission for the May presidential elections and fielded a large observation mission for the October parliamentary elections. Both were conducted in a challenging security environment. ODIHR’s analysis was professional and impartial, consistent with its reputation as the international standard setter in election observation. The UK helped to ensure that elections in Ukraine largely met international standards, providing 100 UK observers to the OSCE/ODHIR Election Observation Mission to the presidential elections on 25 May, and 68 UK observers to the parliamentary elections on 26 October. In March, ODIHR and the HCNM undertook a joint Human Rights Assessment Mission to Ukraine, including Crimea. Their independent, impartial and non-political analysis was helpful in countering Russian propaganda and misinformation. The RFOM has also played a valuable role, including by regularly calling attention to violations of freedom of expression, and by seeking to build confidence between Ukrainian and Russian journalists.
The OSCE Ministerial Council met in Basel in December under the chairmanship of Switzerland. The UK was pleased to join consensus on a ministerial decision on preventing and combating violence against women, which included language on our priority of preventing sexual violence in conflict. The UK also welcomed a ministerial declaration on enhancing efforts to combat antisemitism. This declaration followed a high-level conference held in November, in Berlin, to mark the 10th Anniversary of the OSCE’s Berlin Conference on Antisemitism. A large UK delegation attended the conference, led by the Department for Communities and Local Government Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Penny Mordaunt.
Disappointingly, participating states were unable to achieve consensus in Basel on a ministerial decision on torture prevention, nor on a ministerial declaration on the role of civil society in the work of the OSCE. But the UK used every appropriate OSCE meeting throughout the year to meet representatives of independent civil society, in order to demonstrate our support for the important contribution that they make to the promotion and protection of human rights. For example, the FCO Minister for Europe, David Lidington, held a meeting with Russian NGOs in the margins of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Basel, during which he heard about the worsening environment for civil society in Russia, and the challenges they faced.
Also in Basel, the UK joined other EU member states, as well as 15 other co-sponsors, in tabling draft ministerial decisions on freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Although these initiatives did not achieve consensus, they attracted much support. As the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms is being restricted in some OSCE participating states, these drafts were an attempt to reaffirm and strengthen our common commitments to enable better implementation.
In a busy year for elections in the OSCE region, we also provided UK observers to join OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Missions in Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova and Uzbekistan, in addition to those for Ukraine.
The UK was pleased to receive a visit in October by the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFOM), Dunja Mijatovic. Ms Mijatovic met Baroness Anelay, held discussions with government officials on freedom of the media in the UK, and addressed FCO staff. We welcome this engagement with the OSCE’s institutions, and fully accept that the UK’s human rights record should also be open to scrutiny.
Looking ahead, Serbia will assume the OSCE Chair in January 2015. We will be encouraging the Serbian chair to recognise the level of support for the 2014 initiatives on freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and to take forward further work in these areas. The impending publication of ODIHR guidelines on freedom of association will be a valuable addition to the OSCE’s work in this area. More broadly, we will work with partners to ensure that the OSCE continues to hold events that address the key human rights challenges in the OSCE area.
Council of Europe (CoE)
The CoE is a unique intergovernmental organisation working to set common standards on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, and to encourage their implementation across its 47 member states. It has led to the development of over 200 conventions on topics ranging from terrorism to domestic violence. The CoE is also responsible for the most developed regional system of human rights protection worldwide, founded on the ECHR and the European Court of Human Rights, to which everyone within the jurisdiction of its member states has access.
The UK uses its membership of the council to advance its human rights objectives in Europe and beyond. It engages with other member states and with the CoE institutionally to encourage a higher level of ambition and implementation of standards on human rights, democracy and rule of law in member states, and to raise concerns.
In 2014, Thorbjørn Jagland was elected to an unprecedented second term as CoE Secretary General until 2019, with the UK’s support. During 2014, he led CoE efforts to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, conducting shuttle diplomacy between Moscow and Kiev, and drawing attention to the dire humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine.
He also highlighted political, constitutional and human rights situations of concern in various member states, notably Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. In addition, he spoke out on issues including corruption, human trafficking, racism, discrimination, antisemitism, violence against women, and LGB&T rights. His annual report on the “State of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe” was adopted in May, and led to the creation of an internet-based platform to promote the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists.
The Venice Commission (the CoE advisory body on constitutional matters), supported the Secretary-General in providing expert legal advice to member states, for instance on the legality of the referendum in Crimea. The CoE Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, continued to encourage member states to fulfil their responsibilities under the ECHR and, as part of this, made visits to Hungary, Azerbaijan, Russia and Ukraine. He also published a report on missing persons in Europe and made interventions on freedom of expression and media freedom; safeguarding human rights in the fight against terrorism; the human rights of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers; and gender equality.
European Court of Human Rights
In 2014, the court dealt with a large number of applications alleging violations of the rights set out in the ECHR. The court’s annual report was published in January and reveals it has made significant progress in tackling its backlog of applications, which stood at 69,600 at the end of 2014. This compares with the position at the end of 2012 when there were 128,100 applications pending before the court.
In 2014, the court decided 1,984 applications lodged against the UK. It declared inadmissible or struck out 1,970 applications, and produced judgments in 14 UK cases, finding a violation in four. Equivalent figures for the whole of 2013 were 1,646 decided UK cases, 1,633 of which were declared inadmissible or struck out. 13 judgements were issued, with five finding a violation of the ECHR.
Under the Convention system, the Committee of Ministers oversees the implementation of judgments finding a violation. At the end of 2014, 11 judgments/groups of judgments finding a violation against the UK remained under supervision by the Committee of Ministers.
The government takes its international obligations very seriously. It has an excellent track record of implementing the measures necessary to address violations found in judgments. In the Hirst (prisoner voting rights) case, the government concluded that there was not a realistic prospect of the UK Parliament adopting the necessary legislative amendments in 2014. In light of this, the Committee of Ministers of the CoE agreed to postpone its supervision of this case until September 2015.
In 2014, the UK focused on continued implementation of the Brighton Declaration, a package of reforms to both the court and ECHR. The declaration was agreed during the UK’s CoE chairmanship in 2012, and was designed to reduce the court’s backlog of outstanding cases and enhance its efficiency. 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 laid before the UK Parliament in late 2014, and ratification is expected to be completed in 2015. All 47 State Parties to the ECHR must ratify Protocol 15 before it comes into force. Protocol 16 to the ECHR, adopted in July 2013, is an optional mechanism by which the highest courts of the State Parties can seek advisory opinions on the interpretation of the ECHR from the Strasbourg Court. The UK will evaluate how it works in practice before deciding whether to become party to it. Meanwhile, new rules which introduce stricter conditions for bringing an application to the court came into force on 1 January 2014.
Committee of Ministers (CoM)
The CoM, comprising the governments of member states, is the CoE’s principal decision-making body. It plays an important role in holding member states to account on human rights and supervising the implementation of European Court of Human Rights judgments.
The CoM is responsible for supervising member states’ execution of some 11,000 judgments of the court. During 2014, its focus included cases involving journalists’ freedom of expression in Azerbaijan; rights to stand for election in Bosnia and Herzegovina; enforced disappearances in Chechnya; the operation of Latin-script schools in Transdniestria; protestors for LGB&T rights in Russia; abductions and illegal transfers from Russia to some Central Asian states; and the inter-state Cyprus v Turkey case. Supervision of a significant number of UK cases was closed, thereby reducing the number of leading cases under supervision to its lowest ever – 11, lower than most other states.
Ukraine was the main country focus in 2014. Throughout the crisis the CoM held frequent discussions and issued decisions supporting human rights monitoring, as well as the work of the International Advisory Panel in investigating violent incidents in Ukraine from November 2013. It also delivered broader political messages in support of ceasefires, dialogue, reform and implementation of the Minsk Protocols and the plight of the Crimean Tatars.
Thematic areas of debate included freedoms for NGOs and HRDs, and freedom of expression on the internet – with the CoE’s guide “Human Rights for Internet Users” published in April. The CoM repeated condemnations of, and adopted declarations on, executions carried out in the United States, Japan and Belarus.
Away from the execution of the court’s judgments, the UK expressed concern about the deteriorating human rights and rule of law situation in Russia, and welcomed the Secretary- about the clampdown in Azerbaijan, making multiple interventions; and expressed concern about the relationships between Moscow and the breakaway regions in Georgia, and the potential impact on human rights there. The UK promoted Kosovo’s membership to the Venice Commission and its ability to make use of CoE mechanisms to meet CoE standards; and supported the CoE’s work on Roma, LGB&T issues, the rights of the child, the fight against violence against women, and the No Hate Speech campaign.
The UK signed and ratified the 3rd and 4th Additional Protocols to the European Convention on Extradition; and signed (but has not yet ratified) the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism. The UK gave notification of the Territorial Extension to the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters (as amended by the 2010 Protocol) with respect to Bermuda, Bailiwick of Jersey, Gibraltar and Bailiwick of Guernsey. The UK participated in the drafting of the Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions which opened for signature in September.
In 2015 the UK will continue to use the CoE to further our human rights priorities in key countries, and to support its work to find lasting political solutions and support reform and institutional strengthening in Ukraine, while holding all member states to account for their actions. We look forward to working with Secretary General Jagland and the Belgian and Bosnian chairmanships, and to supporting the Belgian Chairmanship’s Brussels conference in March on supervision of the implementation of court judgements.
CHAPTER XI: Promoting Human Rights in the Overseas Territories
The UK’s Overseas Territories generally have a good record on the protection of human rights. There are 14 British Overseas Territories: Anguilla; Bermuda; the British Antarctic Territory; the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT); the Cayman Islands; the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus (SBAs); 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 (SGSSI); the Turks and Caicos Islands; and the Virgin Islands (commonly known as the British Virgin Islands).
We report here on the status of human rights in the Overseas Territories (except for the British Antarctic Territory; BIOT, SGSSI or the SBAs, as we are focusing our efforts to promote human rights in those territories which have permanent resident populations) because of the UK’s special constitutional relationship and responsibilities. The clear UK government policy is that inhabitants of the territories should enjoy the same human rights and protections as inhabitants of mainland Britain. However, the UK government and the governments of the territories are not complacent, and recognise that there are areas for improvement, just as there are in the UK.
Although the Overseas Territories are constitutionally distinct from the UK, they form part of a single “undivided Realm” under Her Majesty The Queen. The UK government has a fundamental responsibility to ensure the security and good governance of the territories and their peoples. These responsibilities flow from international law (including the UN Charter), political commitments, and our wider obligations for British nationals. Each territory has its own written constitution, government and local laws, with substantial devolved powers. The UK acknowledges that the peoples of all the territories have the right of self-determination.
The protection and promotion of human rights are primarily the responsibility of territory governments, although the UK government works with them to ensure they act in accordance with their international human rights obligations. The UK government expects territories which choose to remain British to abide by the same basic standards of human rights as the UK.
The 2012 UK government White Paper, “The Overseas Territories: Security, Success and Sustainability”, is the foundation on which our strategy of engagement with the territories is based. The annual Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) brings together UK ministers and the elected territory leaders to drive forward work to realise this vision.
Constitutional and Legal Protection of Human Rights
Human rights chapters have featured in territory constitutions since the 1960s. Territory constitutions now contain new or strengthened human rights chapters that reflect protections in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (the ECHR and the right of individual petition on a permanent basis have been extended to all inhabited territories except Pitcairn).
Most constitutions of the inhabited territories provide for the formal creation of either a human rights commission, ombudsman, or complaints commissioner. In November, the Human Rights Commission Act 2014 was passed by the House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands. Once established, the powers and duties of the Human Rights Commission will include educating the public on the rights and freedoms in Chapter 2 of the Virgin Islands Constitution Order, international human rights conventions, and related human rights activity.
The UK government is responsible under international law for ensuring the compliance of the territories with international human rights obligations, including those contained in conventions that have been extended to them. Territory governments have a duty to ensure local laws comply with relevant international human rights obligations and are nondiscriminatory. Where this is not the case, the UK government expects territory governments to take action, including legislating where necessary, in any areas of disparity, in order to reach full compliance.
Progress continued in 2014 across a range of human rights issues. The Virgin Islands passed the Status of Children Act in March, which will ensure that there is no legal differentiation between children born in or out of wedlock. And, in October, the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly unanimously passed the Conditional Release Law, which will bring the territory into line with international standards on sentencing by providing minimum tariffs for life sentences.
Extension of International Human Rights Conventions
It is the UK government’s longstanding policy to encourage territory governments to request the extension of UN human rights conventions that the UK has ratified, but to extend these to the territories only when they are ready to implement them. Most of the Overseas Territories are small islands or island groups that face resource and capacity constraints, which can affect their ability to consider or implement treaties. Where this has been identified, the UK government will provide support to those territories which require it.
To date, most of the populated Overseas Territories have had the majority of the “core” UN human rights conventions extended to them as listed in the 2012 White Paper:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),
Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD),
Convention against Torture (CAT),
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),
Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
The Virgin Islands, Falkland Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands have had all six extended to them.
At the JMC in December, UK and territory governments reaffirmed their commitment to work together to extend the core UN human rights conventions to those territories where these had not been extended already. Whilst no new human rights conventions were extended to any territory in 2014, there were a number of positive developments.
In March, the government of Anguilla requested the extension of the CEDAW to the territory. This followed the submission of similar requests by the governments of Bermuda, Gibraltar and the Cayman Islands to the UK government in 2013. The extension of CEDAW to the populated territories is a key priority for the UK government, which established a project team in June to lead on the scrutiny of these requests, as well as a cross-government group to oversee its progress. Work on the project commenced in August and is being led by the Government Equalities Office (GEO). The project team have also engaged representatives from Montserrat, Pitcairn and St Helena (which include the island territories of Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Island) as they work towards finalising their requests, although it is acknowledged that these smaller territories may require additional levels of support to achieve this goal. The UK remains committed to providing assistance to territories in need, and will explore what further support could be provided.
We are also committed to working with the government of Anguilla to meet its longstanding commitment to seek the extension of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The UK government also renews its encouragement to the government of Gibraltar to request the extension of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in November, and has been extended to all other territories.
The Cayman Islands government published its Disability Policy in October and will work towards pursuing a request for the extension of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities next year. If achieved, the Cayman Islands will be the first territory to have the convention extended to it since the UK ratified the convention and its optional protocol in 2009.
Child Safeguarding Initiatives
The UK government takes child safeguarding within the Overseas Territories extremely seriously, and is firmly committed to working with territory governments as well as non-government organisations (NGOs) and experts to help implement strong and effective measures that protect children from harm and promote welfare. Whilst there has been some tangible progress in the last few years, the UK government recognises that further work and investment is needed to achieve the required child safeguarding standards.
In 2014 the UK government took a number of active measures to drive progress:
in February, the Department for International Development (DFID) launched its third child safeguarding project in partnership with UNICEF (UN Children’s Fund) Caribbean and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF). The £1.3 million three-year project builds upon earlier work to tackle child safeguarding and help deliver, in accordance with the 2012 JMC commitments, a zero tolerance approach to child abuse;
in July, the UK government announced it would establish an independent inquiry to examine a number of serious allegations made in relation to child abuse in St Helena. The Foreign Secretary subsequently announced in November that Ms Sasha Wass QC had been appointed to lead the inquiry. Ms Wass is expected to visit St Helena in March 2015 before reporting later in the year;
in September, a dedicated Child Safeguarding and Domestic Violence Policy Officer position was created within the Overseas Territories Directorate of the FCO to encourage compliance with best practice and support the territories in establishing and improving existing child safeguarding measures;
in November, the UK Solicitor General chaired the annual Overseas Territory Attorneys General Conference (AGs’ conference) at which it was agreed to explore and develop robust child protection measures, including through the completion of comprehensive child protection reviews, where these have not already been undertaken; and
in December, UK and territory governments agreed at the JMC to work together to share expertise and improve capacity and, where not already done, territories would consider undertaking chid safeguarding reviews.
A number of territories have also undertaken important child safeguarding initiatives in 2014. For example, Child Matters Trust, a New Zealand based NGO, visited Pitcairn to deliver further child safeguarding training, as part of continued child safeguarding measures supported by DFID. The Governor for Pitcairn also reiterated the importance of child safeguarding during his inaugural visit in November.
The Virgin Islands completed the National Action Plan for Children, which ensures that the needs of children are addressed in policy making across all sectors of government, and are also reflected across the NGO sector, business and the wider community. UNICEF and LFF were involved in its launch and continue to work with the government of the Virgin Islands. The government also finalised a Child Protection Protocol, which provides guidelines for government agencies to coordinate actions in child protection, maltreatment reporting, investigation and management.
LFF has also provided support to the safeguarding authorities on St Helena, Montserrat and Pitcairn, which are in receipt of UK budgetary aid. A child safeguarding review was completed in December in Montserrat. The LFF report is expected in 2015 and will complement efforts currently underway to establish a child safeguarding board.
The Ascension Island Safeguarding Children Board is in the process of reviewing and updating its Child Protection policy, including looking at introducing a criminal records check for people working with children.
Looking Ahead to 2015
The UK government will continue work with territory governments to fulfil our joint commitment to extending core UN human rights conventions, where these have not been extended already. However, we recognise that capacity building, public awareness and legislative reform will have to be put in place before some of the territories are in a position to implement these conventions.
We will also seek to explore ways in which we can more effectively promote the sharing of information, expertise and learning across the territories in fulfilment of the commitments made at the AGs’ conference and JMC. This approach will not only serve to build sustainable capacity on human rights within the territories, but also improve the practical realisation of human rights.
The UK government will await the outcome of the independent inquiry into child abuse allegations in St Helena, and will carefully consider its conclusions and any recommendations made before aiming to report back to parliament by the end of 2015.
Work on the child safeguarding project will continue apace. The FCO is in the process of establishing a Child Safeguarding Unit within the Overseas Territories Directorate to coordinate child safeguarding work across the territories and improve practices. Its remit will include working with territories to establish a new child safeguarding group to share expertise and improve capacity in child safeguarding. In addition, the unit will take forward recommendations on improving child safeguarding in Montserrat following the LFF visit. Consideration will also be given to undertaking similar reviews in other territories to make achieving zero tolerance of all forms of child abuse a reality.
CHAPTER XII: Human Rights in Countries of Concern
This section contains our review of the human rights situation in 27 countries where the UK government has wide-ranging concerns. For this year’s report, we continued to use the criteria for inclusion that we first published in the 2012 Annual Human Rights and Democracy Report:
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.
The first of these criteria (gravity of the situation) is the most important assessment that we make, and is not affected by levels of UK interest or influence. In order to ensure that our analysis is strictly evidence-based, we introduced last year a list of internationally respected human rights indicators and indices. Our geographical departments and Embassies and High Commissions overseas assessed all the countries in their regions against these indicators and indices.
Having assessed the gravity of the human rights situation, we 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 (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, Fiji was removed from the countries of concern category.
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 such studies 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 Egypt, Burundi, The Gambia, and Honduras. Following the events of 2014, we have also decided to treat the Crimea and separatist occupied areas of Ukraine as a country case study. We have also included a number of thematic case studies in relevant chapters of the report, for example, on freedom of religion or belief in South East Asia and political participation in Swaziland.
The list of 27 countries of concern (and country case studies showing 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 2015, we continue to engage with many other countries on human rights issues, for example 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 quarterly basis and raise our concerns about human rights issues wherever and whenever they occur. Any human rights events that have occurred in these countries since the cut-off point for this report (31 December 2014) will be covered in the next quarterly updates, due to be published in April 2015.
- Central African Republic
- Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
- Democratic Republic of Congo
- Islamic Republic of Iran
- Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territories
- Saudi Arabia
- South Sudan
- Sri Lanka
- Zimbabwe - in-year update July 2015